Erik Fogel

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Great Debates: Niels Bohr takes on Einstein, October 1927

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." - Albert Einstein

In the world of physics, there are few superstars. Our icon in the field is Albert Einstein. Einstein's brilliant mind, ground-breaking career, and legendary thought experiments make him an example of contemporary genius. And he was certainly the man of the hour at the October 1927 Solvay Conference in Brussels. When twenty-nine stellar scientists converged on the conference to mull over the experimental record of the newly identified photon, they looked to Einstein for approval. Photons were a disturbing and exciting discovery that had theorists scrambling for answers. WHY did these newfound quantum anomalies seemingly break all the rules and behave as both a wave and a particle?

Great Debates in History: The Bentsen-Quayle Vice Presidential Debate, October 1988

Whether a vice-presidential debate falls into the category of one of the great debates in history is, of course, debatable. These in-between debates have rarely served any other purpose than to introduce the heir apparent to the office. Also, it helps the electorate judge whether the candidate is of potential presidential caliber if the incumbent has to leave office early.  Nevertheless, the Bentsen-Quayle vice-presidential debate is memorable because of a breathtaking putdown that probably won the debate for Bentsen. View Debate - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99-v2Farbjs

Great Debates: James Baldwin and Malcolm X, September 1963

"No label, no slogan, no party, no skin color, and indeed, no religion is more important than the human being."

- James Baldwin 

Both James Baldwin and Malcolm X were heroes of the civil rights movement. Baldwin's books, essays, and speeches painted a poignant portrait of black life in the United States prior to desegregation. Baldwin's observations, experiences, and reflections left him with a nuanced stance which was relatable to many Americans. His realism and relatable anecdotes touched a nerve with readers and listeners across the country. Less optimistic than Martin Luther King Jr. and too peaceful for the followers of Malcolm X, Baldwin's views made him unique in the civil rights movement. But it was Baldwin's public dialogue with iconic black leaders that helped refine our vision for a fair and equal America.  Malcom X, joined the debate team in prison and when released quicly became one of the leading and most outspoken civil rights leaders and advocates of black nationalism. View the: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JIp9_IIV3s

Great Debates in History: Roe v. Wade, how a case on abortion shaped our political landscape

On October 11, 1972, oral arguments began in what was to become one of the most important legal debates in the history of America. Jane Roe, a pregnant woman from Texas who wanted to obtain an abortion, brought the case alleging that it was unconstitutional for abortion to be illegal. While the case was decided in January of 1973, the arguments are continually brought up in legal cases, in the media, and by politicians, and are still extremely relevant in current election cycle debates.

Great Debates in History: Jackson and Falwell Clash Over Apartheid, September 1985

On September 4, 1985, Ted Koppel presided over a televised debate on ABC's Nightline between Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Jerry Falwell, during which the two men discussed the issue of South African apartheid. Neither Jackson nor Falwell was an expert on the topic, as Koppel noted, remarking that ''if I was picking a panel of the people who know most about the issue, even if it was 50 people on each side, I'm not sure I'd pick either man.'' But the opponents had exchanged heated words on the subject two weeks earlier on Good Morning America to much media attention, and the network was confident that a more formal rematch would draw enthusiastic viewers.  Click to view televised debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLBG8TVPhb8

While both Jackson and Falwell condemned the apartheid regime, the two men strongly disagreed about what actions the U.S. should take in response to the South African crisis. Jackson, a civil rights activist and former Democratic presidential candidate, was vocal in his condemnation of apartheid, stating that "a system built on race is ungodly and unmoral and it is immoral and cannot stand." He believed that economic sanctions would pressure the South African government into dismantling its system of institutionalized racial segregation.

Great Debates in History: October 26th 1965, Buckley vs Baldwin

Today on October 26th in 1965 William F. Buckley and James Baldwin met at the University of Cambridge to debate the topic "Has the American dream been achieved at the expense of the American negro?". William F Buckley was the founder and editor of the conservative National Review. James Baldwin was a writer and social activist. Click here to view the debate!

Great Debates: Kennedy and Nixon, October 7th, 1960 (Round #2)


In the first ever televised presidential debate in American history, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon faced off for an hour on CBS in front of 70 million viewers. The debate was the first of four powerful confrontations between the two candidates. So impactful were the debates between Kennedy and Nixon, that they left a void of volunteers willing to take on political opponents in front of the camera. Following the four-part series between Kennedy and Nixon, there wouldn't be another televised presidential debate until Gerald Ford agreed to debate Jimmy Carter in 1976, a full sixteen years later.  Today, we examine the second round of the debate series on October 7th 1960. Click here for the full transcript. Click here to view the debate.


Great Debates: Buckley and Vidal, August 28th, 1968


The August 28th Debate!  William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal were polar opposites. Having debated a number of times beginning in 1962, their relationship culminating in 1968 with an explosive series that changed television punditry forever. Buckley and Vidal were both popular American novelists and frequent political commentators. Buckley was a renowned conservative, even starting a magazine to further the cause. And Vidal was a liberal intellectualist whose views were grounded in personal experience. Their debates have been cited as the inspiration for modern sensationalism in television political news programming. 

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates "Great Debates of 1858", August 21st - October 15th, 1858


Between August 21st and October 15th in 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in a series of seven debates focusing on the controversial subject of slavery in the United States. The two men were vying for a spot in the US Senate as a representative from the state of Illinois. Illinois was a free state, but the future of slavery across new U.S. territories was at stake. Slavery was rapidly declining in popularity across the country and both men had distinctly different responses to the issue.