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Category: 06. 3/14 The Two Cultures (Page 1 of 2)

Are Liberal Arts Still Alive

After our lecture on Monday I began to think about the ideals behind a liberal arts education. Originally the liberal arts were considered to be logic, grammar and rhetoric. Eventually the liberal arts evolved to include quadrivium, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music. After learning about the origins of a liberal arts degree I began to think about how it applies to a Colby College education. In thinking more about life at Colby I realized that there is in fact a clear divide between the two cultures. However, I do believe there are some exceptions to the cultural divide which has helped to keep the liberal arts alive.

When looking at colleges my search focused on liberal arts schools exclusively. Coming into college i believed that it was important to be well versed in many different concentrations rather than a single subject. While being at Colby I have taken a wide array of classes ranging from classical civilization to extraterrestrial life. While I consider myself to be a more science based thinker, I have still found all of the classes which I have taken to be interesting. However, many people here at Colby take classes which only focuses on the field in which the plan to pursue post graduation. While Colby encourages student to explore new fields and discover new interests many students would rather take classes which only count towards their major or minor.

While students at Colby are often determined to quickly get through their distribution requirements many students never experience a distribution requirement. There are many colleges and universities in which students enroll directly into their desired career path. However, I find it hard to believe that freshman students fully know what they want to pursue a career in without exploring all options. By opting out of taking courses in various departments it prevents students from potentially finding new passions or interests. The ideal of specializing in a single subject seems unrealistic. The reason being that every idea and thought in the world is not a stand alone issues. However, the greatest issues in the world require dynamic thinking and creative problem solving. It is for this reason that students should not be restricted to a single subject but rather should have the chance to learn about various subjects and their effects of society. However, todays education system puts more focus and importance on getting a job after college than becoming a well-rounded individual.

However, when I began to take classes in the Science, Technology, and Society field, I realized that not all students are focused on checking off boxes. In the two STS courses which I have taken during my time at Colby thus far I have found students who interests vary. In the course in which I took over the fall semester, Origins, there were computer science majors interested in creative writing, biology majors interested in refugee resources, and many more insightful students. Students who seek out STS as a field of study often understand that the world cannot be looked at through a single lens. What I began to realize through the courses I have taken in the STS department is that interdisciplinary fields allow for the liberal arts culture to survive.

C.P Snow: Literary Engineer or Scientific Novelist?

Close your eyes and imagine this: you find yourself at the center of a mid-twentieth century gathering comprised of the social elite. Everyone from renowned chemists and aerospace engineers to the most esteemed of literary critics and admired authors, coming together to celebrate each others company- or so it seems. After saying hello to some old friends and meeting some new acquaintances, you notice a man walking in between the crowds, floating from conversation to conversation, with each of his interactions following a similar sequence of motions. His name is C.P Snow. You’ve heard rumors bubbling about the man, more specifically the nature of his greetings, quaint formality and pleasant chatter followed by the question, “have you heard of the second law of thermodynamics?” Continue reading

Generalization Not Specialization

While many of C.P. Snow’s theories shared in The Two Cultures are widely rejected today, it does not mean that all of his work is irrelevant. Similar to being told to not only play one sport, not only read books from one genre, or only eat one food, focusing in one field of learning should not be pushed. Snow shared this belief that centralizing education around one field is influential today. Defiance against specialized education is essential to our learning and our education system. Continue reading

Culture Shapes Who We Are

Culture, “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group;  also  : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time(Merriam Webster). The word culture is a one that represents so many different things and people. Culture is how we separate people, groups, and beliefs. Culture is what is forming around you, and is forming you into the person you are. How we grow up and experience life, a large portion of the time, is based on where you are born. Now it may not pertain to a wide spectrum of locations, but in my own personal experience the differences in growing up in a city vs. the suburbs most certainly played a major role in shaping who I am. Growing up, living in a major city, it is clear there is a completely different experience and brace of culture between the two. One may be better or worse than the other, or they may not be, but the culture development of the two are different, and it is evident in analyzing the two. Continue reading

Divided Innovation

While CP Snow’s observations about the lines dividing the “two cultures” in academia absolutely exist, I do not think that they are rooted in the areas he identifies. He see’s himself to walk both sides of the line, a false portrayal of unbiasedness which is immediately undermined by the qualities he describes of the two sides. Every personality type has pros and cons, which he presents with balance in regards to the scientists. However when looking through the biased lens of one of these personality types, which he clearly is, one can only see the negatives. His analysis of how literary intellectuals are, and how scientists perceive them, are both almost exclusively negative even if they are presented as positives. His generalizations focus on personality issues that are most of the time products of insecurities rooted in the exact same conditions in life, for better or worse, that gave this personality type the “active mind” that did not allow them the liberty to focus on the rigorous and often monotonous study of the maths and sciences without distraction. However, if someone always has issues and questions on the forefront of their mind, the creative-problem solving skills developed over time are exactly the ones potentially valuable to scientific progress.

As it was taught to me, science is just a method of making discoveries, either for the purpose of knowledge or innovation. Scientists are people that are intellectually well equipped to carry out this method in specific subject areas. However, ideas must guide all hypotheses in the first place. Isn’t this naturally a qualitative, creatively based pursuit? There is clearly a social divide between the personality types that spawn from these areas of study, but I don’t think the lack of respect comes from the humanities side. Whereas a government major may have a broad, memorized understanding of the inner-working of a nation’s government as it is, they still respect and encourage those who want to study the theory behind these government systems. This is because there is an understanding that this theory is what guides new policy, and can defend the old when supported by numbers. The fact that there is this mutual respect in government courses completely refutes the argument that the literary intellectuals are the ones leading this cultural divide.

I have never met a humanities major that looked down on science majors, outside of feeling as if they are closed minded due to the lack of respect and patronization they themselves received. There is no denying science is a time consuming and demanding area of study. Conversely I have met very few Math or Science majors who respect the way that humanities majors think, both in academics and life. Some have gone as far to directly call them out in the civil discourse and in public social discussion. Unlike Government majors, scientists typically don’t even go so far to entertain the proposed hypothesis of humanities majors if there is not sufficient evidence, which there rarely is for progressive ideas because that’s exactly what a hypothesis is supposed to be. This is because there is no respect for the course of study and if you cant put it in proper scientific terms apparently ones empirical or philosophical evidence bears no weight.

A healthy relationship would be for Philosophy to hypothesize science, science to verify philosophy, and government to implement these verified theories. I feel as if a literary-based education of scientific history and principles, which I hope to receive from STS, is the perfect area to bridge this gap for a more productive relationship between these two sides. With this considered, I find it disheartening that I am the only Humanities major in 2 periods of Intro to STS. While I understand the intimidation, if humanity subjects are ever to take a role in progress, more majors should become versed in areas of science.



The Educational Divide Between Science and Literature

C.P. Snow’s The Two Cultures discusses the cultural divison between the field of science and the humanities. He begins with a historical assessment of the respective fields of study and their degree of influence throughout time. From there, he goes on to explain how science is the more applicable to our current society and that it will continue to gain prevalence in the future. As a liberal arts student I am predisposed to oppose this argument, however when I think about it honestly, I have to admit that the study of information, data, and analysis will proceed to play an increasingly relevant role in our daily lives.

I believe that in the coming decades, the fields of science and technology will continue to become a necessary element of our every day routines. The decline of hard-copy, handwritten material is a major indicator of this. With electronic substitutes for everything springing up everywhere we look, it is clear that a thorough understanding and acceptance of science is absolutely inevitable. Almost every position for current college graduates looking to enter the workforce requires a high level of comfort with a wide array of computer systems, data manipulation, and numerical analysis. I expect this trend to continue and accelerate along with the abundant increases in technology and science.

However, I do presume that while it is still quite a while down the road, the humanitarian studies will begin to adapt and become integrated with technological sciences. Areas like law, publishing, and literature in general will begin to become intertwined with new programs and systems and allow them to regain a prominent role in our society. Programs will arise in which certain logical and qualitative resources can be analyzed and produced. The advances in science and technology will allow certain decisions that were once determined by human logic, to be simulated by data analysts and scientists. Soon articles once crafted by humans to break news, stories, and provide outlook on current events will by synthesized by programs that are able to analyze the information and churn out literature for consumers.

This is not to say that the creative ability of humans will cease to remain relevant, I simply believe that in the near future many traditionally human crafts will be met by technological automation. Much like many fields have recently been forced to adapt and redefine their role in an era of internet and technology, the field of humanities will surely begin to do so. It is difficult to predict the way in which this pivot will result, but it is simply matter of time before the natural process of evolution causes this realm of intellect to remodel itself.

I fundamentally agree that a thorough understanding of literature and science is essential in order to develop a complete and well-rounded education. The current reign of technology in our generation may make it seem as though the former is becoming obsolete, but I expect that within our lifetime we will witness a return of liberal arts prominence.

Are There Only Two Cultures?

What defines culture? Is it the dictionary? If so, culture is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization. Is this an accurate definition of culture in society? As humans, do we or some external force determine how we take part in culture? The text we read this past week was about the idea that their are two cultures: scientists and humanitarians. I can strongly state that I disagree with this argument in that culture is situational. The culture you identify with is all based on time and place.

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The Two Cultures, Then and Now

In The Two Cultures, C. P. Snow discusses the intellectual divide between scientists and literary humanists. Although early in the book, Snow appears to be a neutral party attempting to create understanding and cooperation between the two fields, as he continues he starts to take a bias toward the scientist, arguing that the British elites of the time were more oriented toward the literary humanities, and would be able to solve the world’s problems more effectively through science. Continue reading

A Modern Look at Two Cultures

British scientist and novelist C.P. Snow writes about his view on how most of society could be placed into two cultures, the literary intellectuals and the scientists. In The Two Cultures, Snow goes into detail about the common attributes of the two polar groups, and how their differences lead to poor cooperation between them.  In the mid 20th century when this book was written, Snow was surrounding himself with intellectuals of the two fields, and there are many valid reasons for why he singled out these two specific cultures. However, I believe that there are a plethora of cultures in the world, and the differences inside of these cultures can sometimes be more dramatic than the differences between them.

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