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Without offering either a new paradigm for debate or modifying current theory, Robert Rowland proposes five criteria for evaluating competing paradigms. We not only have no quarrel with Rowlands guidelines, but, in previous publications, we have sought to show how the policy systems model of debate satisfies each one of them 1 Our only caveat is to note Rowlands omission of the key criterion that any purported paradigm follow the inherent logic of policy resolutions and avoid arbitrary strictures that reflect the idiosyncracies of particular theorists. All but one of Rowlands five canons are logical consequences of this foundational precept of debate theory. A model rigorously derived from the logic of defending resolutions of policy in a format requiring yes-no decisions yields theory that is clear and consistent, imposes equitable burdens on affirmative and negative advocates, identifies central policy concerns, and encourages maximum clash over the issues that determine policy selection. Although we
Allan Lichtman is Professor of History at American University, and Daniel Rohrer is Associate Professor of Speech Communication and Theatre at Boston College.
1 See for example, Allan J. Lichtinaa and Daniel M. Rohrer, The Logic of Policy Dispute, The Journal of the American Forensic Association, 17 (Spring 1980), 236-247; A General Theory of the Counterplan, ibid., 12 (Fall 1975), 70-79; _______ and Jerome R. Corsi, Policy Systems Analysis in Debate. Advanced Debate, ed., David A. Thomas (Skokie: National Textbook Company. 1979), 375.390; _______ and Joseph Misner, The Role of Empirical Evidence in Debate: A Systems Approach. ibid.. 272-286; Decision Rules in Policy Debate: Presumption and Burden of Proof, ibid., 42-69; _____ and Corsi, Affirmative Case Ap. proaches. ibid., 173-182.

also endorse the remaining criterion that a debate paradigm fit the current form of debate, we stress the need for caution in skewing theory to accord with a given view of debate practice. Otherwise, the result would be a weakening of the intellectual rigor of academic debate and an invitation for judges to vote against practices they found personally repugnant.2 From this broader perspective, that incorporates Rowlands proposals, we would suggest that policy systems analysis emerges as the only acceptable paradigm for competitive debate. No other alternative is adapted to the special realm of discourse established by resolutions of policy. Consider briefly the two competitors cited by Rowland David Zarefskys view of debate as hypothesis testing and Walter Ulrichs tabula rasa model.3 Zarefskys approach,4 founded on a rough analogy to scientific discourse, ignores the distinction between factual propositions that turn on assessments of probability and policy resolutions that necessarily fuse fact and value. This fundamental error generates a host of
2 Robert 3 Ibid. 4 David Zarefaky, A Reformuiation of the Concept of Presumption. paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Central States Speech Association, Chicago, Illinois, April 1972; Argument as Hypothesis Testing. paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association, San Francisco, California, December 1976; Bill Henderson, Debate as a Paradigm for Demonstrating Truth Through Hypothesis Testing. paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association, Houston. Texas, December 1975. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN FORENSIC ASSOCIATION, Volume 18. Winter 1982

Rowland, Standards for Paradigm Evaluation, The Journal of the American Forensic Association, this issue, 133.140.



difficulties many of which are discussed e1sewhere.~ To list but a few examples, the model imposes an arbitrary presumption against the resolution irrespective of the risks of change entailed in negative counterplans. It attempts to focus debate on the essence of a resolution rather than particular proposals without clarifying how to define this elusive concept. The hypothesis testing model ignores the inherently comparative process of policy analysis, thereby encouraging meaningless justification arguments and fostering the illusion that straight refutation alone is a viable negative option, Indeed, the hypothesis testing model reverses the proper assignment of the null hypothesis and the research hypothesis. For Zarefsky, the null hypothesisthat which is protected by a presumption in scientific procedureis a composite hypothesis comprising every alternative to the debate resolution; whereas, the research hypothesis is the

resolution itself. In scientific practice, however, the null hypothesis cannot be a composite hypothesis. It must be specified exactly in order to form a probability distribution around the expected results of that hypothesis to reveal the likelihood of obtaining various sample results, assuming the null hypothesis is true. Thus, one could plausibly argue for reversing affirmative and negative burdens that Zarefsky assigns by analogy to hypothesis testing. Ulrichs view of the debate judge as a clean slate uncontaminated by any prior knowledgeo incorporates a trivial 5 Allan J. Lichtman, Debate as Comparison of Policy Systems: A Critique of Zarefsky on Presumption, ed., Robert J. Branham, The New
Debate: Readings in Contemporary Debate Theory (Washington, D.C.: Information Research Associates, 1975 and 1979), 69-88. 8 Walter Ulrich, Tabula Rasa as an Approach to the Judging of Debates, paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 1978.

truth about advocacy while missing a much more profound one. Ulrich seeks to create a paradigm for debate by denying the possibility of agreeing on a paradigm independent of the arguments made in individual rounds of debate. Although Ulrich is, of course, correct that all matters are open to dispute both in the debate forum and elsewhere, he neglects the critical need for theorists to probe the logical requirements of policy discourse and develop guidelines that can clarify the responsibilities of judges and debaters. The wheel need not be reinvented in every debate. Ulrichs approach, moreover, encourages the most frivolous kinds of arguments as well as shallow spread attacks since judges must give equal credence to every substantive and theoretical claim made by competing advocates. Shazamand that defeats the case, if unanswered, would be sufficient grounds for a negative victory according to the logic of Ulrichs non-paradigm. In his JAFA article Rowland assails the policy systems paradigm by suggesting that forms of policy analysis other than those set forth in our scholarship may be equally or more legitimate.~ His argument becomes specific, however, only in a 1981 Alta conference paper that offers four detailed criticisms of our approach to debate,~ By answering each of these indictments, in turn, we hope to show both that Rowland has misinterpreted our work and that the policy comparison model satisfies his own criteria for paradigm evaluation. First, Rowland contends that the policy-making model is unclear because it fails to indicate whether the negative
7 Rowland,

Standards for Paradigm Evalua.

S Robert Rowland, Debate Paradigms: A Critical Evaluation, Proceedings of the Summer Conference on Argumentation, eds,, Jack Rhodes
and Gcorge Ziegemueller (Annandale: Speech Communication Association, 1981), in print,


must defend a single policy system or may defend several systems. Rowlands quandary is readily resolved; policy comparison may involve any number of negative alternatives. As we noted in 1980, A program of action is affirmed because it is superior to all other proposed competitors and rejected because it is not as desirable as at least one other competing proposal. Rowland subsequently impugns the multiple policy option, arguing that it overloads the time capacity of debate by enticing negative teams to advance policy alternatives that cannot be adequately described or analyzed in a single debate.1 This argument has force, however, for the hypothesis testing model, not for the policy systems paradigm. Unlike the hypothesis testers, we neither arbitrarily grant a favorable presumption to every negative alternative nor permit substantive contradictions among counterplans. We also require sufficient development of counterproposals for accurate policy comparison. In this context, the multiple policy option might actually serve to raise the standards of argumentation in academic debate. Negative advocates would be well advised to take the time necessary for presenting new policy systems only when their sustaining arguments are of high enough quality to offer compelling alternatives to affirmative cases. Second, Rowland maintains that the policy-making model is biased for the affirmative because it is easier to identify advantages than disadvantages of policy change.2 Yet Rowland fails to show why this problem uniquely applies to our model of debate; whatever the prevailing theory, someone must propose a policy change and someone
O Ibid. 10 Lichtman 11 Rowland, 12 Ibid.

and Rohrer, The Logic of Policy Dispute, 289. Debate Paradigms.

else must seek to oppose it. Moreover, Rowland later contradicts his argument by suggesting that the policy-making paradigm encourages catastrophic disadvantages of such magnitude as to defeat affirmative cases despite scant probability of their actual occurrence. Rowland further suggests that our model is biased toward the affirmative because it downplays problems of implementation.13 Yet we have pointed out that problems of implementation

(with the exception of the illegitimate argument that the plan will not be adopted) are central to the policy-making model since they crucially affect the probability of achieving the affirmative advantages.14 Third. Rowland argues that the policy systems model produces a skewed view of the policy environment that deifies quantification, ignores soft variables, and submerges human values.15 Here Rowland mows down an army of straw soldiers as he attacks an oversimplified view of policy-systems analysis. Although Pentagon planners and other officials have sought to devise a form of pseudo policy science that banishes questions of value and counts only that which is countable, our own approach emphasizes that policy systems analysis places matters of value at the forefront of analysis, incorporates soft variables, and avoids the mechanical computation of exact numerical functions.~ As we observed in a 1979 article devoted to the very issues raised in this objection, the policy-systems model actually paves the way for direct clashes over the ideology [a necessary component of any policy system] that implicitly or explicitly guides all human decisionsT
U~ Ibid. 14 Lichtman

and Rohmer, The Logic of Policy Dispute, 240. Debate Paradigms. 16 Lichtman and Rohrer, The Logic of Policy Dispute, 239. 17 Lichtman, Rohrer and Corsi, Policy Systems Analysis in Debate. 148
15 Rowland,


For the model highlights the combination of fact and value in policy comparison and clarifies the relationships between means and ends in policy systems. Rowland lampoons value debate, noting the absurdity of arbitrarily assigning justice a numerical importance 7.3 with freedom slightly higher at 8.4 Such a quantitative measure of value, he adds, reflects only the raters intuitive evaluation of the importance of the value.8 Never do we advocate inflexible and arbitrary assignments of weights to core values like freedom and justice. Instead we alert advocates to the importance of grasping the philosophical foundations for guiding values and of establishing priorities among policy outcomes according to the value tradeoffs they entail. It is Row~ land, not us, who disparages the possibilities of debating human values. Rejecting Rowlands positivistic viewpoint that dismisses values dispute as inherently intuitive and thereby meaningless, we maintain that debate over ideology is especially important for a society experiencing rapid technological change. By drawing on humanitys rich historical tradition and examining alternative views on the nature of man, advocates may well be able to suggest non-arbitrary weightings of even highly abstract values. To abdicate this responsibility is to permit our technology to define our values for us.19 Instead of ignoring soft variables that defy inclusion in a quantitative comparison of costs and benefits, we explicitly incorporate them in the policy.making process. Policy comparison, we have noted, may not always accommodate the smooth exchange of benefits and costs.2 Certain fundamental rights of
18 Rowland,

Debate Paradigms. Rohrer and Corsi, Policy Systems Analysis in Debate, 384. 20 Ibid., 386.
19 Lichtman.

human beings, for instance, may be given absolute priority over other in~ terests. Thus policy debaters could legitimately contend that the examination of particular costs and benefits must take place within boundaries that cannot be crossed irrespective of circumstance.2 Policy analysis also takes into account the process by which decisions are reached, encompassing Rowlands concern for questions of responsibility.22 Considerations relevant to the decision-making process as well as to the end states of policy simply become components of the costs and benefits to be weighed in the evaluation of competing policy.23 Use of the policy-systems paradigm does not mean that debate is reduced to the mechanical computation of numerical measures. The highest levels of rhetoric, analysis, and evidential support are required for warranting a choice among competing systems of policy: advocates cannot simply accumulate quotations and contentions without explicitly showing how they relate to the task of policy comparison. We also warn against simplistic assumptions about the numerical exactitude that can be attained in policy dispute, observing that: Advocates seek estimates of probabilities and values that are as precise as possible, given limitations of information, time, and analytic technique. Even practitioners of the natural sciences often work comfortably with ranges of probability and estimates of varianca24 Rowland cites our stricture to be as precise as possible as though it were a sin;25 but without such an effort, the only alternatives are ambiguity, imprecision, argument by anecdote and innuendo.
21 Ibid.

22 Rowland,

Debate Paradigms. Rohrer and Corsi. Policy Systems Analysis in Debate, 386. 24 Lichtman and Rohrer, The Logic of Policy Dispute. 239. 25 Rowland, Debate Paradigms.
23 Lichtman,



Fourth, and finally, Rowland claims that the policy systems paradigm produces bad argument by encouraging debaters to present catastrophic impact arguments even when the chances of catastrophe occurring are minute, Debate, he observes, would do well to copy other disciplines and reject arguments which do not meet a minimum standard of proof, adopting perhaps the .05 significance level.26 Yet low probability, high-impact arguments are not necessarily bad arguments. Authorities in some fields such as epidemiology and nuclear power regulation realize the critical importance of including in their analyses assessments of even small probabilities of catastrophic events. Their work demonstrates the sophistication of the investigations required for establishing the likelihood of catastrophic occurrences. Rowland also misrepresents the process of probabilistic reasoning in a comparison of policies context, thereby conjuring false dangers to debate, The import of a catastrophic outcome argument comes not from demonstrating at some level of probability that policy Y may produce catastrophic result X, but from showing that the probability of catastrophe X occurring is greater under policy Y than under alternative policy Y (which may, of course, be the present system). Even if it were true that one could readily show some small probability that catastrophic outcome X would result from adoption of policy Y, it decidedly does not follow that one could readily show that the probability of X given policy Y is greater than the probability of X given alternative policy Y, i.e, that P (X/Y) > P (X/Y). An advocate could argue, for example, that deployment of the MX missile system risks nuclear war by destabilizing the current balance in strategic weaponry. But a defender of the MX could respond that failure to deploy the system risks nuclear war by giving the Soviets an opportunity to destroy Americas ground-based deterrent. The resolution of this controversy (i.e., the determination of whether P (X/Y) > P (X/Y) or P (X/Y) < P (X/Y) or P (X/Y) = P (X/Y) would involve highly complex argumentation and substantial presentation of evidence. Thus by insisting on the comparative nature of policy decisions, our debate paradigm protects advocates from cheaply made catastrophic impact arguments. Competing paradigms that slight the comparison of policy systems offer no such protection. Finally, we find it remarkable that Rowland should follow his polemic against quantification in policy analysis with the recommendation that judges employ an arbitrary, numerically precise level of minimal probability (such as .05) for the consideration of an argument. Indeed, Rowlands suggestion comes precisely at a time when statisticians have widely questioned the wisdom of preassigning fixed levels of statistical significance and have moved toward decision-theoretic models of inferenceY7
- . .


In neither his JAFA article nor his conference paper does Rowland refute the conclusion that debate on policy resolutions necessarily involves the comparison of competing policy systems. Both in the theory building of our previous scholarship and in our responses to Rowlands bill of indictment we have sought to show that this insight can be developed into a paradigm for argumen
27 See for example, Ramon E. Henkel, Tests of Significance (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1976); D. Morrison and R. E. Henkel, The Significance Test Controversy (Chicago: Aldine, 1970). 26 Ibid. 150 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN FORENSIC ASSOCIATION

tation and debate that satisfies criteria theorist ultimately seek to develop new for paradigm evaluation even more guidelines for policy analysis, we would stringent than those presented by Row- be pleased to give them our most serious land, Should Rowland or another attention.