Instigator / Pro
14
1718
rating
36
debates
87.5%
won
Topic

Resolved: On balance, cell phones pose little health risk.

Status
Finished

All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

Arguments points
6
0
Sources points
4
4
Spelling and grammar points
2
2
Conduct points
2
2

With 2 votes and 6 points ahead, the winner is ...

MisterChris
Parameters
More details
Publication date
Last update date
Category
Technology
Time for argument
One week
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
One week
Point system
Four points
Rating mode
Rated
Characters per argument
10,000
Contender / Con
8
1546
rating
24
debates
62.5%
won
Description
~ 1,166 / 5,000

I, PRO, believe that cell phones pose little health risk. As CON, you believe the opposite.
BoP is on PRO to prove cell phones pose little tangible harm to our health. CON must disprove or discredit PRO's claims.
DEFINITIONS:
On balance: "after considering the power or influence of both sides of a question"
Cell phones: "a phone with access to a cellular radio system so it can be used over a wide area, without a physical connection to a network; a mobile phone."
Little: "a small quantity or degree/insignificant"
Radio waves: "Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light."
STRUCTURE:
R1- Constructive & First Rebuttal. PRO will give a constructive, however CON will attempt to rebut PRO's case.
R2-3- Fluid attack/defense. No set structure here.
RULESET:
1. No new arguments made in final round
2. No trolling
3. You must follow the debate structure
4. No plagiarism
5. Must follow debate definitions.
RULESET PENALTY:
If the ruleset is broken, the penalty will be the loss of a conduct point. By accepting the debate, the contender accepts the RULESET and the RULESET PENALTY.

Round 1
Pro
Thanks, K_Michael!

Resolved: On balance, cell phones pose little health risk.

1. Contention: Cell Phones = Better Overall Health

  • One of the biggest indicators of overall health in a nation is how affluent it is.
The World Bank states that 

“Poverty is a major cause of ill health and a barrier to accessing health care when needed. This relationship is financial: the poor cannot afford to purchase those things that are needed for good health, including sufficient quantities of quality food and health care. The relationship is also related to… lack of information on appropriate health-promoting practices or lack of voice needed to make social services work for them.”

However, this relationship between economic prosperity and health continues even within the most developed of nations. The Health Inequality Project published a study in 2016 detailing how income impacted life expectancy of people within the US. They found that the richest men outlived the poorest by 15 years, and the richest women outlived their counterparts by 10

Looking more broadly, the Social Security Office of Policy found in 2007 that the upper half of the male income ladder outlived the lower half by 5.8 years.

However, let’s confirm this using cancer rates as an example, since they are especially relevant to the debate at hand. 
Citing the WHO, “80% of children with cancer will survive in wealthy nations, while only about 20% will survive in low/middle income countries.”

  • The cell phone industry is a large contributor to economic growth (i.e. cell phone companies, wireless providers, and the tech they create). 
The global smartphone market is projected to grow "50 percent in the next four years to 6 billion devices totaling $355 billion in revenues"


"mobile phones have a measurable impact on economic growth... for every 10% shift in American markets from 2G to 3G between 2008 and 2011, per capita GDP increased by 0.4%. 
The more that mobile phone users upgraded to 3G, the more data they used.  Between 2005 and 2010, mobile data usage shot up by 400% in America. That too had a distinguishable affect on per capita GDP of about 0.4%. 
And with mobile penetration, there appears to be some low-hanging fruit for the United States to pluck, so to speak. The study found that a 10% increase in mobile penetration led to a 4.2% rise in Total Factor Productivity (a stat that best measures the impact of innovation)."

i.e. increased cell phone usage measurably increased the amount of money circulating the economy per person. 

  • Cell phones have spurred the development of 5G technology. 
A research paper by the firms IHS Markit, PSB and economist Dr. David Teece estimates that the global economic gain from 5G could amount to $12.3 trillion in goods/services, $3 trillion in GDP growth (the equivalent of all of India!), and 22 million jobs (roughly the size of all of Romania!) by 2035. 

Verdict:

It is a proven fact that economic prosperity leads to increased health and higher survival rates. Cell phones are a vital contributor to this prosperity. Given no reason to doubt that cell phones are safe as of yet in the debate, the voter should cast a PRO ballot. 

Back to you, K_Michael. 


Con
Resolved: On balance, cell phones pose little health risk.

First of all, I would like to clarify a definition made in the description. Pro defines a cell phone as “a phone with access to a cellular radio system so it can be used over a wide area, without a physical connection to a network; a mobile phone.” I will presume for the entirety of the debate that the health risks of cell phones will be evaluated as they exist in a “cellular radio system,” rather than how they exist individually with no connecting cell towers or satellites.

Argument 1: Cell phones as an enabling force. 

Preamble
An AK-47, in and of itself, is hardly a health risk to anyone. It contains few/no toxic or radioactive metals, and it doesn’t move on its own. Obviously, cell phones are similarly harmless when left alone. If there are no humans interacting with the AK-47, it won’t kill or hurt anyone. Whether or not a cell phone poses a health risk when it is used by a human, it is clear that the risk of a cell phone sitting on a counter turned off is as small a health risk as an object can reasonably be expected to be.
A1: Cell phones enable increased violence and crime.
A cell phone is designed to allow fast communication over great, even global distances. Communication is the key to accomplishing group tasks effectively, which includes military/guerilla forces and organized crime. 

A good example of how communication increases violence is in WW1. This is the most famous trench war, and while not completely unique, it is unusual in that the Central Powers upheld 3 fronts at once, something that would be difficult or impossible before the age of radio communication. The west front was approximately 440 miles long, a front that could only be upheld due to the quick communication provided by the radio. Artillery could be called in from several miles away. The high powered artillery was only possible through radio communication. Artillery, along with machine guns, was the main reason that trench warfare was used to the extent it was in WWI [1]. Trench warfare then caused the development and use of some of the most horrible tactics and weapons used in WWI: flamethrowers, shotguns (also called trenchguns), and mustard gas. While all of these were terrible additions to the arsenal of war, I will be highlighting mustard gas in particular. In short, mustard gas was developed to flow downhill into enemy trenches. Unfortunately, the wind would often blow the gas in an unintended direction and sometimes even into nearby towns. Trench warfare (which again was caused by radio communication) also prolonged the war. About half of WWI’s estimated death count of 20 million were civilians [2]. WWII’s initial Blitzkrieg tactics were also made possible by radio communication, and gave Hitler enough early success that he was able to kill 6 million Jews. The total civilian death count of WWII was approximately 55 million [3]
It is undeniable that more people have died in wars since the advent of radio communication. In conclusion, as cell phones allow clear verbal communication across great distances, they, as well as other long-distance communication devices like two-way radios, increase the potential for community violence and effectiveness of military action,* which by definition pose health risks to the public.

Argument 2: Social media

Ironically, cell phones also decrease communication. An article by the National Center of Biotechnology Information states that “the development of social networks... has led to the further reduction of intensity of interpersonal communication both in the family and in the wider social environment.” This can lead to less healthy interpersonal relationships. [4] There is a lot to unpack under social media, but it is generally agreed that social media use can often adversely affect your mental health, whether it is depression, narcissism, or low self-esteem. If Pro believes that I should provide sources for these claims, I will do so in the next round, however, it is my belief that these statements are widely enough accepted that Pro should provide evidence against instead. 
Social media today is often accessed by cell phones, and certain social medias are designed specifically for mobile, like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok, rather than having developed as a website. The adverse effects of social media are clearly public health risks, which means that cell phones once again contribute to the threat towards public safety.

Sources:
[1] “artillery and machine guns forced the armies on the Western Front to dig trenches to protect themselves.”
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183915/


Round 2
Pro
Thanks, K_Michael!

OBSERVATIONS:

  • PRO heartily agrees that the radio system present in phones should be counted as an intrinsic property of cell phones. That said, CON must comment on radio’s relation to cell phones and only cell phones, they can not isolate and commentate on radio technology itself.
  • CON makes no response to PRO’s R1. Extend all points. 
REFUTATIONS:

A/2 ARGUMENT 1:

“An AK-47, in and of itself, is hardly a health risk to anyone. It contains few/no toxic or radioactive metals, and it doesn’t move on its own. Obviously, cell phones are similarly harmless when left alone. If there are no humans interacting with the AK-47, it won’t kill or hurt anyone. Whether or not a cell phone poses a health risk when it is used by a human, it is clear that the risk of a cell phone sitting on a counter turned off is as small a health risk as an object can reasonably be expected to be.”
Several responses.

  1. Ignoring the faults of this comparison, CON openly admits here that phones are not to blame for cellular misfortunes: people are. In other words, CON immediately blows a hole in the idea cell phones have any intrinsic health risk. Bad people can use cell phones to do bad things, surely. But that doesn’t mean cell phones are intrinsically detrimental to health. I can use a baguette to smother my foes, does that mean we should ban baguettes?
  2. Even if the judge does not buy response 1, consider that this comparison falls flat when design and purpose are accounted for. An AK-47 is designed to kill from the ground up, while cell phones are designed to be a helpful tool.
“A1: Cell phones enable increased violence and crime.”

CON gives no warrants or impacts to indicate cellular communication is a significant enabler of crime.

In fact, cell phones have substantially reduced crime. 

According to ItStillWorks,
“several law enforcement agencies on local levels agree that cell phones have been instrumental in taking an unprecedented bite out of crime. Among these agencies is the San Diego Police Department, which gives full credit to cell phone usage for a 4.7 percent drop in major crimes. In Oregon, the number of arrests in hit-and-run accidents has increased substantially, thanks to motorists who take pictures of the offenders’ license plates or read them off to 911 dispatchers...Police attribute the drops in crime rates to people’s willingness to contact authorities using their cell phones, which has improved the response times of police departments. This dynamic has acted as a deterrent to would-be criminals, who now think twice before committing crimes in an area where they might be seen. Supporting this theory are countless intended child abductions thwarted by someone with a cell phone.”

In fact, a study credits cell phones as being one of the biggest drivers in lowering crime in the 90’s. 
“Lena Edlund, a Columbia University economist,  and Cecilia Machado, of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, lay out the data in a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. They estimate that the diffusion of phones could explain 19 to 29 percent of the decline in homicides seen from 1990 to 2000.”

“It is undeniable that more people have died in wars since the advent of radio communication. In conclusion, as cell phones allow clear verbal communication across great distances, they, as well as other long-distance communication devices like two-way radios, increase the potential for community violence and effectiveness of military action,* which by definition pose health risks to the public.”

  1. This argument is solely a criticism of radio technology. Soldiers are not calling each other on their Nokia’s. RECALL from R2 Observations: 
“PRO heartily agrees that the radio system present in phones should be counted as an intrinsic property of cell phones. That said, CON must comment on radio’s relation to cell phones and only cell phones, they can not isolate and commentate on radio technology itself.”

   2. If the voter does not buy the above argument, RECALL

Bad people can use cell phones to do bad things, surely. But that doesn’t mean cell phones are intrinsically detrimental to health. I can use a baguette to smother my foes, does that mean we should ban baguettes?”

   3. Even if the voter does not buy the response above, consider that war is generally a rare scenario where radio pays a secondary role. It follows then that radio's overall contribution to death is miniscule. In fact, radios are more often used to reduce casualties. First responders frequently use radio as a way to communicate and save as many people as possible. 

   4. Even if the voter does not buy all the responses above, OUTWEIGH on the basis of PRO’s 1st Contention, where economic growth is shown to raise life expectancy by decades and lower cancer death rates significantly.

A/2 ARGUMENT 2:

“Ironically, cell phones also decrease communication. An article by the National Center of Biotechnology Information states that “the development of social networks... has led to the further reduction of intensity of interpersonal communication both in the family and in the wider social environment.” This can lead to less healthy interpersonal relationships. [4] There is a lot to unpack under social media, but it is generally agreed that social media use can often adversely affect your mental health, whether it is depression, narcissism, or low self-esteem.”

  1. CON’s study immediately says in abstract: 
“During the past decade, online social networking has caused profound changes in the way people communicate and interact. It is unclear, however, whether some of these changes may affect certain normal aspects of human behavior and cause psychiatric disorders. Several studies have indicated that the prolonged use of social networking sites (SNS), such as Facebook, may be related to signs and symptoms of depression. In addition, some authors have indicated that certain SNS activities might be associated with low self-esteem, especially in children and adolescents. Other studies have presented opposite results in terms of positive impact of social networking on self-esteem. The relationship between SNS use and mental problems to this day remains controversial, and research on this issue is faced with numerous challenges.”

    2. ProCon.org summarizes: 

“93% of adults on Facebook use it to connect with family members, 91% use it to connect with current friends, and 87% use it to connect with friends from the past. [274] 72% of all teens connect with friends via social media. [200] 81% of teens age 13 to 17 reported that social media makes them feel more connected to the people in their lives, and 68% said using it makes them feel supported in tough times. [288] 57% of teens have made new friends online.”

   3. Even if the voter does not buy the above refutations, consider that social media is a completely optional function that is developed by outside parties and installed freely by the user. It has no bearing on whether cell phones in their base form are a health risk, which is what this debate is about. 

   4. If the voter does not buy all of the above responses, then OUTWEIGH on the basis of PRO’s 1st Contention.

Back to you, K_Michael!

Con
CON makes no response to PRO’s R1. Extend all points.

I'm getting to it.
  1. Ignoring the faults of this comparison, CON openly admits here that phones are not to blame for cellular misfortunes: people are. In other words, CON immediately blows a hole in the idea cell phones have any intrinsic health risk. Bad people can use cell phones to do bad things, surely. But that doesn’t mean cell phones are intrinsically detrimental to health. I can use a baguette to smother my foes, does that mean we should ban baguettes?
This is a hypocritical argument. If this is the case, then phones are not to blame for economic growth either; people are. In other words, cell phones have no intrinsic value towards IMPROVING health conditions through economic growth. Good people can use cell phones to do good things, surely. But that doesn't mean cell phones are intrinsically good for the economy. If voters believe that this argument is valid, they must admit that it goes both ways. Either the argument is invalid and my claim stands, or it applies equally to his argument as well and he gains nothing.

CON gives no warrants or impacts to indicate cellular communication is a significant enabler of crime.
Pro ignores the fact that I claimed that communication enables organized crime, and cell phones are the main form of communication in the modern urban community.

Half Right
However, the sources that Pro gives do seem to prove that there is an undeniable link between cell phones and a decrease in crime. This doesn't necessarily prove that organized crime doesn't have an increased ability, only that the public ability to report and deter crimes outmatches any benefit to the criminal underworld IN THE U.S.! In developing countries, on the other hand, crime rates have been rising in conjunction with cell phone use and increased communication.

"One of the most dramatic increases occurred in Jamaica: between 1977 and 2000, the rate of violent crime increased from 254.6 incidents per 100,000 to 633.4 per 100,000 and the murder rate jumped from 19.2 per 100,000 to 39 per 100,000" [1] 

I was unable to find a reliable source that is more recent but take that how you will. The cell phone was invented in 1973.
~~~

This argument is solely a criticism of radio technology. Soldiers are not calling each other on their Nokia’s. 
You will recall that a cell phone is defined in the description as "a phone with access to a cellular radio system
Radio technology, unlike economic growth, is an intrinsic property of cell phones. You cannot separate the two. While cell phones specifically have not been used to any great extent in military campaigns, I only wished to illustrate the importance of (near) instantaneous communication that devices like cell phones provide. I did not say, “cell phones are responsible for 20 million civilian deaths in WWI,”  but the increased potential for violence can be made clear.

“93% of adults on Facebook use it to connect with family members, 91% use it to connect with current friends, and 87% use it to connect with friends from the past. [274] 72% of all teens connect with friends via social media. [200] 81% of teens age 13 to 17 reported that social media makes them feel more connected to the people in their lives, and 68% said using it makes them feel supported in tough times. [288] 57% of teens have made new friends online.”
It should be noted that Pro did not contend the points of mental health. He states that social media has increased connection, but this is fundamentally different from communication.  Strictly textual communication is effective at conveying facts but isn't as effective at conveying meaning or emotions, which makes it difficult to maintain good relationships with people through social media. Texts and social media messages are easily misunderstood. 

social media is a completely optional function that is developed by outside parties and installed freely by the user. It has no bearing on whether cell phones in their base form are a health risk, which is what this debate is about. 
Not strictly true. Samsung smartphones come preinstalled with Facebook and it cannot be removed, Apple used to and now Google phones come preinstalled with Youtube.

Round 3
Pro
Thanks, K_Michael!

OBSERVATIONS:

  • CON has ignored many of PRO’s arguments (all arguments labeled with “RECALL & EXTEND”) CON can not respond to these in their next post, because this is the final PRO round. Flow all of these arguments through in PRO’s favor. 
REFUTATIONS:

“This is a hypocritical argument. If this is the case, then phones are not to blame for economic growth either; people are. In other words, cell phones have no intrinsic value towards IMPROVING health conditions through economic growth. Good people can use cell phones to do good things, surely. But that doesn't mean cell phones are intrinsically good for the economy. If voters believe that this argument is valid, they must admit that it goes both ways. Either the argument is invalid and my claim stands, or it applies equally to his argument as well and he gains nothing.”
a. There are several key differences here that destroy CON’s refutation:

Cell phones have intrinsic monetary value because of what they are, not because of how they are applied. Their materials and their functions are economically valuable. It’s not that their function is being applied in some way that improves the economy, they themselves are valuable economically. Thus, they motivate people to produce them, buy them, even innovate on them to increase their value further.

b. CON completely ignores PRO’s 2nd refutation.

RECALL & EXTEND: Even if the judge does not buy response 1, consider that this comparison falls flat when design and purpose are accounted for. An AK-47 is designed to kill from the ground up, while cell phones are designed to be a helpful tool.”

c. Even if the judge buys CON’s turn here, CON has openly acknowledged PRO’s argument, 

“If voters believe that this argument is valid, they must admit that it goes both ways.”

This means they would have no offense in this debate. Their entire 1st Contention crumbles instantly, and CON has already refuted their 2nd. 

On the other hand, PRO has sufficiently proven that cell phones pose little health risk, and has even turned several of CON’s points to demonstrate that cell phones have in fact saved lives in emergency situations. 

“the sources that Pro gives do seem to prove that there is an undeniable link between cell phones and a decrease in crime. This doesn't necessarily prove that organized crime doesn't have an increased ability, only that the public ability to report and deter crimes outmatches any benefit to the criminal underworld IN THE U.S.! In developing countries, on the other hand, crime rates have been rising in conjunction with cell phone use and increased communication.”
a. CON acknowledges that the benefit to phones providing an outlet for communication with law enforcement outweighs the small harm that they pose regarding criminal organizations. 

b. CON’s only refutation is that the sources PRO provides only pertain to the United States. They provide a source that says crime is rising in developing Latin American and Caribbean nations, but that does absolutely nothing to refute the clear and proven correlation between increased cell phones and decreased crime. The study makes no mention of cell phones, nor says they played any role in criminal organizations. Predictably, the study only shows that there are other factors to consider other than phones in determining rates of violent crime.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research:
Estimates from the empirical literature suggest that most of (Latin America’s) seemingly excessively high violence can be explained by three factors: high inequality, low incarceration rates, and small police forces.”

c. Unfortunately for CON, an Atlantic article looking at crime in Latin America continues to prove PRO’s point: cell phones are a net benefit to law enforcement.

According to the article, Latin Americans have started to employ online crime reporting with cell phones in response to the large amounts of crime, with promising results:

“In the last three months, Guatemala has witnessed 356 homicides, 202 armed attacks, 44 illegal drug sales, 11 kidnappings, and six cases of "extortion by cell phone."

These numbers come courtesy not of Guatemalan law-enforcement but of Alertos.org, a new platform that recruits citizens to report crimes. And they've enlisted in the effort, using email, Twitter, Facebook, mobile apps, and text messaging to chronicle thousands of criminal activities since last year—in a country where a hobbled police force is struggling to address the fifth-highest murder rate in the world.

In recent years, police have courted cell phone-toting citizens as crime "censors" everywhere from Washington, D.C. to the tiny Kenyan village of Lanet Umoja. But the practice has gained particular traction in Latin America…Online crime reporting can work remarkably well, harnessing the knowledge and networks of communities and saving money that would otherwise be spent on desk officers taking reports in person or by phone. ”

“You will recall that a cell phone is defined in the description as "a phone with access to a cellular radio system" 
Radio technology, unlike economic growth, is an intrinsic property of cell phones. You cannot separate the two. While cell phones specifically have not been used to any great extent in military campaigns, I only wished to illustrate the importance of (near) instantaneous communication that devices like cell phones provide. I did not say, “cell phones are responsible for 20 million civilian deaths in WWI,”  but the increased potential for violence can be made clear.”
a. RECALL: PRO heartily agrees that the radio system present in phones should be counted as an intrinsic property of cell phones. That said, CON must comment on radio’s relation to cell phones and only cell phones, they can not isolate and commentate on radio technology itself.

Militaries will not be using cell phones for military operations because they operate on insecure, public signals. So it does not follow that militaries will be using cellular technology in the battlefield. Again, you commentate on radio tech as it relates to phones, but your criticisms so far have been anything but. 

This is pretty basic knowledge, and I trust that the judge will be able to recognize this.

Even still,

b. RECALL & EXTEND: “Bad people can use cell phones to do bad things, surely. But that doesn’t mean cell phones are intrinsically detrimental to health. I can use a baguette to smother my foes, does that mean we should ban baguettes?”

c. RECALL & EXTEND: “Even if the voter does not buy the response above, consider that war is generally a rare scenario where radio pays a secondary role. It follows then that radio's overall contribution to death is miniscule. In fact, radios are more often used to reduce casualties. First responders frequently use radio as a way to communicate and save as many people as possible.”

d. RECALL & EXTEND: “Even if the voter does not buy all the responses above, OUTWEIGH on the basis of PRO’s 1st Contention, where economic growth is shown to raise life expectancy by decades and lower cancer death rates significantly.”

“It should be noted that Pro did not contend the points of mental health. He states that social media has increased connection, but this is fundamentally different from communication.”
This was contested on 2 separate occasions:

a. RECALL & EXTEND: “Other studies have presented opposite results in terms of positive impact of social networking on self-esteem. The relationship between SNS use and mental problems to this day remains controversial, and research on this issue is faced with numerous challenges.”

b. RECALL & EXTEND: 81% of teens age 13 to 17 reported that social media makes them feel more connected to the people in their lives, and 68% said using it makes them feel supported in tough times”

“Strictly textual communication is effective at conveying facts but isn't as effective at conveying meaning or emotions, which makes it difficult to maintain good relationships with people through social media. Texts and social media messages are easily misunderstood.
a. RECALL & EXTEND both responses above. Clearly people do not feel like the occasional textual miscommunication is a relationship-ending affair. 

b. There are avenues of communication other than text available on social media and on phones, such as photos, videos, live streams, live face-to-face communication, and of course, phone calls. 

“Not strictly true. Samsung smartphones come preinstalled with Facebook and it cannot be removed, Apple used to and now Google phones come preinstalled with Youtube.”
Again, these are optional functions. I barely use agar.io on my phone, even though I have it installed. 

VERDICT:
Cell phones directly cause higher economic growth which in turn increases health. Even if the judges don’t buy this, consider the many arguments PRO has turned in their favor: phones have been shown to reduce crime, lower battlefield casualties, and increase the ability of first responders to respond to emergencies. Even if the judge doesn’t buy anything above, however, CON still loses because every offensive argument they have given has been refuted.

Con
Due to time constraints on irl concerns, I am unable to invest time in this round. I could probably put out something out in 20 minutes that would address the main concerns, but I pride myself on putting actual thought and concern into most of my debates, so I will instead be not putting forward any arguments or counters in this round. Voters may look to my previous rounds when they consider the winner of this debate.