Oral history of British science

Wickramasinghe, Chandra (12 of 13).  Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum. Life Story Interviews

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  • Subjects

    Science and Religion

  • Recording date

    2015-07-28, 2015-07-29, 2015-07-30

  • Recording locations

    British Library, London

  • Interviewees

    Wickramasinghe, Chandra, 1939- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 12: [Session three: 30th July 2015] Story of use of computers in own research from EDSAC2 at UOC in 1960s, onwards, including use of IBM computer in UOC's Institute of Theoretical Astronomy [ITA], use (by early 1980s) of desktop office computers, unsuccessful application for SRC (Science Research Council) funding to buy such a machine for FH's work from his home in Yorkshire. [8:17] Comments on tendency, from 1980s, to buy most recent home computer available (mentions BBC Micro). [9:29] Description of approach to using early computers with small memories. [10:21] Comments on home computers bought following BBC Micro: Sinclair [ZX Spectrum], PCs. [11:29] Comments on use of technology in collaboration with FH, including period of using FAX machines (in addition to telephone conversations and postal correspondence), FH's lack of uptake of Internet communication; tendency for computing in collaboration with FH to be undertaken by self. Discussion of Sinclair computer owned/used at home, including use of BASIC programming language. [14:45] Comments on view that own experience of computing did not influence own view of/arguments about evolution of life on Earth/within the Universe. [16:29] Story of publication of book (with FH) 'Evolution from Space' [EFS] [1981], including role of publisher (Malcolm Garret [MG] at JM Dent), view of the book as an extended scientific paper with detailed referencing, role of MG in adding subtitle 'A Theory of Cosmic Creationism'. [23:22] Comments on perception that MG was a "committed Christian"; extent to which 'A Theory of Cosmic Creationism' was (from own point of view) unfortunate given developments in US creationism. [24:41] Comments on title of final chapter 'Convergence to God', including uncertainty as to whether it was used by FH in his final, handwritten draft of EFS; own longstanding agnosticism. [25:48] Comments on extent to which FH was a "restraining force" in collaboration. [26:59] Comments on view that, though invitation to take part in trial of Federal Government versus the State of Arkansas [SOA] was inspired by publication of EFS, the representatives of the SOA met by self were not interested in own arguments, as presented in EFS and elsewhere. [28:54] Comments on presentation at US trail of Federal Government versus the SOA of own arguments concerning gaps in the fossil record; own clear acceptance of processes of Darwinian evolution at a "micro level" but view that sudden surges and extinctions in evolution are not explained by such processes. [33:19] Comments on work involved in preparing/writing EFS. [34:52] Detailed comments on presentation in EFS of sequence "... → ????? → ???? → ??? → ?? → ? → man → ..." [page 145 of 1981 Touchstone edition]. [38:01] Comments on views on future "beyond homo sapiens", involving projection of successes of science/technology forward in time, with possibility of emergence of a "superhuman". [40:30] Comments on response/reaction to EFS. [44:24] Comments on observation in EFS that biologists tend to admit that attachment to status quo affects their response to own/FH's work. [46:22] Comments on positive public/popular response to own/FH's work, influenced by perception of inherent "religiosity" in people sensed in public talks (including lectures on cruise ships since 2000). [48:41] Comments on appropriation of arguments in EFS in "Christian propaganda" as an argument for creation by God. [49:40] Comments on memory of no fundamental disagreements between self and FH during long collaboration. Discussion of own view of reference to God in EFS, with own preference for different conception of cosmic intelligence; tendency for idea of 'purpose' in nature to be attached to idea of a God. Comments on problem of consciousness in quantum mechanics; longstanding interest in conception of consciousness in Buddhism, with related story of lectures of Buddhist scholar [Ven Narada] in Ceylon. Mentions Roger Penrose's work on consciousness of material at subatomic level. [58:12] Comments on extent to which developments in evolutionary biology since 1981 (including identification of 'junk' DNA as viral inserts into human genome) have tended to confirm, rather than require revisions to, predictions/arguments made in EFS. [1:02:17] Comments on description by biologists of surges in evolution as a feature of series of 'punctuated equilibria'; observation of self/Victor Clube/BN (mentions involvement of daughter at this time) that evolutionary surges and surges of comets into inner-planetary regions of the solar system are both separated by similar time gaps (c40 million years).

  • Description

    Life story interview with Professor of Astrobiology, Chandra Wickramasinghe

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