Club Spotlight: Socratic Society

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(Left to right) Renee Nowicki, Seth Jones, Alex Hirsch, Sarah Stanley, Ajiel Basmayor, Austin Dabbs and Lilly Bee of the final two teams start their debate for first place in the Ethics Bowl. Amelia Huff/ Sun Star Photo credit: Amelia Huff

It was a battle of the brains Saturday April 29 in the Wood Center ballroom at the annual Ethics Bowl. The contest featured 11 teams debating over modern points of ethical dispute, with topics ranging from animal rights to governmental obligation to preventing women from drinking while pregnant. This debate session was similar to those regularly held by the Socratic Society.

“We email [members] an article or a quick video to watch about some kind of topic we want to discuss and we discuss it for an hour and a half each meeting,” said Jesse Gray, president of the Socratic Society. “For example, we just talked about software that can read emotions.”

Each team was presented with scenarios involving a topic and had to defend a stance on the issue, with both the judges and the other team having the chance to question them and provide rebuttals. Points were rewarded based on the creativity, reason and ingenuity of their answers

After two preliminary rounds the two teams with the highest number of points competed in a final round of debate. This year’s finalists were Renee Nowicki, Bryan Bosserman and Sally Starn on team “I think therefore I slam” facing off against Ajiel Basmayor, Austin Dabbs and Lily Bee on the “A Team.” In the end, “I Think Therefore I slam” took first place by only one point for their discussion of the conditions in which one would have a moral obligation to become a whistle blower against one’s own government.

The Socratic Society meets once a week to discuss emerging ethical topics. Gray described the importance of such philosophical debate to perspective scientists.

“Ethically we can’t always do tests,” he said, “so we need to think them through logically… It’s a different style of thinking. When you remove that style of thinking you can get stuck.”

The Socratic Society is open to all students. The weekly meeting occasionally change, so interested people are advised to check their facebook page at for meeting times and locations. Those who attend will be added to an email list so they can receive material relevant to the weekly discussions.

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