A Space for Dialogue
01 May 2007

I went to a book-launch last night. It was Rachael Kohn's new book Curious Obsessions in the History of Science and Spirituality. Having enjoyed her previous book The New Believers I was keen to go, and grateful to find out about the book-launch from Matt Stone's blog Journeys in between.

Rachael Kohn is, I believe, one of Australia's national treasures. A Canadian by birth, she is a well known broadcaster on ABC's (that's the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for any Americans reading) Radio National where she presents two programs: The Spirit of Things and The Ark. Between them, they do a remarkable job of documenting humankind's spiritual searchings – not in a dry academic way, but illuminated through people's individual stories. Her previous book was about the new forms that the religious impulse is taking at the dawn of the 21st Century. This new book seems to be about the dialogue between science and religion.

'Well', you might ask, 'there are lots of books on these subjects. What makes these so special?' My answer would be that at this point in history when globalisation throws people, cultures, ideas and values together whether we are ready or not (mostly not) there is a great need for dialogue. Rachael's books and programmes create a space for genuine dialogue. When I say 'genuine' I mean that it is one that is ready to ask the hard questions, to maintain a critical edge, but always in the context of an open-hearted search for truth. This quality is all too rare. More common are dialogues where either the subtext is 'I have the answers and you will eventually come round to my point of view' or else it is the post-modern nihilism of 'every idea is equally valid no matter how crazy'.

After Rachael's presentation last night and as things opened up for audience participation I thanked Rachael for creating this space for dialogue which, I observed, was primarily a space within her own spirit. I asked if she had any tips for the rest of us in creating a similar space. 'Yes', she replied with a wry grin, 'keep tuning into ABC's The Spirit of Things and The Ark. So I will end with this shameless plug. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, these programs can now be heard outside Australia.

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