This was the title C. P. Snow's controversial 1959 lecture concerning the social division between cultures of sciences and the liberal arts: the former he calls the scientists, and the latter the literary intellectuals.
Given Snow's academic background, it is easy to see where he draws this distinction from, but he extends his argument to speak for the population in general, as the problems perpetuate through government (and other means) society at large (it is Western society really of which he speaks, with some of the trends being most clear in Britain). The main problems he cites are those of misunderstanding each other (due to a small body of common knowledge), and a difference in attitude to how society should develop.
Snow gives a particularly incisive example of the first, acknowledging that whilst scientists may have a poor grasp of Dickens, the literary intellectuals have an even narrower grasp of science:
    Once or twice I have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you ever read a work of Shakespere's?
    I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question - such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read? - not more that one in ten of the highly educated would have felt I spoke the same language.
In the second case, he puts forward the claim that the scientifically minded are much more ready to accept progress (implicitly for good, which he terms 'scientific morallity') than the literary intellectuals, who would rather accept the present stae of human affairs. This disagreement is claimed to be the main factor obstructing what he terms as the 'scientific revolution'.

Snow's main prescribed course of action is the rethink the education process so as to broaden the level of interaction between the two cultures, and do this whilst reducing the level of exclusive specialisation to any one subject in particular (which at the time was most accute in Britain).

That was in 1959. Since its delivery, the lecture has received much praise, although quite understandably there has also been a substantial backlash from precisely those people termed 'literary intellecuals' who were not shown up in their best light. Also, there were other complaints about the use of the term 'cuture', and why only two such are mentioned. The lecture has certainly has some effect on education, even if perhaps in small measures such as the British Government's recent introduction of a broader range of subjects to be taught at A level.
Another question that occurs to me is that of who should be entitled to decide what is culture and what is not. A good example of this comes from the art world, whose critics are firmly secured in the literary culture: the works of M.C. Escher are largely ignored by these people (having little in terms of themes which interst them), and so rarely feature in serious catalogues of twentieth century art. However, the appeal of Escher's works is the scientific culture is more or less universal (having themes relevant in many branches of science and mathematics).

The lecture was published in essay form by the Cambridge University Press and has been reprinted thirty three times to date.

"The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution" was a Reade memorial lecture held by British author C P Snow on May 7 1959. It is divided into four chapters, each one dealing with an aspect of the problem of the 1950s as Snow saw them. It is also a great example of rhetoric at work. I shall give a short outline of each of the chapters.

1. The two Cultures
Where Snow tells us about his unique position as both author and scientist (never mind that he never managed to graduate in Science). He sees a wide gap between men of Science and men of Literature - they do not even speak the same language anymore. The scientists know nothing about Shakespeare, and the men of letters know nothing of the second law of thermodynamics. (Again, never mind the difference between Shakespeare talking about love and death as a human condition on one side and physics as as specialized science on the other.) Snow concludes that the problem has to do with the way education is served in England. He does some pretty odd comparisons; scientists are morally sound, straight, collectivist and have "the future in their bones" - where the literary person has no morals, are feline and odd, solitary thinkers and lives in the past.

2. Intellectuals as Natural Luddites
Here we learn that all authors, namely John Ruskin, William Morris, Henry D. Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and D. H. Lawrence tries to evade the industrial revolution and escapes into nostalgia. Scientists and poor people on the other hand bravely celebrate the oncoming Industrial Revolution. Here Snows main argument is a very tinted list of authors, topped with Ezra Pound as fascist and T S Elliot as nostalgic and conservative.

3. The Scientific Revolution
Education is the key to the future, England is kept back by her imperial past, USA and USSR are the undisputed leaders in education. Snow actually credits USSR to be the most progressive country in the world, probably because Sputnik was news at the time.

4. The Rich and the Poor
Poverty will be gone by the year 2000, if we don't do it then the communists in China or USSR will. Solving the problem of poverty and famine is easy, just combine
and science and a solution is bound to come up.

That's it - basically Snow tells us that there is a problem because he says there is one, and that English education is to blame. Very soon he met some fierce opposition by the name of F R Leavis, who tore Snow's lecture to bits. Unfortunately he did so in such a fierce aggressive manner that most of the sympathies ended up with Snow. Leavi's main thesis holds very true though; in his essay Snow names 7 authors, these he turns into the literary establishment, that he then turns into The Culture, that dominates the world and causes poverty and famine. Deduced like this, it is obvious that Snows arguments are false. That doesn't necessarily mean that there is nothing of value in them.

The “two cultures” debate, named after C.P. Snow’s 1959 Rede lecture and his worry over an intellectual, cultural, and social gap between scientists and humanists, involves many arguments that, though seldom distinguished, are distinguishable. First among these is Snow’s claim that there is in fact a gap between the sciences and the humanities, one not only present but large enough to justify the anthropological claim that science constitutes a culture distinct from that of those Snow terms the “literary intellectuals.” I think that this divide was and is a real problem.

There are major differences, though, between 1950s English academia as perceived by Snow (whether accurately or not) and contemporary American academia. The cultures that Snow identified still exist, and it seems an overstatement to claim that an entire third culture of literary scientists has grown up between them as John Brockman does, but there are also an increasing number of intellectuals who bridge the cultural divide. These include many of the scientists that Brockman identifies as “third-culture intellectuals” (and Brockman’s one non-scientist, the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett), historians and philosophers of science, and anthropologists. It is indeed in these recently developed fields, as well as developing interdisciplinary domains like cognitive studies and environmental studies, that the two cultures mix most.

There is still a strong cultural divide, though, and here the question of how many intellectual cultures there are becomes important. Snow made clear that he chose the two culture model primarily as a cognitive and rhetorical tool, an attempt to accurately depict a few aspects of a complex situation. Given that this situation has changed over time, it makes sense to amend the model. It will still be problematic to define many small cultures, though, for the same reasons as in Snow’s time.

In this spirit, then, there seem to me to be about four cultures that must be taken into account. One is that of “literary intellectualism,” or the humanities, including (perhaps unwisely) the arts, as well as the histories and studies of these arts. Another is that of science, including mathematics, computer science, engineering, and other fields that extend the sciences into areas of study expected to be more or less immediately practical. (Or, alternately, less or more “pure” areas.) The third is social science, which Snow himself identified as likely to become a third culture with time. The fourth culture, which I think is both distinct from the self-consciously intellectual cultures and equally important to our model, is popular culture.

There are, then, multiple cultures that define our society. It seems unlikely that any of them will go away or merge soon, so those who wish for a larger common vocabulary must instead hope for more communication between the cultures. Because each culture consists of many subcultures, this is a complex topic: there is a fair amount of communication between physicists and philosophers, less perhaps between geologists and literary critics. In general, though, it seems fair to say that there is less communication between scientists and members of the two other intellectual cultures than between humanists and social scientists.

I also include popular culture in this model because it seems that many arguments made in the two cultures debate involve popular culture on the same level that they involve intellectual cultures. Snow described the culture of literary intellectuals as closely linked with the “traditional culture” that “manages the western world.” The social conservative Roger Kimball argues that “pop culture” is destroying “the very idea of permanent cultural achievement,” an idea necessary for the survival of “art and high culture,” and the humanities. Finally, John Brockman’s claim of a new “third culture” can be reformed into a claim that scientists are doing a better job of communicating with the popular culture. The term used to describe those who focus on communicating scientific ideas to the masses is, after all, popularizer.

There are two sorts of intercultural connections that are prominently analyzed by participants in the two cultures debate: those between the intellectual cultures, and those between each of the intellectual cultures and the popular culture. The first link, which Snow focuses on explicitly, is still weak between science and the humanities, and still ought to be strengthened, largely so that conversations on the ethical uses of technology can be opened to informed intellectuals from more varied backgrounds. The second, though, is at least as important in a democratic society, as democracy relies on a discourse not only among professional intellectuals, but among the entire populace.

Snow perceived an extremely close connection between the literary and popular cultures of mid-century Britain; in today’s America it seems that these cultures are not so closely linked. Underlying Snow’s claim, though, is the accurate analysis that in order for an intellectual culture to influence all of a society it seems it must connect with the popular culture. (Here I equate “popular culture” with “the public” on the assumption that pop culture is in fact the culture of the people. This assumption seems open to question, but Snow and his critics have used enough ink redefining terms that my claim seems in the spirit of the debate.) The literary culture is less successful at this than it once was, while the scientific and social scientific cultures seem to be more so. In order for citizens of the United States and other countries to make intelligent decisions about our future and the future of humanity, it is still necessary for all to possess a basic understanding of the problems, explorations, solutions, and ideas that make up all fields of human knowledge.

Works cited

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