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What to Watch for in Stephen Meyer v. Lawrence Krauss, Saturday at 4 PM, Here at Evolution News

David Klinghoffer


I don’t mean to slight theistic evolutionist Denis Lamoureux, but obviously when it comes to the topic, “What’s Behind It All? God, Science, and the Universe,” the sharpest contrast in tomorrow’s discussion at the University of Toronto will be between Stephen Meyer and Lawrence Krauss. (Remember to come back here to Evolution News and watch it live at 4 pm Pacific, 7 pm Eastern.) What should we expect from Krauss?

Thoughtful reader Ryan takes issue with my characterization of the atheist cosmologist as, at least, open to fairly discussing competing ideas:

I read your post about the Meyer vs. Krauss debate and wanted to offer a brief comment. You say this of Krauss:

There’s much disagreement among these three pertaining to huge issues — the origins of life, of the universe, the meaning of it all — but to their credit they all agree that countervailing opinions deserve a hearing. Otherwise they wouldn’t be doing this. I must say I’m particularly impressed by Krauss’s willingness to talk. His intellectual partner Richard Dawkins would never have the guts to do this.


Now Krauss — that guy has some courage. Good for him.

Having watched Krauss in numerous debates, interviews, and on talk shows, I have to respectfully disagree with your assessment of him.

Krauss does not appear to believe that countervailing opinions deserve a hearing. At least not a fair hearing. He seems to believe that they deserve only to be misrepresented and then mocked. Krauss seems to have no qualms about misrepresenting his sources in order to win an argument or make his opponent look foolish, even when his opponent is correct (for example, see the case I mentioned in that “My Good Friend” Meme article you wrote from a while back when he was debating W.L. Craig.)

And finally, what perhaps shows most of all that he doesn’t want other opinions to get a fair hearing is the fact that his go-to move in a debate or discussion is interruption on an almost unimaginable scale. He almost literally doesn’t let his opponent get in a complete sentence, and certainly not a complete thought.

The degree to which he interrupts his opponents borders on pathological, and the result is the other person can never properly present their case because they simply can’t string two concepts together without being interrupted and brought down some tangent to answer one of Krauss’s misrepresentations. Say what you will about Dawkins, his cowardice and his lack of sophistication (the latter is a trait shared by Krauss), but at least when he was engaged in a debate with someone like John Lennox he would let his opponent speak.

For this reason, I’m really hoping that the debate has a formal structure rather than a back-and-forth discussion format. Prior to the debate, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea for Steve Meyer to work a comment into his introduction about hoping that all participants can respectfully allow the others to make their points without interruption, or even better, that when people believe they have strong arguments they don’t need to worry about letting their opponents speak and so don’t need to interrupt, or something to that effect.

Of course, he wouldn’t need to mention Krauss by name, but if Krauss gets up to his usual antics, that introductory comment will offer the audience some lens through which they can see and understand that Krauss’s constant interruptions signal a weakness in his arguments, not a strength. (I’m often surprised to find that audiences seem to think that interruption is sign of strength and intellectual dominance.)

Alternatively, if Krauss starts constantly interrupting during the debate, Meyer could whip out this quote from John Locke: “There cannot be greater rudeness than to interrupt another in the current of his discourse.”

Interrupting is a problem my kids have, too. I will whip out that Locke quote at them next time it’s germane — any minute, no doubt.

Anyway, that is a helpful perspective, and yes, I suppose I may have given Krauss more credit than he deserves. In the meantime, find our previous coverage of him here.

Image: Lawrence Krauss at American Atheists Convention, 2011, by Mike Sheridan, [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.