Oral history of British science

Swinburne, Richard (4 of 5). National Life Stories:

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  • Subjects

    Science and Religion

  • Recording date

    2015-12-01, 2015-12-01, 2016-01-07, 2016-02-09, 2016-03-03

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Oxford

  • Interviewees

    Swinburne, Richard, 1934- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Comments on/reading of poem by GK Chesterton 'The Aristocrat'. [2:25] Comments on extent to which appointment of self as successor to AF was remarked upon at UOK, given AF's then atheism and own Christianity; relations with AF. [4:05] Further discussion of tendency not have followed closely developments in evolutionary biology. [6:50] Story of development of own work at UO after publication of EOS, 1986 including focus (in tetralogy) on applying tools of analytic philosophy - especially own analysis of what makes a hypothesis probable - to specifically Christian claims about God (Christian doctrine): the atonement, the incarnation, the Trinity. [9:54] Comments on content/argument of book 'Responsibility and Atonement' (1989), including detailed comments on inheritability of original sin, including relevance of recent work in biology on epigenetic inheritance. [20:31] Comments on content/argument of book 'The Christian God' (1994), including the doctrine of a Trinitarian God with three understood as the minimum number of people needed for expression of unselfish love, and doctrine of the incarnation. [29:16] Detailed comments on content/argument of book 'Revelation' [1991], including arguments concerning interpretation of the Bible. Mentions second edition of this book; subsequent book on the Resurrection [2003]. [35:26] Comments on content/argument of fourth book in tetralogy: 'Providence and the Problem of Evil' (1998). [37:04] Comments on extent to which view of correctness of argument that three constitute perfect love was purely logical. [38:18] Comments on timing of participation in debates on theology and relations between theology and science, including first with JL Mackie [JM] at UH, general increase in numbers of public debates (including those broadcast on television) recently, own participation in university debates in which Richard Dawkins [RD] was a participant, tendency to have debated with atheist chemist Peter Atkins [PA], tendency for BBC television and radio not to produce/broadcast programmes featuring "serious discussion of God". Story of participation in two Channel 4 television debates on the existence of God in 1994 on "the argument from design" and "the existence of evil", in which contribution as lead speaker on the first of the two was cut without consultation. Mentions shorter Channel 5 television debate on the problem of evil. Comments on participation in more interviews for television companies in other countries, including Australia, US, Canada than for those in UK. [43:40] Story of/discussion of participation in Channel 4 programme 'God For and Against' [1993] 'There is evil therefore there cannot be a God' as an "auxiliary speaker". [47:27] Discussion of comments made by self during this programme about the extent to which the Holocaust can be explained in terms of God's wish that humans have significant choices. Mentions view of slave trade as greater evil than the Holocaust. Comments on view that Christianity, in last 200 years, has not properly tackled the question of the problem of evil and suffering; Christian discussion in Middle Ages concerning the role of the poor; own view that development of insensitivity to suffering is worse than suffering itself. [1:00:33] Comments on view that illness provides choices for the individual in question (how to suffer), and for others (whether to care). [1:01:43] Comments on relative absence of suffering in own life; response given to those who claim that this leads to a lack of insight into suffering. [1:02:37] Comments on contribution to programme 'God For and Against' of Arthur Peacocke; reasons for tendency to have taken part in debates with PA. [1:05:17] Comments on tendency for scientists to discuss science and religion in a way that limits God to operation within bounds of observed scientific theory, assumed to be inevitable. [1:08:57] Comments on tendency not to read books by scientists on science-religion, preferring work in philosophy. [1:09:38] Comments on relations between move to OU and separation from wife. [noise on microphone] [1:11:13] Comments on content/argument of book 'Epistemic Justification' (2001), including its response to 'reformed epistemology' (mentions proponent Alvin Plantinga); content/argument of book 'The Resurrection of God Incarnate' (2003) especially its focus on "prior evidence" for the Resurrection (reasons for expecting it to have happened before consideration of historical evidence). [1:25:26] Comments on decision to contribute chapter 'The Vocation of a Natural Theologian' to the book 'Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of 11 Leading Thinkers' (1993), edited by Kelly James Clark; decision to contribute updated account 'Natural Theology and Orthodoxy' to book on philosophers who had joined the Orthodox Church. [1:27:08] Further comments on contributions of scientists to discussion of relations between science and religion. [1:29:47] Comments on Richard Dawkins' [RD] 'Sunday Times' review of own book 'Is There a God?' [1996]; discussion of own work in RD's 'The God Delusion' [TGD] [2006]; view of RD's limited reading in theology/philosophy of religion, including own work; RD's "literal view" of the Bible; criticism in TGD of own arguments concerning the Holocaust and the hypothesis of theism as 'simple'. Mentions considerable success of TGD. [1:39:26] Mentions atheist books regarded by self as superior to TGD: JL Mackie's 'The Miracle of Theism' and Nicholas Everitt's ['The Non-existence of God']. [1:40:03] Comments on relations with AF, including story of conversation with him at time of his conversion to Christianity; role of Roy Abraham Varghese in writing of AF's 'There Is a God' [2007].

  • Description

    Life story interview with Professor of Philosophy Richard Swinburne.

  • Related transcripts

    Richard Swinburne interviewed by Paul Merchant: full transcript of the interview

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