Lawrence Krauss – Richard Dawkins discussion

RD Krauss

Richard Dawkins seems to be promoting a new form of public discussion with minimum moderation. This gets away from the adversary type of public debate which often provides more heat than light. At the same time it can allow for presentation of different viewpoints in a non-antagonistic way. The video on my post Richard Dawkins in Inverness is an example of how effective this can be. has now put up another inspiring example of this form of discussion. They are videos taken when Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss sat down for a public discussion at Stanford University on Sunday, March 9th 2008. The focus was on Science education, but the discussion also covered religion, physics, evolution and more.

Issues discussed include:

  • the question of utility or knowledge of scientific research;
  • Darwins place in science history;
  • quantum mechanics;
  • the issue of evolution teaching schools;
  • “teaching the controversy” propaganda;
  • the “seduction” apporoach of Krauss vs the “abrasiveness” of Dawkins;
  • incorporation of science into culture, TV and films, and
  • the intimidation of teachers into downplaying evolution education.

Two quotes I liked:

Dawkins’ response to “teach the controversy” ploy- “The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it.”

Krauss’ belief that in science education all students should have “an experience where a firmly or profoundly held belief is proved to be wrong.”

Discussion part 1 (23 min)

Discussion part 2 (30 min)

Questions & Answers (with subtitled questions because of audio quality): Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Similar articles:
Richard Dawkins in Inverness
Debating science and religion
Can science enrich faith?
Most ideas in science are wrong!
Dealing with Dawkins
Changing your mind

12 responses to “Lawrence Krauss – Richard Dawkins discussion

  1. Insulting and convincing rarely go together. I’m not in the best situation to be checking out all of Dr. Dawkins’ writings, so I’m holding off until I get back to America. But I am very interested in any sincere, rational arguments from either side of science vs. religion.

    The fact that he called his last(?) book The God Delusion makes me wary, I’ll be honest. But I’ll give him a chance. I just don’t want to pay for the book :P, so I’ll wait until I can get to a library.


  2. Yes, I prefer to get a lot of my reading from the library. However, in the case of “The God Delusion” and some others like Hitchens’ “God is not Great” the waiting lists were just far too long. It’s a strange situation as the shelves are loaded with religious books, there are extremely few books critical of religion, yet the latter seem the most popular at the moment.


  3. A) Because there are more voices in the pro-religious crowd there are fewer people interested in any particular book. Because there are so few “anti”-religious books all the atheists or non-theists have such a limited selection.

    B) The current rise of “anti”-religious books grabs a lot of attention from people that, until recently, didn’t have an outlet geared toward their views. Christians have had books catering to them for decades (millennia if you want to count the Bible itself), so yet another book on prayer or the value of going to church isn’t going to get much attention.

    C) I’m willing to bet a significant chunk of people reading (not necessarily buying) the “anti”-religious books are Christian or some other faith, and they’re just interested in what the other side thinks. But I doubt many atheists read the Left Behind series (and I’ll tell you right now, don’t bother).


  4. Probably true, Philip. But the sales and waiting lists suggest to me there is, at the moment, a thirst for such literature.

    I look forward to a future where such books (pro and con religious belief) are seen as irrelevant.


  5. As long as there is faith there will be people writing about it, and I really don’t see how a world without faith will come into being.


  6. I don’t think the world has “faith” – people do. And I agree non-rational thinking will probably persist. After all our species evolved to pursue the 4 Fs – fight, flight, fear and reproduction. We didn’t evolve to discover truth – even though that is what we often currently aspire to, and are able to because of our special brain.

    However, I hope that our societies can develop to a level where the more toxic “faiths” become insignificant.


  7. If we’re splitting hairs (world having faith, people having faith) I would like to point out Reproduction doesn’t start with an F. ;p


  8. Ken,

    “Dawkins’ response to “teach the controversy” ploy- “The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it.””

    That was Lawrence Krauss who stated that line. Dawkins gave the ‘stork theory’ analogy.


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