Odyssey Topics for Critical Thinking

These are the Odyssey topics for my CRITICAL THINKING AND WRITING and LOGIC AND CRITICAL THINKING classes.

When you write your paper, your first sentence should be your thesis. Don't waste my time with any of that "introduction" rubbish.

Whatever else you do, your main conclusions should always be based on careful logical analysis.

For each of the following topics, your first task is to cut through all the rhetoric, confidence, and emotional manipulation, and figure out for yourself, the answers to the following questions:

  1. Which of the two writers bears the burden of proof?
  2. Does the writer with the burden of proof present evidence to support their thesis?
  3. If such evidence is presented, is it a set of factual claims that have been proven to be true?
  4. If such evidence is presented, is it a set of claims that can only be true if the writer's thesis is also true?

If you need to fact-check particular claims, please use Wikipedia (or maybe Snopes). For purposes of this exercise, we will treat Wikipedia as a reputable source. To save you from having to do a lot of very time-consuming research, we will assume that if a claim isn't backed up by Wikipedia, it isn't backed up at all. (If you want to tackle Wikipedia reliability in a paper, email me.)

Once you have answered those questions, you are ready to do logical analysis. Remember to ignore how the writers make you feel, and focus only on the quality and logical implications of the evidence presented.

  1. If the side with the burden of proof fails to provide evidence, that side loses and the other side wins.
  2. If the evidence presented includes factual claims that turned out not to be supported, that side loses and the other side wins.
  3. If the evidence is stuff that can still be true, even if the thesis is false, that side loses and the other side wins.
  4. If the burden side presents provable facts that can only be true if their conclusion is also true, then they win, and the other side loses.

After analysis, write a paper that reports on the results of your analysis. If you can't figure out which side is right, your thesis should describe why you're having trouble. Otherwise, your thesis should say which side's thesis is best supported by logic, as best as you can tell. In either case, your paper should explain your reasoning in detail. (Please see odyssey.htm for more details on how to do this.)


Here are the main topic pages for logic and critical thinking writing assignments. They should have links for both sides of each issue. If they don't, contact me immediately.

1. Does the media have a liberal bias?
YES:  Imprimis
NO:  Vanity Fair
Link covering both sides:  https://agostinellidaniel.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/does-the-media-have-a-liberal-bias/
Link covering both sides:  https://www.le-win.net/ourpages/auto/2012/3/16/54946920/mediabias.pdf

2. Does Social Media Have Largely Positive Impacts on Its Users?

For fact-checking, use Wikipedia.

New Topic! Antifa. Are they bad guys (like The Punisher) or are they good guys (like Batman)? Are they morally equivalent to (or worse than) Nazis and KKK? Why or why not? When they engage in violence against Nazikkks, is this violence justified? Why or why not?
Does Fast Food cause Obesity.
Benghazi Affair
NY Times
Accuracy in Media
ABC News
Media Matters
Media Matters on 60 Minutes
News Corpse » New York Times Demolishes Benghazi Hoax – Fox News Freaks Out:

GOP Senator Johnson's anti-Obamacare story denied by daughter's doctor
War on Christmas
Christians aren’t being driven out of public life – they’re just losing their unfair advantages
Charles C. Haynes: Don’t worry Santa, the ‘war on Christmas’ isn’t real
To those who say there is no war on Christmas
Todd Starnes of Fox News Lies Again: A Texas School Did Not Ban Christmas Trees and the Colors Red & Green
Recreational Marijuana
Marijuana Legalization is About So Much More Than Smoking Weed - PolicyMic
Meet Carl Hart, the Scientist Debunking America's Myths About Drugs - PolicyMic
Vaccination and autism
Dossier of Attacks on the AVN | Australian Vaccination Network, Inc
Abuse by members of SAVN and the Australian Skeptics | Australian Vaccination Network, Inc
(71) Stop the Australian (Anti)Vaccination Network
One more time: Vaccine refusal endangers children – Respectful Insolence
Journal of Skepticism - Dan Buzzard
Vaccine denialists hate Bill Gates
William Lane Craig
A Christmas Gift for William Lane Craig – Five Reasons Your Specific God Probably Doesn’t Exist | The Secular Writings of David G. McAfee
A Christmas gift for atheists -- five reasons why God exists | Fox News
(74) Jhayne Holmes - Mobile Uploads
atheism jokes / funny pictures & best jokes: comics, images, video, humor, gif animation - i lol'd
Atheism Shit That Blows: Archive
de-conversion | Resources for skeptical, de-converting, or former Christians……
Atheism Shit that Rocks: Archive
Atheism, fuck yeah! » One in ten young people think Santa Claus appears in the Bible
Deity Shmeity
Atheist Assessment
Google Image Result for http://media.moddb.com/images/groups/1/6/5319/Creationism-Logic.jpg
Atheist Assessment — We will never get a man into space...
Fuck Yeah Atheism: Archive
Mr. Doe's Your Religion Is Fucked Up
Mr. Doe's Your Religion Is Fucked Up: Archive
Quiet Atheist: Archive
Religious logic - Atheism Fan Art (20311294) - Fanpop fanclubs
Skeptical Avenger: Archive
Things to Love About Atheism - Atheism Photo (23887601) - Fanpop
You! Yes, You.
Google Image Result for http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-FDKEu0LCXZE/T9eq0KvRSXI/AAAAAAAAB8k/lZgU_D0vwno/s400/Editorial-Cartoon-Amendment-One.jpg
The Comics Section: The Atheist Pig
Christie Bridge Scandal
Video: When Christie Mocked The Bridge Scandal And Joked About Personal Involvement
3 questions on Chris Christie’s Bridge-gate
DeWayne Wickham: Christie's mea culpa falls short | Reno Gazette-Journal | rgj.com
Chris Christie shrugs off questions about Port Authority and Fort Lee lane closures | NJ.com
UPDATED: Timeline of Port Authority's George Washington Bridge controversy | NJ.com
UPDATED: Timeline of Port Authority's George Washington Bridge controversy | NJ.com
Chris Christie shrugs off questions about Port Authority and Fort Lee lane closures | NJ.com
Top Christie aides tied to George Washington Bridge lane closures - CBS News
Bridgegate? Chris Christie's national ambitions could be hurt by GWB controversy | NJ.com
Perdido Street School: Mary Pat Christie Isn't Laughing This Weekend
Factbox: NJ Governor Chris Christie's tough talk - Yahoo News
Chris Christie shrugs off questions about Port Authority and Fort Lee lane closures | NJ.com
Christie Sarcastically Denies Involvement in GW Bridge Traffic Controversy - WNYC
Christie Sarcastically Denies Involvement in GW Bridge Traffic Controversy - WNYC
Chris Christie Replaces Top Port Authority Appointee Amid Growing Scandal - ABC News
Chris Christie shrugs off questions about Port Authority and Fort Lee lane closures | NJ.com
Christie Dismisses GWB Lane Closure Speculation - Government - Fort Lee, NJ Patch
Christie says it's Democrats, not he, playing politics with GWB traffic flap - NorthJersey.com
Christie says it's Democrats, not he, playing politics with GWB traffic flap - NorthJersey.com
Chris Christie shrugs off questions about Port Authority and Fort Lee lane closures | NJ.com
Chris Christie Replaces Top Port Authority Appointee Amid Growing Scandal - ABC News
Christie Sarcastically Denies Involvement in GW Bridge Traffic Controversy - WNYC
The Boss Sings About The George Washington Bridge - WNYC
  1. Ten Major Flaws of Evolution - Revised
  2. Ten Major Flaws of Evolution - Revised - Resources - Eternal Perspective Ministries
  3. Deity Shmeity: Creationist Logic
  4. Skepticblog » Flaws in Creationist Logic
  5. Skepticblog » Ten Major Flaws of Evolution – A Refutation
  6. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/cre-error.html
  7. https://www.asa3.org/ASA/articles/gish_creation.html
  8. https://joycearthur.com/evolutioncreation/creationism-bad-science-or-immoral-pseudoscience/
  9. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/15-answers-to-creationist/
Astrology Does it actually work?

Chiropractic Is it true that "Chiropractic Works!"? Or is it just that chiropractors also do things that are not chiropractic, and those nonchiropractic things work?

Gay Marriage Should every adult human be allowed to marry whoever he or she wishes, or should only heterosexuals have this right?

Crop Circles Are all of them hoaxes? Has there ever been a cropcircle that was provably not a hoax?

Marijuana. Should we legalize recreational marijuana, or not?

Fairness Doctrine Should the United States restore the Fairness Doctrine?

Intelligent Design Is it science? Or an attempt to use state power to impose religious beliefs on our children?

Global Warming Is there really a scientific consensus that human action has been warming up the planet?

Oxfordism. Did the Earl of Oxford, (or someone else) write the plays attributed to Shakespeare?

Fahrenheit911 Is Michael Moore Right or Wrong About The Bush Presidency?

Iraq Invasion. Was The Case For Invading Iraq A Deliberate Fraud?

Illegal Immigration I don't think this is one anyone can solve but I think you might be able to clear up a few points.

Gun Control What kinds of gun laws should we have and why?

swifty (The John Kerry issue.)

Is Time an Illusion? (If this link is still good, it leads to a blog in which various commentators try to show that time is an illusion, to the chagrin of the very sensible blogger who knows very clearly why it is not.)

More Issue Resources

Issue 2. Is Third World Immigration a Threat to America’s Way of Life?
YES: Mark Krikorian, from The New Case Against Immigration
( Sentinel, 2008) 25

NO: Jason L. Riley, from Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders
(Gotham, 2008) 32
Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration
Studies, presents the case against immigration. He emphasizes the
changes in America that make immigration less benefi cial for America.
The current immigrants are not much different than immigrants in the past
century, but they do not fi t the new America as well as the past immigrants
fi t the old America. One part of the story is that the new America will not
assimilate immigrants well. Jason L. Riley, an editor of the Wall Street
Journal, applauds immigration because it will propel, not impede,
economic growth. America has a fl exible labor market, where both
employers and employees can change the work situation as they need or
desire. “In the end, employers, workers, and consumers are all better off.”
America has a labor shortage that immigrants help fi ll without taking jobs
in the aggregate from Americans. Riley also argues that new immigrants
assimilate much like the old immigrants did.

Issue 3. Does Divorce Have Long-Term Damaging Effects
on Children? 44
YES: Elizabeth Marquardt, from “The Bad Divorce,” First Things
(February 2005) 46
NO: Constance Ahrons, from “No Easy Answers: Why the
Popular View of Divorce Is Wrong,” We’re Still Family: What
Grown Children Have to Say about Their Parents’ Divorce
(HarperCollins, 2004) 51
Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Center for Marriage and Families,
defends the common belief that divorce has devastating impacts on
children and attacks Constance Ahrons’s counter- thesis. Constance
Ahrons, co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, found in her
research on the children of divorced parents that they do quite well in later
life, and most think that they were not harmed by the divorce.
Issue 4. Are Professional Women “Opting Out” of Work
by Choice? 61
YES: Linda Hirshman, from “Homeward Bound,” The American
Prospect Online (November 21, 2005) 64
NO: Pamela Stone, from “The Rhetoric and Reality of ‘Opting
Out,’” Contexts (Fall 2007) 72
Feminist scholar Linda Hirshman fi nds that successful and well-qualifi ed
women are “opting out” of work outside the home when their husbands’
income is adequate for a rich lifestyle. Prioritizing parenthood over work is
an affront to Hirshman’s feminist values. Sociologist Pamela Stone reports
on her survey research and fi nds a number of women who sacrifi ced
careers for parenthood and thought it was their free choice. Her analysis,
however, notes that they were tightly constrained by traditional gender
roles and infl exible workplaces.
Issue 5. Should Same-Sex Marriages Be Legally
Recognized? 83
YES: Human Rights Campaign, from “Answers to Questions
about Marriage Equality,” Human Rights Campaign Report
(Human Rights Campaign, 2009) 86
NO: Peter Sprigg, from “Questions and Answers: What’s
Wrong with Letting Same-Sex Couples ‘Marry’?” Family
Research Council (2004) 94
America’s largest lesbian and gay organization, the Human Rights
Campaign, presents many arguments for why same-sex couples should
be able to marry. The main argument is fairness. Marriage confers many
benefi ts that same-sex couples are deprived of. Researcher Peter Sprigg
presents many arguments for why same-sex couples should not be able
to marry. The main argument is that the state has the right and duty to
specify who a person, whether straight or gay, can marry, so no rights are
Issue 6. Is Increasing Economic Inequality
a Serious Problem? 104
YES: James Kurth, from “The Rich Get Richer,” The American
Conservative (September 25, 2006) 107
NO: Gary S. Becker and Kevin M. Murphy, from “The Upside of
Income Inequality,” The American (May/June 2007) 115
James Kurth, Claude Smith Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore
College, warns of very negative consequences for America of the growing
income inequality from a conservative perspective. He also mentions the
liberal criticisms of inequality but downplays their importance, because
America has institutions that mitigate them. Gary S. Becker and Kevin M.
Murphy, both economists teaching at the University of Chicago and senior
fellows at the Hoover Institution, swim upstream on this issue by pointing
out the positive consequences of the growing income inequality. The main
reason for the increasing inequality is the increasing returns to education,
which, in turn, inspire greater efforts by young people to increase their
social capital.
Issue 7. Is America Close to Being a Post-Racial
Society? 122
YES: Alvin Poussaint, from “Obama, Cosby, King and the
Mountaintop,” CNN.com (November 13, 2008) 125
NO: Lawrence D. Bobo, from “Somewhere Between Jim Crow and
Post-Racialism: Refl ections on the Racial Divide in America
Today,” Daedalus (Spring 2011) 129
Alvin Poussaint is a professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical
School, with a focus on child psychiatry. He argues that the election of
Barack Obama may indicate that America is approaching the mountaintop
that King preached about. Lawrence D. Bobo, the W.E.B. Du Bois
Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, provides a
scholarly analysis of racial inequalities. He explains how inequalities in
America are constantly being recreated. Change occurs and is much
celebrated, but change is successfully resisted in many subtle ways.
Issue 8. Has Feminism Benefi ted American Society? 141
YES: Barbara Epstein, from “The Successes and Failures of
Feminism,” Journal of Women’s History (Summer 2002) 144
NO: Kate O’Beirne, from Women Who Make the World Worse
( Sentinel, 2006) 151
History Professor Barbara Epstein argues that the feminist movement has
been highly successful in changing the consciousness of Americans to
“an awareness of the inequality of women and a determination to resist it.”
She explains how feminists succeeded at the consciousness level but
have declined as a movement for social change. Journalist Kate O’Beirne
argues that feminism is unpopular with women and is pushing an agenda
that most women do not support. She claims that most women have
concluded “that the feminist movement is both socially destructive and
personally disappointing.”
Issue 9. Is the Gender Wage Gap Justifi ed? 164
YES: J. R. Shackleton, from “Explaining the Overall Pay Gap” in
Should We Mind the Gap? Gender Pay Differentials and Public Policy
(Institute of Economic Affairs, 2008) 166
NO: Hilary M. Lips, from “The Gender Wage Gap: Debunking the
Rationalizations” and “Blaming Women’s Choices for the Gender
Pay Gap,” Expert Advice for Working Women, www.womensmedia
.com (2009) 173
J. R. Shackleton, a professor of economics and dean of the Royal
Docks Business School at the University of East London, argues that
the gender wage gap is not largely due to discrimination. It is largely
due to the differential value of male and female workers in the
employment market. Employers want profi ts, so they pay differently for
different skills, commitment, and performance, and women choose less
profi table training and limit their commitment. Hilary M. Lips, professor
and chair of psychology and director of the Center for Gender Studies
at Radford University, documents the continuing gender gap in wages
and blames it largely on discrimination based on stereotypes and
Issue 10. Is Government Dominated by Big
Business? 184
YES: G. William Domhoff, from Who Rules America? Power, Politics,
and Social Change, 5th ed. (McGraw-Hill, 2006) 187
NO: Sheldon Kamieniecki, from Corporate America and
Environmental Policy: How Often Does Business Get Its Way?
(Stanford Law and Politics 2006) 194
Political sociologist G. William Domhoff argues that the “owners and toplevel
managers in large income-producing properties are far and away the
dominant power fi gures in the United States” and that they have inordinate
infl uence in the federal government. Political scientist Sheldon Kamieniecki’s
research fi nds that business interests do not participate at a high rate in
policy issues that affect them, “and when they do, they have mixed success
in infl uencing policy outcomes.” In fact, environmental and other groups
often have considerable infl uence vis-à-vis business interests.
Issue 11. Does Capitalism Undermine Democracy? 204
YES: Robert B. Reich, from “How Capitalism Is Killing Democracy,”
Foreign Policy (September/October 2007) 206
NO: Anthony B. Kim, from “Economic Freedom Underpins
Human Rights and Democratic Governance,” Heritage Foundation
Web Memo (March 18, 2008) 211
Robert B. Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California,
Berkeley, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, accuses capitalism of
undermining democratic governments’ ability to serve the public good and
advance the general welfare. The political power of the corporations
exceeds that of the people, so many nations with democratic elections do
not function as democracies. Anthony B. Kim, a policy analyst at the
Heritage Foundation’s Center for International Trade and Economics,
contends that economic progress through advancing economic freedom
has allowed more people to discuss and adopt different views more
candidly, ultimately leading societies to be more open, inclusive, and
Issue 12. Should Government Intervene in a Capitalist
Economy? 219
YES: Joseph E. Stiglitz, from “Government Failure vs. Market
Failure: Principles of Regulation,” paper prepared for the
conference “Government and Markets: Toward a New Theory of
Regulation,” February 1–3, 2008, Yulee, Florida (2009) 222
NO: Walter Williams, from “Future Prospects for Economic
Liberty,” Imprimis (September 2009) 228
Joseph E. Stiglitz, University Professor at Columbia University, argues
that the government plays an essential role in enabling the market to work
properly. Capitalism runs amok if it is not regulated to protect against
abuse and ensure fairness. Walter Williams, professor of economics at
George Mason University, argues that the founders defi ned a small role
for government in the Constitution and protected the freedom of
individuals. Now the role of government is increasing and individual
freedoms are declining. The free market has achieved great prosperity for
America and the intervention of government has had net negative
Issue 13. Was the Welfare Reform the Right Approach
to Poverty? 235
YES: David Coates, from “Cutting ‘Welfare’ to Help the Poor,”
A Liberal Toolkit: Progressive Responses to Conservative Arguments
(Praeger, 2007) 238
NO: Stephanie Mencimer, from “Brave New Welfare,” Mother Jones
( January/February, 2009) 245
David Coates presents the argument for welfare reform, which is that
most poverty is self-induced; the previous welfare program created
poverty and many other problems; and the reform reduces poverty,
improves the lives of the people who left welfare, and solves other
problems. Stephanie Mencimer, staff reporter for Mother Jones, does not
denigrate the current welfare law but documents the horrible way welfare
is administered in many states. Many welfare workers deny many benefi ts
to many people who qualify for welfare. Thus, many welfare benefi ts do not
reach the poor.
Issue 14. Is No Child Left Behind Irretrievably
Flawed? 255
YES: Sharon L. Nichols and David C. Berliner, from “Testing the
Joy Out of Learning,” Educational Leadership (March 2008) 258
NO: Dianne Piché, from “Basically a Good Model,” Education Next
(Fall 2007) 264
Education professors Sharon Nichols and David Berliner provide evidence
that the test-dominated schooling of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has
negative effects. Dianne Piché, executive director of the Citizens’
Commission on Civil Rights, supports NCLB, contending that the annual
testing for progress will measure and reward improvements. The poor and
minorities have a lot to gain in this system.
Issue 15. Should Biotechnology Be Used to Alter and
Enhance Humans? 270
YES: President’s Council on Bioethics, from Beyond Therapy:
Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness (October 2003) 273
NO: Michael J. Sandel, from “The Case Against Perfection:
E thics in the Age of Genetic Engineering,” The Atlantic Monthly
(April 2004) 283
The President’s Council on Bioethics was commissioned by George Bush
to report to him their fi ndings about the ethical issues involved in the uses
of biotechnology. Included in this selection are the expected positive
benefi ts from the biotechnologies that are on the horizon. Political science
professor Michael J. Sandel was on the President’s Council on Bioethics
but presents his private view in this selection, which is very cautionary on
the use of biotechnology to alter and enhance humans. Many other uses
of biotechnology he praises, but he condemns using biotechnology to
alter and enhance humans. In these activities, humans play God and
attempt inappropriate remaking of nature.
Issue 16. Is Street Crime More Harmful Than White-
Collar Crime? 298
YES: David A. Anderson, from “The Aggregate Burden of
Crime,” Journal of Law and Economics (vol. XLII, no. 2,
October 1999) 301
NO: Jeffrey Reiman, from The Rich Get Richer and the Poor
Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice, 5th ed.
(Allyn & Bacon, 1998) 309
David A. Anderson estimates the total annual cost of crime including law
enforcement and security services. The costs exceed $1 trillion, with fraud
(mostly white-collar crime) causing about one-fi fth of the total. His
calculations of the full costs of the loss of life and injury comes to about half
of the total costs. It is right, therefore, to view personal and violent crimes as
the big crime problem. Professor of philosophy Jeffrey Reiman argues that
the dangers posed by negligent corporations and white-collar criminals are
a greater menace to society than are the activities of typical street criminals.
Issue 17. Should Laws Against Drug Use Remain
Restrictive? 320
YES: Herbert Kleber and Joseph A. Califano Jr., from “Legalization:
Panacea or Pandora’s Box?” The National Center on Addiction and
Substance Abuse at Columbia University ( January 2006) 323
NO: Peter Gorman, from “Veteran Cops Against the Drug War,”
The World & I Online ( January 2006) 340
Herbert Kleber, the executive vice president of the Center on Addiction
and Substance Abuse (CASA), and Joseph Califano, founder of CASA,
maintain that drug laws should remain restrictive because legalization
would result in increased use, especially by children. Kleber and
Califano contend that drug legalization would not eliminate drugrelated
violence and harm caused by drugs. Author Peter Gorman
states that restrictive drug laws have been ineffective. He notes that
drug use and drug addiction have increased since drug laws became
more stringent. Despite the crackdown on drug use, the availability of
drugs has increased while the cost of drugs has decreased. In addition,
restrictive drug laws, says Gorman, are racist and endanger civil
Issue 18. Are We Headed Toward a Nuclear 9/11? 354
YES: Brian Michael Jenkins, from “Terrorists Can Think
Strategically: Lessons Learned from the Mumbai Attacks,”
Testimony Series (Rand Corporation, January 2009) 357
NO: Graham Allison, from “Time to Bury a Dangerous Legacy—
Part I,” YaleGlobal Online (March 14, 2008) 361
Brian Michael Jenkins, senior advisor to the president of the Rand
Corporation, in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, posited that a team of
terrorists could be inserted into the United States and carry out a
Mumbai-style attack, as terrorism has “increasingly become an
effective strategic weapon.” Graham Allison, Harvard professor and
director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs,
affirms that we are not likely to experience a nuclear 9/11 because
“nuclear terrorism is preventable by a feasible, affordable agenda of
actions that . . . would shrink the risk of nuclear terrorism to nearly
Issue 19. Is Torture Ever Justifi ed? 366
YES: Mirko Bagaric and Julie Clarke, from “Not Enough
Offi cial Torture in the World? The Circumstances in Which
Torture Is Morally Justifi able,” University of San Francisco Law
Review (Spring 2005) 369
NO: Philip E. Devine, from “What’s Wrong with Torture?”
International Philosophical Quarterly (vol. 49, September
2009) 376
Bagaric and Clarke remind us, first of all, that torture, although
prohibited by international law, is nevertheless widely practiced. A
rational examination of torture and a consideration of hypothetical
(but realistic) cases show that torture is justifiable in order to prevent
great harm. Torture should be regulated and carefully practiced as
an information-gathering technique in extreme cases. Philosopher
Philip E. Devine argues for an absolute (or virtually absolute)
position against torture. Devine suggests that the wrongness of
torture and the repugnance that we feel toward it ultimately go
beyond any moral theory. In addition, the examination of extreme
cases should not inform our general thought about these and other
Issue 20. Does Immigration Benefi t the Economy? 388
YES: George W. Bush White House, from “Immigration’s
Economic Impact,” White House Release ( June 20, 2007) 391
NO: Steven A. Camarota, from “Testimony Before the U.S. House
of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on
Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and
International Law” (U.S. House of Representatives, September 30,
2010) 396
The George W. Bush White House surveys the professional literature and
assesses immigration’s economic impact and concludes that immigration
has a positive effect on the American economy as a whole and even on
the income of native-born American workers. Steven A. Camarota, director
of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, argues that immigration’s
benefi t to the economy is so tiny that it should be ignored. On the other
hand, immigration reduces the income of the poor with whom many
immigrants compete for jobs.
Issue 21. Is Humankind Dangerously Harming the
Environment? 405
YES: Lester R. Brown, from “On the Edge,” World on the Edge: How
to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse (Earth Policy
Institute, 2011) 408
NO: Bjorn Lomborg, from “The Truth about the Environment,”
The Economist (August 4, 2001) 415
Lester R. Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute and now president of
the Earth Policy Institute, argues that population growth and economic
development are placing increasingly harmful demands on the environment
for resources and to grow food for improving diets. Bjorn Lomborg, a
statistician at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, presents evidence that
population growth is slowing down; natural resources are not running out;
species are disappearing very slowly; the environment is improving in
some ways; and assertions about environmental decline are exaggerated.
Issue 22. Is Economic Globalization Good for Both Rich
and Poor? 425
YES: IMF Staff, from “Globalization: A Brief Overview,”
International Monetary Fund (May 2008) 428
NO: Ravinder Rena, from “Globalization Still Hurting Poor
Nations,” Africa Economic Analysis ( January 2008) 436
IMF (International Monetary Fund) Staff examine both positive and
negative effects of globalization and conclude that economic globalization
contributes greatly to world prosperity. Ravinder Rena, an associate
professor of economics at the Eritrea Institute of Technology, argues that
globalization produces many benefi ts but also produces many negative
impacts. The poor and poorer countries are the most harmed by
Issue 23. Is Stimulus the Best Way to Get the American
Economy Back on Its Feet? 444
YES: Joshua Holland, from “Paul Krugman: We Could End This
Depression Right Now,” Alternet (May 24, 2012) 447
NO: Dwight R. Lee, from “The Keynesian Path to Fiscal
Irresponsibility,” Cato Journal (vol. 32, no. 3, Fall 2012) 453
Freelance writer Joshua Holland and Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate
economist and professor of economics and international affairs at the
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton
University, argue that while unemployment is high, the government must
stimulate the economy to produce many more jobs and thus more
earnings, which will increase spending, which will stimulate more business
and jobs and more spending, and so on. When the economy has
recovered, the government should institute policies to reduce the debt.
Dwight R. Lee, the O’Neil Professor of Global Markets and Freedom in the
Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, argues that the
Keynesian approach of Paul Krugman and others will have disastrous
results for America. The Keynesian prescriptions are reasonable in the
abstract, but when fi ltered through the political system controlled by
special interests, the results are some short-run benefi ts but long-run
costs including relative economic stagnation.
Issue 24.  462

Rules For Going Off List

Occasionally, a student asks me if he or she can do a topic not on the official list. I always say "only if you first provide me with a statement of your intended thesis and argument, or alternatively a statement of the main arguments on both sides of the issue." Invariably, this student will completely ignore these instructions and turn in an absolutely horrible paper that purports to cover an important topic but which in fact contains no logical analysis whatsover. This means that the student has turned in an inadequate paper on a topic on which he did not have permission to write. Each of these features is worth a grade of "F," so the paper is worth a grade of "double-F," or negative 100 points.

So, if you think of a topic, relevant to Modern Philosophy, upon which you wish to write philosophically, you may EITHER turn in a short statement of your thesis about this topic and your argument for that thesis OR turn in a short statement explaining the main arguments for both sides of this issue.

If you turn this in, you MIGHT get my permission to write on this topic. You don't have it yet.

If you don't turn in a statement as described above, you absolutely do not have permission to write on an off list topic.

Remember, you only have permission if I write on your thesis/argument or argument/argument statement that you have permission. If you don't have this permission, writing on an off list topic will get you a zero-point "F" for that paper.

If you want to do a topic that’s not otherwise on this list you must obtain my approval first. (giving URLs of pro and con pages would also help.) You must give me your thesis, arguments for, arguments against and final reasoning before I can think about approving a topic. No exceptions. This is the hardest option! Just grinding your favorite axe without seriously considering the other side will get you an F. Taking this option without getting my approval will get you an F.

Remember, in this class "topic" means topic from this list!

Remember that you are not being asked to come up with a way to make the situation come out the way you want it to. The situation in each question is exactly as described in that question. Adding or subtracting things to the situation makes it a different question, which means you won’t be answering an assigned question. Since only assigned questions can get any credit, changing the question is just a labor-intensive way of failing to do the assignment.

Remember also that you are graded on your responsiveness to the logic of your topic, not on your ability to make your personal opinion look plausible. If you can’t support a particular position with reasons, accept that it’s not supported and explain what that implies and what we would think if we made up our minds based only on logic. You don’t have to change your personal opinion, but asserting that your personal opinion is supported when you can’t think of any reasons for it will get you an F.

If you need help getting started, read burrow.htm.

If you have trouble putting it all together, read conclusion.htm.

If you're not sure how to assign the burden of proof, read burden.htm.

Further reading

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