Faversham Stoa is a philosophy discussion group. We meet on the 3rd Tuesday of every month from 7.30 to 9.30pm in the The Bull in Tanners Street. We cover a large range of topics. There's no charge for membership and everyone is welcome to drop in. Just bring your brain and some beer money!

The Two Cultures Debate

Cartoon

In his 1959 Rede Lecture, CP Snow, who was both a scientist and a widely read novelist, argued that western culture had become split into two camps: the humanities on one hand and the sciences on the other. These two camps are largely ignorant of each other and even sometimes mutually suspicious and hostile. Snow describes interviewing scientists who had never even read Dickens and humanities academics who were proud of being unable to describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

If the humanities are about analyising the human condition, surely the sciences have as much insight to offer us as poetry and literature, Snow argues. He is also concerned that the three major problems facing the world in the 50's (and still perhaps now) were the threat of nuclear war, poverty and overpopulation. It is only the scientists who can help solve these problems, while the humanist academics are 'natural Luddites' he says. Another worry, is that few of the people involved in making and excuting policy in western countries have much background in science.

Are the sciences and humanities still split 60 years later? Given the amount of popular science in bookshops, on magazine racks and on the web, perhaps things have changed a lot.

Perhaps we confront a worse problem now, that most people are ignorant of both cultures.

Certainly in education we still appear to have the great pressure to specialise early on.

So... have you read Dickens AND so you know the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

You can read the original lecture and there is also an excellent Radio 4 program on the topic.

[Having recently become the somewhat critical owner of a Kindle I am still quite taken with the quality of reading on an ebook. I have been experimenting with converting articles into Kindle format so you can download all of the articles on this page in Kindle format for uploading onto your ebook.]

The original lecture

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