TED speakers who disagree with each other


Earlier today, Margaret Heffernan spoke on conflict and why it shouldn’t be avoided at all costs — because disagreement is central to good thinking and because voicing dissent is essential to progress. In the spirit of Heffernan’s talk, here is a look at TED speakers who have strongly disagreed with each other. Here’s hoping they meet up, have a cup of coffee, and start seeing what they can come up with following Heffernan’s guidelines for productive conflict.

Peter Diamandis vs. Paul Gilding: What will the near future look like?

Peter Diamandis: Abundance is our future. At TED2012, activist Peter Diamandis explains that — yes — news reports may sound doomsday, but that we are actually living in the most peaceful and abundant time of human existence. He imagines a future where humans continue to invent and innovate to solve the challenges that face us.

Paul Gilding: The Earth is full. Also speaking at TED2012, writer Paul Gilding spoke from a very different viewpoint — saying that humans have not only filled the world with our bodies, waste and things, but that we used up all our resources. He worries that, if we stay on the same path, it could be the end of this civilization.

Bonus video: Watch Gilding and Diamandis debate onstage, moderated by TED Curator Chris Anderson.

After the jump, two more TED disagreements.

Rick Warren vs. Dan Dennett: Do our lives have purpose?

Rick Warren: A life of purpose. At TED2006, pastor Rick Warren said, “I believe spiritual emptiness is a universal disease.” He explained his belief in God, and how he thinks each one of us is here for a specific purpose that matters, and describes his crisis of purpose in the wake of releasing a best-selling book.

Dan Dennett: Responding to Pastor Rick Warren. Speaking at the same conference, philosopher Dan Dennett suggests that religions are natural phenomenon, evolving over time to survive. Dennett says that life — both ours and that of animals — has been designed by evolution, and lacks an individual purpose.

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Stewart Brand and Mark Z. Jacobson: Does the world need nuclear energy?

Stewart Brand: Nuclear energy is our best bet. During an onstage debate held at TED2010, futurist Stewart Brand explained why he is in favor of nuclear energy — because it is far more feasible on a large scale than either wind or solar power. “If all of your electricity in your lifetime came from nuclear [energy], the waste from that lifetime of electricity would go in a Coke can,” he says.

Mark Z. Jacobsen: Nuclear energy is short-sighted. Meanwhile, environmental engineer Mark Z. Jacobsen countered that nuclear power has extreme downsides,  producing far more carbon dioxide and air pollution than other alternative energies. To boot, nuclear power plants takes far longer to build, meaning we’ll have to stick with coal power for the foreseeable future. Not to mention that nuclear power could enhance nuclear weapon proliferation.

Before watching the video above, try this experiment: Ask yourself, who do you agree with now? Watch the debate. And then — ask yourself again. Did your opinion change? Let us know in the comments below.


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