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Think-Off revisits question about man's nature

"The Nature of Humankind: Inherently Good or Inherently Evil?" is this year's Great American Think-Off question, reprising the first annual Think-Off when the same question was asked and, for the only time in Think-Off history, resulted in a draw.

Think-Off organizers decided to revisit the nature of humankind issue again this year, seeking a clearer answer. Organizers are asking everyman and everywoman to offer their thoughtful replies to this essential problem.

The Great American Think-Off is an annual people's philosophy contest that is open at no cost to anyone who wishes to engage with fellow Americans to address an enduring question about our core beliefs. The debate was established to provide a national forum for citizens to discuss these essential questions.

Entering the competition is easy. Just submit your 750 word essay by April 1 (postmark date). You may send it in one of three ways: through the mail to Great American Think-Off, New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567; by email to (no attachments); or through an online form at The four finalists will be notified on May 1 and invited to participate in the great debate to be held before a live audience in New York Mills on Saturday, June 9. The four final essayists will each receive a $500 cash prize and travel expenses to the debate, and the winner will be chosen by the audience on June 9.

The first four contestants to debate this same question 20 years ago included Katie McCannon, a 15-year-old sophomore from Wichita, Kan., who, along with Jennifer Stites, a former tribal police officer from Eagle Butte, S.D., argued that the nature of humankind was essentially evil. The two contestants countering with the assertion that humankind was good were Charles Eldredge, a research engineer from Fessenden, N.D., and Jeff Ethen, a Catholic priest from Clitherall, Minn.