UBCO profs set to do battle in upcoming Life Raft Debate - InfoNews

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UBCO profs set to do battle in upcoming Life Raft Debate

The 2019 Life Raft Debate at UBC Okanagan was won by chemistry professor Stephen McNeil.
Image Credit: YOUTUBE
January 09, 2020 - 4:20 PM

The stakes have risen as professors at the UBC Okanagan strive to prove they are the best bet for humanity’s survival in a life raft threatened by zombies.

That’s the scenario driving the second annual Life Raft Debate coming to UBCO next Tuesday, Jan. 14, according to a UBCO media release.

Last year’s scenario was simply that society had collapsed, the audience were the only survivors and had one seat left in their life raft. The scientists had to convince them that their field was the best suited to help humans survive.

This year, a zombie apocalypse has been added as the reason for the demise of humanity.

Last year’s winner, chemistry professor Stephen McNeil, is returning to defend his title.

“My winning argument was that, as a chemist, I know how to take simple molecules and manipulate them into creating something new, like penicillin or steel,” he said in the release. “But now that we not only need to rebuild civilization but also survive a zombie hoard, I may need to up my game this year.”

Jesse Lafontaine is the event organizer and a chemistry undergraduate student.

“The concept is definitely absurd,” he said in the release. “But it’s also refreshing and entertaining to hear very accomplished UBC professors explain their expertise and argue how their work would help human civilization recover from such an unlikely disaster.”

This year’s slate of debaters includes university administrator Deborah Buszard, Greg duManoir, a senior instructor in Kinetics, engineer professor Mina Hoorfar and English professor Bryce Traister.

Associate professor Jan Cioe will join in as the Devil’s Advocate, arguing that none of the others should be allowed in the life raft.

“As university professors, we’re used to speaking to students who are already interested in our fields of study,” McNeil said in the release. “Defending the power of chemistry to a room full of people who probably aren’t as passionate as I am about organometallic reaction mechanisms is certainly humbling. Offering this unique twist on academic debate is a great way to help people discover how different points of view and areas of expertise each make essential contributions to human society.

Each professor has only five minutes to make their pitch.

The debate starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 14 in Room COM 201 in the commons building at UBCO campus in Kelowna. It’s a free event and is open to the public but pre-registration is required. Register on-line here.

Watch last year’s debate in this video.


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