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Tag: Two Cultures

The Yin and Yang of the Two Cultures

Carter Liou

3/13/18

ST112-WA

 

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.  

Environmental Humanities: Connecting Two Cultures.

      Global temperatures are skyrocketing, species are going extinct, and our environment is experiencing rapid devasting changes. Currently, over 97% of climate scientists are in agreement that humans are the cause of climate change. These scientists strongly advocate that we need to take drastic action to prevent the alteration of our climate. However, only 45% percent of the public is in agreement that we, as a biological species, are causing these biogeochemical changes(ES 118). If less than half of the public believes in man-made climate change, it will be exceptionally difficult to fully address the climate issue. To best tackle the climate crisis, we need to bridge the gap between climate scientists and the general public; we need to connect the two cultures. By implementing a system of environmental humanities, along with the science, it will be possible to increase acceptance of climate change in our society.

       Environmental scientists are extremely capable of proving climate change, however, they fail to connect with much of society on this issue. Organizations, such as NASA and the EPA, have compiled innumerable graphs and datasets, demonstrating the effects of climate change(NASA, EPA). They have emphasized the point that there is nearly a perfect correlation between carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, largely emitted from man-made technology, and global temperature rise. Furthermore, climate scientists have posted articles and research papers on how increasing temperatures result in droughts, melting glaciers, and other factors that provide deadly for earth’s biota(NASA). Despite the mountain of evidence scientists have compiled on the reality and effects of climate change, it is not largely accepted by the public. This is a failure of scientists and the greater community; there is a void between the two. Many people have written on this issue. Namely, C.P. Snow addresses this lack of communication and acceptance in his book, “The Two Cultures.” In his book he discussed the divide between scientific community and others (Snow). The lack of understanding and connection between scientists and the rest of society decreases the effectivity and authority of scientific discoveries. Without this communication, scientific discoveries decrease their value as they cannot be implemented into society. For example, climate scientists have the evidence for climate change, yet more than half of the world’s population does not believe in it, begging the question of the necessity to change the way we express the issues of climate change. Currently, if you wish to find information regarding climate change, you need to turn to scientific magazines, journals, and videos. People, especially those not scientifically inclined, will likely not be overly concerned with the spouting of statistics and dry scientific research. It will take more of a well-rounded, humanities-based approach to convince them of the severity of the climate issue.

      Environmental humanities draws from the arts, and in this way connects with people and expresses climate change in a way that can be more accepted by the public. By studying and focusing on the relations between cultural, linguistic, and environmental relations, this topic touches on almost every essential academic aspect in society. In this way it has the potential to bridge the gap between scientists and the rest of society. There have been several artistic attempts to express the effects of climate change. John Quigley made an immense replica of the Vitruvian man on a melting glacier as a metaphor of the effect climate change has on humanity, in addition to nature(TIME). Furthermore, David Nye claims that our environmental crisis cannot be solved by technology and science alone. He says that addressing this issue will also require addressing the cultural and social effects of climate change(MIT). Environmental humanities allows us to understand how climate change is affecting humans directly, through means such as famine and natural disasters. Furthermore, it portrays these ideas visually and artistically, which can be an extremely powerful means of expressing the climate crisis. Alternatively, not only does environmental humanities increase the access to and understanding of climate change, but it also welcomes a wider variety of academics into the environmental field. By expanding environmental studies to include the humanities, people who are not scientifically minded can contribute to environmental protection. This in turn, will increase the publicity and access to the environmental studies, resulting in a larger percentage of the population engaged with and understanding climate issues.

      With the combination of environmental science and humanities, it is possible to increase the accessibility of information and knowledge on climate issues. Environmental humanities can portray the information provided by scientists in a way that is understandable and inclusive to the general community. If more people accept climate change as a reality, and accept its true effects, socially and scientifically, we can hazard to hope that society will make it a larger goal of theirs to address the climate crisis. By introducing the larger community to the environmental humanities, an alternative mechanism of addressing the issue of climate change, our society may have a chance at preserving a healthy and natural environment.

SOURCES

Climate Change Basics 12-14 March 2018File

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/environmental-humanities

https://www.epa.gov/

http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/09/08/artist-renders-giant-melting-vitruvian-man-on-arctic-ice/

 

“The Two Cultures” by C.P. Snow

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