Free BBC broadcast: Three biologists (including Matthew) on their new science books

September 26, 2022 • 9:15 am

I can’t imagine NPR putting on a program like this; it’s long and science-y (without jokes), and intelligent. The moderator is not a radio announcer but a scientist.  What we have are three scientists discussing their new (or upcoming) books about genetics and evolution in a BBC panel moderated by geneticist and science journalist Adam Rutherford. You probably know that Adam himself has written several books on genetics.

The show is 42 minutes of discussion with 8 minutes of live audience questions. Here are the three participants and their new works:

Our own Matthew Cobb, Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester. Matthew’s talking about his new book on genetic engineering, The Genetic Age: Our Perilous Quest to Edit Life. In the U.S. it’s called As Gods: A Moral History of the Genetic Age (out here November 15). I’ve previously highlighted some positive reviews.

Alison Bashford, Laureate Professor of History at the University of New South Wales and Director of the Laureate Centre for History & Population. Her new book is An Intimate History of Evolution: The Story of the Huxley Familyand deals with both Thomas Henry Huxley and his grandson Aldous Huxley. A positive review of her book is at the Guardian

Deborah Lawlor, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Bristol, is working on a book about the inheritance of diabetes in pregnant women in Bradford of both British and Asian descent. She’s also from Bradford where the show was filmed, and so is a local in two respects.

I recommend listening to it all, but if you want to hear just Matthew, he describes his book beginning at 27:43. But then you’d miss Bashford’s eloquent description of the Huxleys and their contributions.  One fact that I didn’t know was that both T. H. and Aldous Huxley suffered from depression (it was called “melancholia” then), which led Aldous to think about a genetic basis for their condition.

Click below to go to the show’s main page, where you can download the podcast.

And click below to listen to the show. Do it soon if you want to listen, as the BBC doesn’t keep its shows up long.

h/t: Anne

6 thoughts on “Free BBC broadcast: Three biologists (including Matthew) on their new science books

  1. I listen to BBC all the time. I use a free app called Radio Garden. It has links to stations (not just BBC) all over the globe. Handy if you want to follow local news.

  2. Good interview! There was one point where Alison Bashford seemed to feel compelled to state that T.H. Huxley was “anti-racist” but that’s all the (potential) wokeness I heard. I only noticed this because she used Kendi’s words “anti-racism” or “anti-racist.” I’ve become sensitized to those otherwise normal words, unfortunately.

    A refreshing and well done interview about science. Thanks go to the BBC.

  3. I’m about halfway through, but it strikes how there is an attempt to claim Huxley as an anti-racist, yet in the same sentence smear him for being a eugenicist. I’ve brought this issue up before, the use of eugenics as a synonym for nazism and/or racism. I won’t hold out hope for hearing a proper discussion on the matter, and yeah, it’s nice that the author, and even Rutherford, don’t seem willing to fully cancel THH (even though he uses the dreaded N word in his journal from his cruises on the HMS Rattlesnake🙀) whereas others have show themselves ready and willing to do so. But I feel like this is another form of “presentism”, (if you don’t know what that is, Bill Mahr has a YouTube video on it) where they are trying to shoehorn him into their modern ideology.

    As for his melancholy, Huxley’s Diary of the Voyage of the HMS Rattlesnake (edited by Julian) shows some of this, most notably in the long stretches of time in between writing. He does talk at times about feeling wretched but it wasn’t always clear if he meant being aboard the ship, or being away from the woman he had fallen head over heels in love with in Australia. If I recall correctly, Julian makes a comment that his depression also prevented him from doing proper collections that he had previously been eager to perform. What is amazing is how much he did accomplish despite his wretched melancholy. I struggle to sweep the floor or wash dishes. And you will probably need a dictionary or I suppose, your smartphone, because he will throw in German and Latin and allsorts. He was quite well educated for a twenty-something of lower middle class birth.

    1. That Julian Huxley was a supporter of eugenics, and was also director of UNESCO and signatory to The Race Question are facts. Furthermore, I campaigned to prevent THH’s name being removed from Imperial College’s campus. But don’t let these publicly available facts get in the way of your facile opinions and prejudices.

  4. I heard this episode of Start the Week this morning. No need to rush – 603 episodes are available (it’s not usually a science-based programme though, so don’t get too excited).

    Although some BBC radio programmes are only available for a short time for copyright reasons (especially dramas) many others are available for years, like Desert Island Discs, which has 2,327 episodes you can listen to: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnmr/episodes/player

    1. Oops, I meant to add some praise for today’s episode ofStart the Week. Not all of the Beeb’s science content is so unfiltered and direct.

      I’ve no idea how the 2,376 episodes of Desert Island Discs that are available became 2,327 – I need to put my fingers on a diet, apparently!

Leave a Reply