Wikidebates:Laboratory of Methodical Debate
Wikidebates is a project managed by “the Laboratory of Methodical Debate” organisation. Its objective and founding principles are the following.
The purpose of the Laboratory of Methodical Debate is to design, research, implement and disseminate methods of debate that tend to be neutral, exhaustive, structured, clear, argument-based and consistent with a certain ethic of discussion (in the sense that these terms are defined in its founding principles).
These methodical debates can be experimented with on different media and devices (in person or virtual). The Wikidebates online encyclopaedia is a project that tangibly renders the objectives of the organisation.
The five following principles constitute the organisation’s mission statement:
The organisation does not promote any particular religious or political ideology, nor any ideas other than the five principles detailed hereunder.
The organisation doesn’t emit any value judgement on individuals or collective movements, nor does it do so on arguments or points of view they may express.
The expressed arguments must be presented in the strongest possible way, in order to avoid caricature, discrediting or negative deformation of the ideas being defended.
Exhaustivity of arguments
In its approach to each and every debate, question, or subject, the organisation guarantees the expression of the existing arguments, for or against, both current and past.
All points of view therefore have their place, regardless of their estimated merit or notoriety. There can be no censorship other than that based on respect for the law.
Minority points of view that are considered inaccurate, extremist, immoral or anti-scientific are therefore accepted, as long as they do not contravene the law.
In addition, for the sake of accessibility, off-topic contributions are to be discarded.
In the event of a dispute, any person is entitled to lodge a complaint with the organisation’s Ethics Committee (defined in Article 13 of the statutes).
Debates focused on arguments
The debates hosted by the organisation are intended to focus on placing emphasis on constructive argument-based debates rather than personal quarrels or rants based on spectacle and emotion.
To this end, arguments must, as far as possible, be backed up by data that supports them: examples, figures, testimonies, quotations, bibliographical references, etc.
Arguments in a debate should include both "for" and "against" arguments, but also arguments and counter-arguments to each; and, ideally, arguments and counter-arguments to the latter, etc.
Structure and clarity
The forms of debate implemented by the organisation aim to be as accessible and methodical as possible. Unlike online discussion forums, they will try to avoid repetition. Unlike televised debates, the arguments should, if possible, be clearly separated from one another and organised in a way that facilitates their understanding. The exchanges and transcripts should be as synthetic as possible (only insofar as this does not hinder their comprehension).
For this purpose, clear statements, expressed in a simple, non-jargon style, should be preferred.
An ethics of discussion
The debates and discussions held within the framework of the organisation's projects must respect a certain discussion ethic, consisting of:
- encouraging the expression of all;
- encouraging the respect of different arguments, including those that are disturbing;
- avoiding personal attacks;
- striving to remain courteous and respectful.