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Tag: Culture

Science: the second culture not to be underestimated

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.

Do Outsiders Exist?

Chase Holding

3/13/18

STS W1

Professor Fleming

Do Outsiders Exist?

 

The idea of our society having two cultures –scientists and literary intellectuals—was originally thought of in the mid 1950’s. C.P. Snow can be credited with this idea, believing that if you don’t fall in either category you should be considered an outsider. Viewing this argument from the 21st century, one might wonder why these two fields were considered dominant. Should people who reside in cultures other than science and humanities be considered outsiders? The fact is that each person that lives in our society contributes to the overall culture in his or her own way. The sooner we can accept this; the better off our society will be with regards to diversification.

Snow’s book The Two Cultures is famous for discussing the divide that exists between his two said cultures. He believes that in the work place as well society as a whole, his two groups rarely converse with each other. Based on various studies, Snow wasn’t entirely wrong at the time about this idea. Over the last sixty years, there has been a strong shift in the respect people have for other fields of study. In our Science, Technology and Society class, we compared how three fields of study view each other in terms of their work as well as their personality. Our present day class was much more considerate when describing each other’s fields than classes from decades ago. Many stereotypes about various fields of study still exist in 2018, however there is no question that we are on the right path to a more accepting and respectful society.

Snow’s belief that only two cultures make up our world is a single-minded approach to viewing society. Our current world is filled with billions of cultures that make society the way it is. While there are various definitions of culture in the dictionary, to me culture is created and altered by the actions of each and every person that lives on this planet. The discoveries, the failures, and everything else humans do and have done make our culture unique. While people such as celebrities and entrepreneurs might have more influence on our culture than the average person, there is no such thing as an outsider in our world. Snow’s objective in creating his opposing cultures was to generalize a variety of groups into two branches. This is an impossible task as not even a respected physicist is bright enough to define our world’s culture.

So to answer the question: No, an outsider in our society does not exist with regards to defining culture. Not only was Snow incorrect about the idea of people being insignificant, but also he was also wrong in generalizing our society into two cultures. Diversity has and will always play a significant role in our society and workplace. Imagining a world solely focused on science and humanities is a daunting idea. Instead we must respect the ideas and actions of each and every member of our world. The meaning of culture will continue to change in the future, if we cannot accept diversity and unity in our society as positive values, we are no better than C.P. Snow.

 

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