I recently referred a quarterfinal round at Christian Nationals (college circuit). Most debaters know what they should be doing in rebuttals to weigh. Dan Nadal actually DID it. It’s something basic. It should be something we all know. But I hardly ever see it done.
Quick review: “Weighing” significance means comparing your arguments to the best arguments of your opposing team. Usually this is disdavantages/advs of the SQ versus harms/advantages of aff plan. You need to take into account that the judge may not be buying your mitigation and argue your “even if” points. Sometimes this is combined with mitigation “now that we’ve shown their harm is only half what they said, we see the disadvantage outweighs because…”.
You need to weigh arguments because if you don’t, the judge has to do it on their own. From the shoes of a judge, that is absolutely no fun because it requires intervention (I have to insert my opinion as to which of two arguments I think is better). Even worse when there are multiple good arguments on both sides and the judge has to sort out relationships betweeen 5 arguments. Here is where you see many “arbitrary” decisions that really reflect a lack of weighing by the debaters.
The most common weighing criteria are:
- Magnitude — How much your significance vs. theirs (i.e. economy wiped out vs. property rights damaged)
- Probability — The likelihood of certain impacts coming about in their worst form (which you just referred to in magnitude). “While Yucca mountain erupting as a volcano is probably only 5% probable, the world would literally be turned into radioactive cheesecake if that eruption sent enough uranium material into the sky to power the whole world for 30 years”. Or… “seepage of uranium into our water supply across America is much more likely than Yucca erupting, as specifically argued by Expert _____ “
- Timeframe — One impact comes before another and therefore outweighs it, or the one that comes later therefore makes the first one non-unique b/c it overshadows. “40,000 more people will die by this time next year if we don’t ban smoking today, which comes long before any damages to medical innovation caused by a lack of demand for anti-smoking treatment”
You are not stuck with these three ways to weigh impacts, but your final rebuttals should definitely look to provide some kind of “decision mechanism” to help the judge decide between good impacts. Notably, this is why I recommend establishing a “weighing mechanism” at the beginning of the round, so that by the end of the round you have already set up a decided-upon method of weighing impacts. That usually looks like a goal/criterion (other than net benefits, which inherently requires further weighing mechanisms to mean diddly).
The most important takeaway from this post: in your rebuttals, WEIGH the leading impacts of your arguments against the leading impacts of your opponents and show the judge WHY yours take the day.