Oral history of British science
Tudge, Colin (2 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 2: Comments on view of self in relation to other boys at DC. Brief story of decision to pursue career as academic scientist/'intellectual', rather than vet; experience of depression from later childhood, including effect of this on engagement with university life. Story of entry to University of Cambridge [UOC] with scholarship, reading zoology, 1962. Comments on experience of undergraduate zoology, including realisation of lack of interest in becoming a professional scientist; decision to read English in final year (Part 2); nature of philosophy that tended to be taught at UOC at this time. [7:41] Comments on timing - before DC - of development of ambitions in biology/zoology, including keeping of pets (rabbits, cats, tortoises), strong regard for animals and plants, abundance of creatures in garden; dramatic loss of this abundance/diversity since, caused by pesticides/reduction in keeping of horses. [15:28] Comments on loss of biodiversity in rock pools, recorded in Edmund Gosse' 'Father and Son'  and observed over own lifetime (mentions recent holiday in Sardinia). Story of teacher at DHPS referring to self (aged 7) as 'our nature boy'; specialisation in biology at DC. Positive comments on biology teachers at DC, Brian Jones [BJ], Doug Hillier [DH], Colin Stoneman, Stanley Cole. Comments on religious belief of two of these teachers: DH, BJ; particular memories of teaching and learning in biology here, including interest in botany, work on Mendel, "pivotal moment" of visit to Darwin centenary exhibition in 1959 (with story of copying the information labels). Story of reading issue of 'Scientific American' on DNA in 1960; reading on the modern evolutionary synthesis [MES]; reading on metaphysics/philosophy (mentions Arthur Koestler's [AK] 'The Lotus and the Robot', AH's ' The Perennial Philosophy'); own atheism by the time of university influenced by view of completeness of MES (mentions tendency to view religious belief in other undergraduates negatively). [26:01] Comments on more general "atheistic"/"materialistic" culture of 1960s Britain; continuation of this in work of particular individuals (mentions Richard Dawkins, Lewis Wolpert [LW]); own view of LW; television programme presented by Jonathan Miller on atheism; tendency for critical religious belief in individuals BG, Saint Augustine, CS Lewis to follow long period of atheism. [30:42] Further comments on depression from age 16, related to awareness of lower middle class status (mentions recent talk given by comedian Steve Coogan in Oxford), feelings of futility/existential crisis (with memory of conversation with friend). Comments on more positive feelings at this time concerning own heroes: Charles Darwin, JS, AH; character of scientist in Rupert Bear in relation to own expectation that scientists were independent materially ("awful" discovery that most scientists were employees). Mentions private detective characters of independent means in boys literature read by self as a child. Further comments on heroes in late childhood/early adulthood: 'Mack and the boys' in 'Cannery Row'. Mentions GO, AH; enduring nature of these influences on self. [38:38] Discussion of tendency to discuss feelings of futility with a small number of friends only. Comments on lives/working lives of siblings; parents' view of own scholarship to UOC. [43:40] Comments on lack of opportunity to combine subjects during Part 1 of degree, UOC; missed opportunity to go to lectures of FR Leavis, Raymond Williams, CS Lewis and services of Hugh Montefiore; lack of interest in biochemistry, physiology, behavioural psychology. [46:49] Comments on absence of discussion of relations between science and religion at UOC; tendency not to think about these relations oneself until the early 1990s, influenced by reading of John Hedley Brooke's 'Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives'  (with some comments on AK) and, from early 1980s, Rupert Sheldrake. Mentions more recent discussion of science-religion relations in Oxford with John Lennox, Paul Wordsworth. [49:38] Mentions tutors in zoology at UOC, Richard Skaer, Hugh Cott. [50:38] Comments on Part 2 of degree, reading English; tendency for science undergraduates at UOC to be viewed "with distain" by arts undergraduates (as "buttoned-down materialists" unaware of life's aesthetics); CP Snow; FR Leavis' view of CP Snow; Peter Medawar's 'The Art of the Soluble' ; relations between argument in this book and arguments of Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins. [57:13] Comments on religious belief in some romantic poets, studied in Part 2. [59:15] Story of decisions made at end of degree, including place on MSc marine biology course - not pursued, consideration of teacher-training, thoughts about journalism/writing/publishing; successful application for post on new publication 'World Medicine' [WM]. Positive comments on editor of WM, Donald [William] Gould [DG]. Mentions his daughter, Polly. Comments on work on WM [1965-1970]. Story of WM article on brucellosis involving relations with magazine 'Farmers' Weekly' [FW]; successful application for post at FW. Positive comments on period working here [1970-1972], involving visits to farms throughout UK, relations with AFRC and its scientists (mentions Bob Orskov). [1:07:14] Comments on move from FW; work for 'New Scientist' [NS], return to FW (until 1980).
Life story interview with science writer Colin Tudge