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The Rules We Followed (2006)


Welcome to Naturalism vs. Theism: The Carrier-Wanchick Debate. Here Richard and Tom explain the rules of debate they both agreed to follow.


(1) The parties to the debate composed a joint statement specifying the proposition to be defended and defining every term in that proposition to the reasonable satisfaction of both parties. This statement in its entirety was agreed upon by both parties and written together. It will define what shall be debated and will be the first entry to be published.

(2) When the moderator simultaneously informs both parties that the above statement has been published, each party will simultaneously submit to the moderator an opening statement defending their side of the debated proposition as thus defined. Once the moderator has both opening statements, he will post them both simultaneously and at the same time announce to each party the deadline for their rebuttal. In all, this procedure will be repeated for an opening statement, one rebuttal, one counter-rebuttal, then a closing statement.

(3) In every case the deadline between the moderator's announcement of the last entry's publication and submission of the next entry shall be two weeks.

(4) Every submission will be held to a pre-agreed limit of 3000 words. This word limit will not apply to footnotes, but footnotes shall contain no argument or digression or assessment or any other content except what is needed to identify a source of information or quote so the reader can find it if he bothers to look for it.

(5) Both parties agreed not to attack each other's character or competence, but only the facts and arguments as presented, and they agreed not to use disparaging words or tones but to phrase everything as congenially and honestly as they can manage. They will behave like gentlemen and set a standard of polite debate others can emulate.

(6) Both parties agreed upon a moderator, and both parties agreed that their chosen moderator can force them to comply with the above rules, especially word limits and footnote contents and etiquette, and this moderator will have the right to correct spelling and other trivial errors that each party misses, and he will complete any necessary HTML coding. The moderator may also offer suggestions for improving wording or clarity or source citation and so on, but such advice will not be binding on either party.

(7) Four judges were selected and agreed upon by both parties. After the publication of the closing statements for the debate, a page will be launched announcing the judges and their qualifications and a deadline by which all the judges will submit an assessment of the entire debate. Each judge will write an assessment of the debate in 600 words or less, declaring who they think won the debate, and by what margin (using a scale defined below), with some brief comments on what they believe to be the most important merits and problems with each side. The judges have been instructed to assess who won based on who was able to better defend their own and rebut the other's arguments in this particular debate, regardless of whether the judges themselves agree or disagree with those arguments or conclusions. For example, even a fallacious argument will be counted as a successful argument if it is not effectively rebutted. When all the judges' assessments have been submitted, the judges' page will be updated to include all four assessments, plus an average score for the whole debate (as explained below), and as with all other entries, this update will be announced on the What's New page of the Secular Web.

(8) A judge may declare neither party the winner, which rates a score of zero. Or a judge may declare one party the winner and assign a score between 1 and 4 as follows: {1} only barely won the debate, {2} won the debate by a significant margin, {3} won the debate by a large margin, {4} won the debate by a decisive margin. An average score will also be calculated based on all four assessments as follows: the scores given to each party will be added up and if the two totals are equal, the average score will be a tie (neither side won); if they are not equal, the party with the higher total is announced as the winner, by a margin equal to the difference between the two scores divided by four and rounded up. For example, if one side is given scores that total 4 and the other side totals 5, then the latter won by a margin equal to the difference of 1 point divided by 4 and then rounded up, for a final score of 1, which means that that party only barely won the debate according to the combined assessment of all four judges.

Return to the Debate