While anyone you ask on the street is highly unlikely to know the second law of thermodynamics off the top of their head, there is certainly a greater chance that they will have read a work of Shakespeare. Why is it that in general, people are less knowledgable in the sciences compared to the humanities? This is the question that CP Snow addresses in his lecture on the “Two Cultures”, where he outlines the divide between the “literary intellectuals” and the scientists.
CP Snow is right to suggest that the people in different schools of thought have a difficult time understanding each other, although it may be more than simply two different opinions. However, the important message of CP Snow’s lecture which is most relevant today is the lack of understanding of the field of science. This problem is very evident in our world today, and contributes to many social and political issues in our country.
When CP Snow compares knowing the second law of thermodynamics to having read a work of Shakespeare, he points out the societal expectation that exists to understand literary works, but not the laws of science. In all practicality, it may not be necessary to have read Shakespeare or to know what the second law of thermodynamics is in order to be a well rounded intellectual who can be an informed individual and contribute effectively to society. But his point is well made that people sometimes seem to regard the study of literature as more important than the study of science, for some unknown reason, as knowledge of science seems to be much more necessary to address current issues as well as appreciate the way the world works.
Science is becoming an increasingly important subject for the public to understand in our rapidly changing world. Today, Snow’s argument holds true in a sense that could not have yet been fully realized when he delivered his speech in 1959. The problem of global warming has just recently been recognized as a highly important issue in our world today, and in order to understand this problem, it is critical to have a solid understanding of science. It is unbelievable that so many current politicians and authority figures have such a minimal understanding of science. There is a lack of progress in scientific and especially environmental areas, because the policies that aid our environment are so often prevented from being implemented. This is due in part to the literary bias, or perhaps lack of understanding of science, by many politicians. And the reason why these people are able to occupy such influential and powerful positions is because of a lack of understanding of science of the voters and the general public.
Indeed, I always wondered why my high school required more English credits than it did science for graduation requirements. The problems emerging today warrant a necessary change for our education system in order to make science more valued. It is time for the societal literary precedent to give way to a more rounded education that emphasizes the science needed to understand current issues. It is necessary for everyone to become more educated in scientific fields in order to make these critical changes in our government and our world.