At this month's debate Helen Rees proposed that "Race is an artificial Concept" since categorising people's racial grouping within a set of characteristics has no scientific basis. She argued that recent DNA research demonstrated that all humans descended from only a few African women and felt that racial classification had only been promoted by Europeans in the last few hundred years to justify their exploitation of newly discovered worlds.
Opposing the motion, Chris Lane asserted that the premise of race is a fundamental truth which can be easily explained by physicality, geography and sociology. Furthermore he considered that racist conclusions drawn about ethnicity are the real artificial concepts because they are formed by basic tribalism with its inherent violence, cruelty and greed.
Both speakers were thanked for leading an excellent thought provoking debate with many comments from the floor. The motion was lost by 5 votes to 7 with 3 abstentions.
For this month's debate Tony Oswick proposed that "Libraries are an Unaffordable Luxury" because they are outmoded, low profile facilities unable to realistically compete for the scarce monies available. He argued that demand for publically funded services had decreased with the advent of technology and that volunteers could administer residual resources in alternative ways. However Opposer Jon Salisbury disagreed considering libraries to be beacons of civilisation with an important role to play. He contended that they had been introduced in an era of extreme poverty and had subsequently greatly impacted on both literacy and reading skills. He felt that if we could look to the future with optimism we could afford libraries.
Following a variety of comments from the floor a vote was taken but the motion was lost.
Fourteen people attended to hearJake Clapton propose that "Prisons should not be privatised". Philip Donegan opposed and lost the motion.
Sixteen people attended the Christmas Balloon Debate where five members argued for the best desert island luxury. Each person pleaded their case before the bath, tennis equipment, penknife and gramophone were ejected, leaving Tony Oswick and his choice of a blow up doll to fly the balloon together! The attendees also shared seasonal refreshments and a raffle.
Twenty one people attended the November debate when Philip Baldock, Jake Clapton, Philip Donegan and Jon Salisbury addressed a variety of questions about: Preventing Terrorist Acts, Remembrance Commemoration, Convalescent Bed Blocking and Sexual Harassment. With many varied contributions from the floor it proved to be another lively evening.
At this month's debate: "God is a figment of man's imagination" both speakers agreed that there was no evidence which could prove the motion either way to everyone's satisfaction. However proposer and prominent Brighton debater Jean Yates argued that the human race had invented a god for every age since the beginning of time. She felt that this was because we naturally seek to understand the meaning of life by using a superpower role model to give credence to our emotional experiences and provide us with a moral code to maintain social order.
Opposing the motion, Mary Lane asserted that the awesome wonder and sheer immensity of the universe instinctively led man to believe that there had to be a superior power which was beyond current understanding. She considered that while the form God took may be imaginary, the concept was not and cited Emmanuel Kant and John Galsworthy as supporting this thesis
After many interesting comments from the floor and with 6 votes apiece ( plus 5 abstentions) the motion was considered a draw.
For this month's debate: Wally Bensilum proposed that "Correct spelling is not important" because English is an ever changing language where the written word alone does not necessarily convey the precise meaning of its current usage. He felt that Harry Potter was the only person who really needed to spell correctly and cited many famous people who had achieved great things in their lives despite being dyslexic. However Opposer Reverend Guy Thorburn disagreed considering that correct spelling indicated a thoughtful intuitive attitude and a refusal to be drawn into a sloppy frame of mind. Furthermore he felt it was vital in conveying a good impression to employers while also possibly helping in delaying dementia by keeping the mind active.
Following lively input from the floor the motion was lost by 12 votes to 4 with 4 abstentions.
The motion for this month's debate "There is evidence of life after death " was proposed by Chris Lane who said that the Society of Psychical Research had plenty of studies available for anyone who wished to explore the topic further. He argued that the reality of modern science is infinitely more subtle than what was taught in schools because the process cannot always be clearly demonstrated and likened messages from the afterlife to radio waves where the end result and not the process is used for verification.
However opposer John Ratford argued that despite extensive research there is no predictable measurable proof for life after death. He asserted that although it was difficult to comprehend our strong minds could be snuffed out, strong links had been made between brain damage and diminished consciousness. He also believed human senses to be unreliable and thought that mediums used vague statements to fish for information.
Following contributions from the floor, the motion was won by 8 votes to 4 with 3 abstentions.
The AGM preceded the debate and all appropriate officers were appointed.
Under the chairmanship of Lorry Greenall , the July question time panel of Wally Bensilum, Helen Rees and Ray White addressed a variety of questions about: Baby Charlie, North Korea, Donald Trump's presidency, MP's wearing ties, bribing young people to vote and suggestions for a new national anthem. With many lively contributions from the floor it proved to be an interesting evening.
There was a good turnout, now the lighter evenings are here, for this month’s debate. Fifteen people came to hear Jon Salisbury propose ‘That all our actions are governed by self interest’ with Mary Lane opposing. Both speakers gave some thought provoking insights, and the audience participated with many arguments and examples of actions in various situations where individuals have acted against or in spite of their own interests –taking examples in history when people have faced death rather than give up their beliefs, or from times of war when there have been instances of the rescue of wounded soldiers by their comrades.
There was an overwhelming majority against the proposal of eleven to one with three abstentions, but it was agreed that both speakers had given food for thought.
This was a 'question time forum' with Wally Bensilum, Philip Donegan,and Chris Lane on the panel and Derek Cheek in the chair. Questions included 'Do terrorists get too much publicity?' , ' Is UKIP finished as a political party?' and 'Are comedy writers as funny as those who wrote The Two Ronnies' .
There was lovely debate on all the topics.
This month the motion was ’It is wrong to be rich’ with John Ratford proposing and Ray White opposing the motion. John talked about the effects of being in societies where wealth is increasingly unequally distributed and questioned what happiness this brings to anyone while Ray widened the debate to other forms of wealth such as spiritual wealth, or good health and good social relationships. There was a good turnout now thoughts are turning to spring and so there were a lot of contributions from the floor on both sides. However the motion fell by 5 votes to 9 with 2 abstentions.
Our debate this month was on the motion ‘Landlords exploit their tenants’. It was proposed by Lawrence Cohen and opposed by Wally Bensilum with Helen Rees in the chair.
Lawrence gave much historical information on how landlords rented out very sub-standard, dilapidated accommodation as well as relating more recent examples of undesirable practices, and argued that the law has often been in favour of landlords.
Wally commented on the present scarcity of accommodation particularly since council housing has been sold off. He argued that many landlords were accidental landlords in that they perhaps had inherited a property and rented it out rather than sold it and by doing this were helping to counteract this shortage of housing.
Comments from the floor showed that many people felt there were good and bad landlords so it was difficult to come down on one side or the other and this was reflected in the voting with 5 abstentions and 3 for the motion and 2 against.
Jean Cheek was the chairperson for the first debate of the year. The motion was proposed by Derek Cheek that – Privacy is a thing of the past. His main arguments highlighted the development of surveillance systems such as CCTV, and spread of the internet and the proliferation of the many forms of social media that have made inroads into our privacy.
Helen Rees opposing the motion by contrast argued that the concept of personal privacy is a fairly recent in human history and that we lead for more private lives in our nuclear families than we did in the past. It was only the very wealthy that could afford the luxury of sleeping in private or having private toileting facilities and indeed in many less developed countries people live more communal lives and do not have the luxury of flushing toilets.
A very cold night we had a smaller than usual audience but those attending made interesting contributions.