In my recent article 'William Lane Craig v Lawrence Krauss: Sydney' I made a few comments about the role of the moderator, Dr. Rachael Kohn, in the Sydney dialogue. They looked just like this:
"Then followed a dialogue between the two men with the moderator Rachael Kohn at the helm.... I was surprised to see even Craig’s level of frustration as Kohn handed out some ‘yellow cards’ to Krauss as well as his own bewilderment at some of Kohn’s left-field questions which were clearly off topic.
It must be said that both men dealt with Kohn’s momentary difficulties with grace. At one time, it seemed that she was totally lost as to what questions should be asked of whom. Not all her questions were welcomed by the speakers...
At the conclusion of the evening Kohn looked most uncomfortable and I noted a shake of the head which I could only interpret as a measure of disappointed at her own performance on the night. For a brief moment she looked very lonely. (I have invited Rachael Kohn to share her thoughts of the night with us; please watch this space)."
May well we watch this space as Dr. Rachael Kohn has kindly responded to our request for her own impressions of the night. Her comments are not only illuminating but explain why I, like others, 'sensed' at times a genuine 'discomfort' for her 'discomfort'. Please read on ...
Rachael Kohn understands religion and contemporary religious issues better than most people. Her doctorate is in 'Religious Studies' and you probably know her as the presenter of the Australian ABC's 'The Spirit of Things'; a radio program that 'explores contemporary values and beliefs as expressed through ritual, art, music and sacred texts, and focusing on the nature of spiritual meaning in our lives.'
There have been a lot of comments on various blogs regarding Rachael's role as moderator at the Sydney Town Hall sell-out event. My comments above represent a view and there are certainly others on the 'web' and in print. Whilst I believe that Rachael is held in high regard by many academics, questions were raised that night. Was she out of her depth or were there particular issues that surfaced in the dialogue session between the academic theologian William Lane Craig and the feisty physicist Lawrence Krauss?
As this was not a debate but a 'dialogue' what exactly was her role? More importantly, how did she view her responsibility?
We appreciate Rachael's communication with us and we are pleased to publish them below, unedited, in context:
"My views on the experience with Krauss and Craig are the following.
I do feel that publically presenting a dialogue, which is an exchange of ideas for the purpose of edification, must abide by some ground rules. Listening to the other’s point of view, and thoughtfully putting counterpoints is the best way to invite the audience to learn or engage with the issues with some level of understanding.
My discomfort lay in the fact that while they were there to engage, and I was meant to assist that, I found it near impossible to achieve because they were playing to different ground rules. Krauss was arguing in an angry exasperated manner and showed no respect for Craig’s entirely different point of view, which he expressed in the normal respectful manner of the academic that he is.
I wonder at the value of placing entirely different and highly complex bodies of knowledge in a contest of sorts, because it becomes nothing more than a spectacle, resembling ‘the fights’ on TV, where the point is to draw blood and keep the other guy down, which Krauss metaphorically tried to do by talking over Craig so that he was effectively silenced. I doubt that the audience ‘learned’ anything about science or religion, but they might have drawn some interesting conclusions about the nature of belief, scientific or religious, and its influence on behaviour…
It was certainly one of the more challenging situations I’ve been in." (Dr. Rachael Kohn)
Lawrence Krauss is on record for demonstrating a disdain for Craig. In fact, he is also on record for claiming that religious people are 'stupid'. He is neither a philosopher nor a gentleman. Like many scientists; once Krauss is removed from his own specific academic discipline he crashes and burns. He reminds me more like a spruiker on sideshow alley than a 'rational thinker' capable of intelligent discourse at a philosophical/theological/metaphysical level.
In short, he lacked respect for Craig and one really wonders how he really felt about the presence of a moderator who is an authority on religious matters as well as non-religious matters - like 'atheism' and dare I say it, 'pseudo-atheism'.
(EDITOR. My thanks to Rachael for clarifying with us her personal thoughts. I found them most helpful).