Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates

"Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates: Do Too Many Kids Go to College?" premiered September 2013.

About the Program

Think you know where you stand? Think twice.  

Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates invite the world’s leading authorities to debate the day’s most important issues. Two teams of dynamic thought leaders engage in a battle of wit and persuasion to capture your vote.   

Recorded live in New York City for NPR and PBS, IQ2US debates are based on the traditional Oxford-style format, with one side proposing and the other side opposing a sharply-framed motion. Audiences vote before and after the debate to declare a winner: the team that changed the most minds. Always civil, respectful and thought-provoking, Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates offers a sharp contrast to the landscape of American debates. Now in it’s seventh live season and premiere season on PBS. Will you “think twice” and consider a new point of view? Now you can watch on PBS and join the debate online.

body_intelligence_2.jpgDr. Scott Gottlieb, resident fellow, American Enterprise Institute; Peter Huber, senior fellow, Manhattan Institute.


The Debates

Better Elected Islamists Than Dictators
The popular uprisings of the Arab Spring have left a leadership void that Islamist parties have been quick to fill.  A longtime supporter of former strongmen like Egypt’s Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali, the U.S. now faces the uncomfortable result of Arab democracy—the rise of Islamist parties that are less amenable to the West than their autocratic predecessors.  Will the Islamists, who once embraced violence, slowly liberalize as they face the difficulties of state leadership? Or will it mean the growth of anti-Americanism and radicalization in the region?

Legalize Drugs
It was 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared a "war on drugs." $2.5 trillion dollars later, drug use is half of what it was 30 years ago, and thousands of offenders are successfully diverted to treatment instead of jail. And yet, 22 million Americans-9% of the population-still uses illegal drugs, and with the highest incarceration rate in the world, we continue to fill our prisons with drug offenders. Decimated families and communities are left in the wake. Is it time to legalize drugs or is this a war that we're winning?  

Science Refutes God
On the fundamental question--evolution or creation?--Americans are on the fence. According to one survey, while 61% of Americans believe we have evolved over time, 22% believe this evolution was guided by a higher power, with another 31% on the side of creationism. For some, modern science debunks many of religion's core beliefs, but for others, questions like "Why are we here?" and "How did it all come about?" can only be answered through a belief in the existence of God. Can science and religion co-exist? 

Kids and College
A part of the Chicago Ideas Week, this debate is the first Intelligence Squared U.S. debate to be held live in Chicago. The herd mentality that assumes college is the only path to reaching one’s full potential is under fire. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt, unemployment for those with bachelor’s degrees is at an all-time high, and entrepreneurs like the founders of Facebook and Microsoft prove that extraordinary success is possible without it. But recent studies show that college is economically beneficial even to those whose jobs don’t require it. Is it still the best way to ensure social mobility, or is America’s love affair with higher education unjustified?

Genetically Engineered Babies
Imagine a world free of genetic diseases, where parents control their offspring’s height, eye color and intelligence. The science may be closer than you think. Genes interact in ways that we don’t fully understand and there could be unintended consequences, new diseases that result from our tinkering. But even if the science could be perfected, is it morally wrong? Would it lead to eugenics and a stratified society where only the rich enjoy the benefits of genetic enhancement? Or would the real injustice be depriving our children of every scientifically possible opportunity? 

2012 was a disappointing year for Republicans. The failure to win key swing states in the presidential election and surprising losses in the House and Senate have prompted some reflection. Was their embrace of small government, low taxes and a strong conservative stance on social issues at odds with shifting American demographics? Or did the GOP embrace the right platform but the wrong candidates? Debate Motion: The GOP: Seize the Center or Die? Arguing for the motion: David Brooks, op-ed columnist, The New York Times; Mickey Edwards, former U.S. Congressman (R-OK) Arguing against the motion: Laura Ingraham, radio host; Ralph Reed, chairman, Faith & Freedom Coalition

The Food and Drug Administration, the oldest comprehensive consumer protection agency in the U.S. federal government, is charged with protecting the public health. Under this mandate, it regulates drugs and medical devices for their safety and effectiveness. But is it a failing mandate? It’s long been argued that the FDA’s long and costly approval processes stifle innovation and keep life-changing treatments from the market. But the question remains: when it comes to public health, is it ever okay to sacrifice safety for speed? Debate Motion: Is the FDA Too Cautious? Arguing for the motion: Dr. Scott Gottlieb, resident fellow, American Enterprise Institute; Peter Huber, senior fellow, Manhattan Institute Arguing against the motion: Dr. Jerry Avorn, professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School; Dr. David Challoner, vice president for health affairs emeritus, University of Florida 


Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates are produced by Dana Wolfe and presented by WTTW National Productions.


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