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The Two Cultures
| Essay | Dialectic? | Bibliography
The page examines
the clash of knowledge and practice that demonstrates the division in comprehension between
folk intelligence and empirical investigation.
Snow's words | Snow's essay visual | The Two Culture's context
The Redux Essay | Siry essay
Two Cultures Essay
may be defined as acquired understanding to sustain a belief:
from testing versus gained from experience and practice
In May 1959, Charles
Percy Snow gave the Rede Lecture at Cambridge University where he warned
of a fatal fragmentation in western industrial cultures concerning the
achievements of applied science and the education of literate citizens.
The dichotomy between the arts and the sciences, central to Snows,
critique of higher education and culture in general, has fragmented further
over the half century since he addressed the fractures existence.
By focusing on modern biology, nuclear physics and atmospheric sciences,
since 1945, this fracturing reveals a deeply rooted split within the arts
and within the sciences that feeds a persistent, debilitating anti-intellectualism
among the wider literate culture. Attitudes are debilitating because they
mask the reality of the worlds conditions from our education. Snow
pointed to three menaces which now stand in our wayH-bomb
war, overpopulation, the gap between the rich and the poor. (p.
48) He admonished his audience that This is one of the situations
where the worst crime is innocence.
Charles Percy Snow
argued, in answer to Mathew Arnold, that knowledge divided against itself
lacks the practical ability and moral capacity to meet the gravest challenges
of modernity; these intractable threats of poverty, nuclear war, and population
growth still trouble the world and disturb our comfortable, educated faith
Now, engaged in a great debate over the ownership of ethical imagination
and the means to inspire moral conduct to match both technical abilities
and the enormous growth of knowledge, academicians ask us to choose. They
confront us with selecting a literate versus methodological means by which
to analyze a desired course of action. Meanwhile, we lack the means to
effectively synthesize revolutionary information about our species in
this logically complex biophysical world. The scientific revolution to
which Snow paid so much tribute, after all, has revealed an intricate
quantum uncertainty and a stochastic biological inheritance of such detail
that we yet lack a sufficiently precise explanatory language to describe
technological, social and individual actions in a ceaselessly reactive
Western educational institutions, while dedicated to free inquiry, refuting
untested assumptions and promoting honest discourse, are profoundly implicated
in and may actually promote the economic gulf and technical paralysis
that Snow sensed as exacerbated by the two cultures divide: expressive
art separated from ethical science.
We are here to divulge this divided heritage and our personal schizophrenic
contributions to the union of intellect and practice that must occur if
human hope in the purposeful acquisition of knowledge for the common good
is to remain a remedy in a secular society widely infused with material,
commercial and individual autonomy. Now climate change and biological
engineering demand a literate science.
Our task is great in that Snow argued we had so little time to act. His
critics additionally charged Snow lacked the inspired visions to motivate
effective action. This new knowledge, in which he invested so much hope,
confronts us now with a profound sense of uncertainty, if not loss. This
sensibility is due not merely a loss of our bearings, but a loss of certainty
about what we are as a species, how well we ought to behave and how effectively
we can curtail our individual and collective behaviors impact on
others and the life of this planet.
Never has the necessity for change and the need for hope been so mismatched
by a widespread inability to remedy poverty as fast as it emerges or to
reduce the nuclear fissionable means used today to assure western dominance.
Since Snow wrote, nonetheless, women who own about a percent of the worlds
wealth are acting in a innovative manner to both diminish the rate of
population growth by reducing total fertility rates, and calling for ethical
responsibility in raising families by improving social conditions. We
can change, but we shall examine now to what extent we ought to overcome
entrenched obstacles to morally informed action becoming the focus of
a new education?
Snow's words | Snow's essay visual | The Two Culture's context | The Redux Essay | Siry essay
Snow, C. P. The Two Cultures: And A Second Look. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press: 1959; 1963 [ Mentor Edition, 1963].
Boulding, Kenneth E. The Two Cutures, Technology in Western
Civilization: 2 Vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. Vol. II,
pp. 686-707. Technology has produced many paradoxes. (704).
Cohen, Benjamin R. On the Historical Relationship Between the Sciences
and the Humanities: A Look at Popular Debates That Have Exemplified Cross-Disciplinary
Tension. Cohen writes In this sense, Snows metaphor
of two cultures is itself a precursor to the program of science
studies, shaping the discourse of the field, a point that longtime Science
Technology and Society (STS) scholar Stephen Cutcliffe also argues (Cutcliffe
2000, 7). If we look to the history of the disciplines that combined to
form an interdisciplinary science studies discoursehistory of science,
sociology, literature and sciencethe point that science studies
found its genesis in relation to both sides of the two-culture divide
is strengthened. p. 76 The impetus for this thesis was the notion that
Snow's articulation rested on a particular view of science that has been
elaborated and superseded by recent science studies scholarship.
Benjamin R. Cohen, is at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
He lists twenty nine important works dealing with Snows ideas.
Burnett, Graham D. A View from the Bridge: The Two Cultures Debate,
Its Legacy, and the History of Science. Daedalus, Vol. 128, 1999.
Leavis, Frank Raymond and Yudkin, M., 1962. Two cultures? The significance
of C. P. Snow, With an essay on Sir Charles Snow's Rede lecture by Michael
Yudkin, London: Chatto & Windus.
Trilling, Lionel. F. R. LEAVIS, who is widely regarded as England's
most important literary critic, recently launched a violent attack on
C. P. SNOW, and in particular on Snow's famous description of the
two cultures split. [Originally in "Science, Literature and Culture:
A Comment on the Leavis-Snow Controversy," Commentary (June 1962),
Vol. 33 • June 1962 • No. 6, pp. 461-477. Information
sited in "Science, Literature and Culture: A Comment on the Leavis-Snow
Controversy," Cultures in Conflict: Perspectives on the Leavis-Snow
Controversy, Scott, Foresman and Company, 1964.
Bachelard, Gaston. "The New Scientific Mind," 1934. p. 78.
Dawkins, Richard. The Ancestors Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
2005. pp. 4-6.
Margulis, Lynn. Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution. New York, Basic
Books, 1998. pp. 2-3, As a species we cling to the familiar comforting
conformities of the mainstream. However, convention penetrates
more deeply then we tend to admit. Even if we lack a proper name for and
knowledge of the history of any specific philosophy or thought style,
all of us are embedded in our own safe reality. Our outlooks
shape what we see and how we know. Any idea we conceive as fact of truth
is integrated into an entire style of thought , of which we are usually
unaware. pp. 2-3. Call the cultural constraints trained
incapacities, thought collectives, social constructions of
reality. p. 3.
Mayr, Ernst. What Evolution Is. New York: Perseus, Basic Books. 2001.
pp. xiixv, 3-13, 215-16, 264, 278.
Gould, Stephen. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Cambridge: Belknap
Press, 2002. pp. 93-94, 467-479.
Watson, James, D. DNA: The Secret of Life. New York: Alfred Knopf, 2003.
pp. 92-104 discusses Cloning, 310-314, complexity, 347-356, stem cells,
Keller, Evelyn Fox, The Century of the Gene. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
U Press, 2000. As always, the counter forces working to destabilize
a particular set of terms and concepts emerge out of what might be most
simply described as sciences ongoing encounter with the real world--
from the accumulating inadequacies of an existing lexicon in the face
of new experimental findings. p. 144.
Bronowski, Jacob. Science and Human Values. New York: Harper & Row,
1956. We are hagridden by the power of nature which we should command,
because we think its command needs less devotion and understanding than
its discovery. p. 70. [From a 1953 MIT lecture series, published
Wilson, E. O. The Future of Life. New York: W. W. Norton, 2002. p. 23.
Chapter 2: The Bottleneck: In Short, we have entered the Century
of the Environment, in which the immediate future is usefully conceived
as a bottleneck. Science and Technology, combined with a lack of self
understanding and Paleolithic obstinacy, brought us to where we are today.
p. 23 Now science and technology, combined with foresight and moral
courage, must see us through the bottleneck and out. IBID.
Jackson, Wes. The Genome as an Ecosystem: Good News/Bad News Implications.
Washburn Law Journal, [Vol. 43. 2004] pp. 533-546.
Gell-Mann, Murray. The Quark and the Jaguar. pp. 16-41 on complexity,
81-84, unity, 126-141, How can there be so many elementary particles?
he asks on pp. 196-198, 236-37.
Mayr, Ernst. One Long Argument. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991.
Darwinism...we mean evolution by (means of) natural selection
July, 1837, in Darwins worldview nature and human order were altered:
Static becomes dynamic since humans fitted into the stream of animal
Yet, the causes of evolution were a complete mystery to him.
pp. 68-70, 101-106.
Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. Nov., 1859. pp. 171-177 on species
concept, 317-320, on extinction and new species.
Weart, Spencer R. The Discovery of Global Warming, (Cambridge: Harvard
U. Press, 2003).
Weart traces the responses by skeptical professional audiences from the
early hypothesis and evidence until the professional warnings dovetail
with public concerns and the energy crisis of the 1970s through 2000.
His thematic thread is that a strong belief in an alleged balance of nature
inhibits understanding of the scope, timing and influence of global warming.
Carbon dioxide gas levels measured at 315 ppm in 1958, and 381 ppm in
2005, increased 76 ppm in 47 years, or a 1.607 ppm / annum average. Today
is higher than we have been for over a million years
Shukman, David. Sharp rise in CO2 levels recorded, Tuesday,
14 March 2006, 00:12 GMT. BBC science correspondent quotes Sir David King,
above. Parts per million is ppm. http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4803460.stm
for recent data, see -- http://www.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends/co2_data_mlo.php;7-4-06,
Hansen, James. Et. al. Earths Energy Imbalanace: Confirmation
and Implications. Science, Vol. 306, June, 3, 2005. pp. 1431-1435.
the confirmation of the climate systems lag in responding
to forcings, implying the need for anticipatory actions to avoid any specified
levels of climate change
. p. 1431.
Achenbach, Joe. When Science and Politics Clash, National
Geographic, (209:5) May 2006, p. 32.
Woodwell, George M., & Richard A. Houghton. Global Climatic
Change, Scientific American, 1989 April, p. 18.
Hardin, Garrett, Filters Against Folly. (1987), pp. 16-57.
Knodel, John. Deconstructing Population Momentum. Population
Today. Population Reference Bureau, 27:3, March, 1999. pp.1-2. 7. actions
can be taken in the present to lessen momentum.
Kent, Mary M, and Haub, Carl, Global Demographic Divide, Population
Bulletin. Vol. 60: no. 4, December 2005. pp. 3-24, Fertility decline is
described, pp. 9-11, and called the contraceptive revolution.