In The Two Cultures, C.P. Snow discusses the dichotomy between high literary and scientific cultures. Snow also explores two subcultures within the scientific community—applied vs pure sciences. As our society becomes increasingly dependent on technology, it is imperative to facilitate a stronger connection between these two cultures and subcultures in order to dissipate knowledge to the general public. Pure scientists and applied scientists need to work cooperatively to combat long-term environmental and society issues like as global warming, proper health care and treatment, etc. However, in order to communicate these solutions and scientific research to the general public, these scientists need to be able to effectively communicate. On the flip side, the general public needs to be scientifically literate in order to understand the scientists and the underlying scientific concepts that affect modern life.

While discussing the two cultures, Snow mentions the intensiveness and often abstractness of scientific arguments. An essay written for a science course (chemistry, physics, mathematics) is more concise in length and difficult to argue against compared to an essay written in an English course. Snow explores this difference in his book:

“[Scientists] have their own culture, intensive, rigorous, and constantly in action. This culture contains a great deal of argument, usually much more rigorous, and almost always at a higher conceptual level, than literary persons’ arguments”1

A mathematical proof is analogous to an essay. The goal is often to produce the most elegant and concise set of equations that leads to a final output. Proofs require “rigorous” argumentation and a higher level of knowledge, often at an accumulative and “high conceptual level”. Depending on the topic, understanding the symbols and numerical concepts in a short proof (e.g. five lines) may take months or several years to fully understand. Literary works, on the other hand, require a different set of analytical skills. The goal of a literary essay will be to convince someone of something. Like writing a good proof, writing literary essays can take years to master, but it is a lot easier to argue against a literary essay than it is to argue against mathematical proof. In Snow’s quote above, I believe he alludes to how scientific arguments are more objective than rigorous compared to literary arguments, resulting in a big divide between the two cultures. 

Despite the differences between literary and scientific culture explored by Snow, it is clear that we need to bridge the two cultures in the coming decades. Having both scientific and literary knowledge is required to become an informed and well-rounded citizen and human being. Asking a specialized scientist “Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?”1 is as condescending as having that scientist asking a literary scholar if he or she could explain the laws of thermodynamics. Modern technological interfaces would not exist without the help of artists, engineers (applied scientists), and and PhD students (pure scientists). Additionally, communicating these technologies to users requires communication, writing, and presentation skills. The world is becoming more interdisciplinary and specialization in only culture or field is not always necessary. Instead, a baseline understanding of the both cultures should be required.

1C.P Snow. The Two Cultures. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).