In his 1959 Rede Lecture, C.P. Snow addressed an idea that would later spark debate over the divergence of academia in the Western world. His argument was that there was an “ever growing” schism between the sciences and the humanities, which could ultimately be responsible for the lack of progression in solving global problems. Snow would go on to criticise the British educational system, holding it accountable for misguided political leadership. While Snow presents the two fields of study, which he refers to as “cultures,” as being antithetical to one another, the two are actually not as black and white as he deems them to be. A perfect representation of their relationship is the Yin and Yang symbol which illustrates that seemingly opposing concepts or, in this case, cultures, may actually be interconnected in small, distinct ways. Thusly, I will be comparing very stereotypical aspects of the two different cultures; for the sciences I will be examining lab based-research, and for the humanities I will be examining literature.
The first way in which the two cultures overlap is through the integration of creativity. For a fiction writer, the need to have a creative mind is fairly self explanatory in the sense that in order to develop a story, the writer must develop something new. In the sciences, creativity is not as obvious, but still essential. In lab research, before an experiment can be conducted, a hypothesis must be developed. This requires creative thinking through the formulation of something that, although may not be factual at first, is in itself new. In this sense, creativity is necessary for the overall pursuit of scientific knowledge because all scientific research is conducted by first setting up a hypothesis. Without creative thinking, progress in both the sciences and the humanities would not exist.
The second way in which the two cultures overlap is through an emphasis on precision. The term “precision” denotes how closely a concept, story, or measurement is to the actual thing. In the humanities, precision writing is an exercise where a writer learns to discriminate between essential and nonessential information. The goal is ultimately to clarify and to highlight information that the writer wishes to convey to the reader. In this way, an exercise such as precision writing is helpful in honing one’s ability to compose the journals, articles and biographies that constitute nonfiction writing.
In lab research the use of precision is also important. When conducting research, it is necessary to follow instructions and ensure that measurements are precise. Precision is also vital to results in which a percent error can tell you how precise your data was. This is crucial and allows scientists to examine the mistakes that could have been made during the experiment. Without the integration of precision in the sciences and the humanities, both cultures would struggle to produce reliable data and comprehensible writing.
While there are underlying similarities between the humanities and the sciences, it does not mean the two are one in the same and that one can equally divide their time in both and be successful. Then again, to only dedicate one’s time to a single subject would not stimulate “well rounded” intellectual growth. The key is to find a healthy balance and to utilize skills that radiate from both sides of the academic spectrum.