Debate versus Conversation

“Debate is angular, conversation circular and radiant of the underlying unity.”
–Amos Bronson Alcott

Like many of you in the space community, I’ve been following the twists and turns over the last few months in defining a human spaceflight policy for NASA.  At the NewSpace 2010 Space Conference in Silicon Valley in late July, participants were speaking enthusiastically about the proposed space policy changes relative to commercial involvement contained in the Obama administration’s 2011 budget for NASA, then bemoaning the rollbacks of varying degrees proposed in NASA authorization bills winding their way through Congress.  What I found interesting were the choices in words by select participants for describing the involvement of commercial enterprises in ferrying crews to and from low Earth orbit.  Specifically, some chose the word “debate” and others chose “conversation” when talking about how to define roles for the proposed commercial carriers and where a Government-provided system fits into the future of human spaceflight.  I’m very curious about the choice of words between debate and conversation.  Are they deliberate choices?  What does the choice of words convey relative to the intent of the speaker, and what’s the difference?

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Debate versus Conversation