Oral history of British science
Tudge, Colin (1 of 10). Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum
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Science and Religion
2016-01-28, 2016-02-09, 2016-03-11, 2016-05-17
Tudge, Colin, 1943- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 1: Colin Tudge born in Camberwell, London, 22nd April 1943. Comments on life of father, including his father's occupation as coal miner, birth in Bolton, his mother's (a primary school teacher) aspirations for him - leading to occupation as a mill bookkeeper then long career as clarinet player in Grenadier Guards regiment of the British Army (from 1928). Mentions fact that mother was daughter of another Guards' musician. Positive comments on own primary school, 'Dulwich Hamlet' [DHPS], including its approach to teaching Christianity. Comments on nearby public school Dulwich College [DC], including its socialist headmaster ('Gilkes') who was concerned to open up admissions to all (related comments on anti-Semitism at the time in UK public schools), DC culture valuing especially careers in law and medicine with public service ethos. Comments on change to culture/ethos of DC by time of own son's education there, related - in own view - to more general tendency, since 1980s, for private/material success to be valued; dangers of this tendency. [7:41] Comments on experience of being first person in own family to go to university: University of Cambridge [UOC], including feelings of estrangement from own background; this feeling of estrangement as common theme in literature. [8:33] Comments on father's childhood in Bolton (born 1911/2). Brief positive comments on time spent, as a child, in Bolton. Comments on paternal grandfather's service in World War One [WW1] digging tunnels under German trenches; his playing of the flute to supplement income as miner. [11:11] Continued comments on life of father, including childhood after WW1, move to London in 1928. [13:14] Story of life of mother, including birth in Colchester in 1910 as daughter of Guardsman, six siblings, life as housewife, involving hard work in keeping house and caring for three children (including self). [15:10] Comments on time spent, as a child, with father, limited by father's work. Mentions "formative times" during family holidays in Bolton; visit to London docks with father. Brief discussion of conversation, as a child, with father. [17:44] Comments on time spent, as a child, with mother. [18:29] Comments on childhood toys, including collection of lead figures (soldiers and animals), collection of cacti (partly inspired by "inspirational" botany teacher Brian Jones and experience of watching 'The Quatermass Experiment' television programme, "about 1952"). Mentions swimming, cricket, football. [21:05] Comments on childhood home, shared with maternal grandparents, with frequent visits from maternal relatives. [23:18] Description of bedroom in this house. Comments on "quite avid" childhood reading, with significant authors from age 13 being PG Wodehouse, George Orwell [GO], John Steinbeck [JS], Aldous Huxley [AH]. Mentions later reading of Jane Austen, George Eliot, Anthony Burgess. Positive comments on AH, including his valuing of intellectuals. [27:22] Comments on GO's criticism of intellectuals, in respect of socialism; role of member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, Keith Joseph, in "dismantling" the Agricultural and Food Research Council [AFRC], leading to closure or privatisation of agricultural research stations; negative effects on farming of this change: "corporate dependant" agriculture; distinction between positive scholarship and uncritical intellectualism. [31:03] Comments on tendency in many earlier civilisations (mentions Bede Griffiths [BG]) for hierarchy of value to run in descending order: scholars, artisans, merchants; reversal of this in modern society (with scholars now "tame intellectuals" working for merchants). [32:44] Comments on playing of rugby at DC; tendency not to spend time outdoors observing nature, in spite of early interest in biology; view of self as unskilled as a field naturalist; own "poetic" interest in nature. [36:08] Comments on 'nature table' at DHPS. [37:14] Comments on childhood churchgoing, including Sunday school, lack of religion at home (with related story), longstanding dislike of church services; enjoyment - in present - of evensong in Oxford. [39:25] Comments on appealing ideas of Christianity, including person of Jesus/God, purpose in the universe; theologian Rudolf Otto's conception of 'numinous' divinity in/of nature, accepted by self from childhood onwards; view that this experience/appeal of nature is common (mentions Rupert Sheldrake); understanding of science (from DC onwards) as the study of the "surfaces" of nature, rather than its "divine presence". [41:38] Further comments on this view of nature as unarticulated in childhood - "just a feeling" and not necessarily connected to particular outdoor experiences. Discussion of own view of time spent with family in/around Bolton in childhood as "formative", especially experience of "human warmth" (in contrast to Dulwich) with related stories.
Life story interview with science writer Colin Tudge