Tuesday, October 6, 1998
The First Annual Life Raft Debate

Frank McCoy‑‑Art History
Scott Turner‑Political Science
Michael Patton‑Philosophy
Robert Barone‑‑History
Glenda Weathers‑English
Michael Sterner‑Mathematics

MC: Jim Fahy

And the Oar goes to...

Michael Sterner!

Dean of Fine Arts Frank McCoy started off the First Annual Life Raft Debate by claiming that art is common to all cultures, preceding written language, and is therefore of profound and basic importance. Michael Sterner pointed out the power of math to describe the natural world and said that the study of math would allow students to “touch the face of God.” He also added that if he were chosen, there would be no more word problems, ever. Scott Turner rejected the terms of the debate, saying that such thinking in terms of all-or-nothing solutions was probably what caused the destruction that led to the debate itself. He suggested that Political Science would allow us to pursue new solutions and forms of association that would withstand the temptation to destroy the earth again. Michael Patton claimed that all human inquiry arose from philosophy and that philosophy was the only proper interpreter and critic of all human activities. Further, philosophy leads to healthy skepticism which might make nuclear catastrophe less likely. Finally, any discussion at all presupposed debate and logic, a centerpiece of the philosophical enterprise. Glenda Weathers pointed out the power of narrative and literature to make sense of the real, to inspire and touch and to imagine the possible. Through the power of literature, which is universal, Weathers argued that we could save ourselves by envisioning a better future. Robert Barone said that only history had the key to avoiding a repeat of our current disaster, relying on the truism that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. By saving him, we would save the precious knowledge of what went wrong and have a chance to set it right next time.