Russell Coope: discussing Earth history with Christian fundamentalists

Russell Coope remembers encounters with Christian fundamentalists in the Department of Geology, University of Birmingham and at home.

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Could you talk about the – the nature and extent of communication you had from religious believers while in post at Birmingham? 

Very limited really, only – I didn’t get much sense from various fundamentalist groups, but as an example I got the Creation Research Society sending me all sorts of things. Which really I suppose – they may well have heard that in fact my beetles didn’t show much sign of evolution, and since evolution was one of the great targets of the fundamentalists they sent me literature. But I still didn’t quite come to scratch because although I didn’t have much evidence of ev – well I had no evidence of evolution in the Quaternary, nonetheless the notion that the Quaternary could be over a million years old was appalling to them who thought the world was created in 4004 BC at nine o’clock in the morning, or whatever the word is. So I used to get strange – this type of strange communications. Occasional telephone calls for some reason or other which people felt necessary to tell me that I was talking nonsense, and that again this was fundamentalism. The alternatives when you have fundamentalist religious people coming to the door talking about the pace of modern life and anxiety and all the rest of it. I remember one sun – lovely sunny July day and my elder brother and myself were sort of leaning against the front gate feeling very relaxed and along comes some religious group trying to persuade us that in fact the world was coming to pieces and that anxiety and desperation was everywhere and we were trying to persuade this religious person that actually it wasn’t as bad as all that after all. And they brought the subject around eventually of course to evolution, ‘Do you believe in evolution?’ to which I said, ‘Of course,’ and they said, ‘Well what’s your evidence?’ and I said, ‘Well it’s in the garage, do you want to have a look?’ And they’ve never been back, so if you want a method of deterring fundamentalist visitors may I recommend that you say that the evidence is in the garage and see what happens.

  • Interviewee Russell Coope
  • Duration 00:02:12
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 11/25/2011
  • Shelfmark C1379/63

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