The Two Culture Problem:


The Two Cultures

"The Two Cultures" is the first part of an influential 1959 Rede Lecture by British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow which were published in book form as The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution the same year. Its thesis was that science and the humanities which represented "the intellectual life of the whole of western society" had become split into "two cultures" and that this division was a major handicap to both in solving the world's problems.

The talk was delivered 7 May 1959 in the Senate House, Cambridge, and subsequently published as The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. The lecture and book expanded upon an article by Snow published in the New Statesman of 6 October 1956, also entitled "The Two Cultures". Published in book form, Snow's lecture was widely read and discussed on both sides of the Atlantic, leading him to write a 1963 follow-up, The Two Cultures: And a Second Look: An Expanded Version of The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.
Snow's position can be summed up by an often-repeated part of the essay:
A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and 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 the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?[5] 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 than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had.


Some Comments Regarding the Problem: