ayjay + twocultures   43

Religion's truce with science can't hold | Julian Baggini | Opinion | The Guardian
One of the most tedious recurring questions in the public debate about faith has been "is religion compatible with science?" Why won't it just go away?

I'm convinced that one reason is that the standard affirmative answer is sophisticated enough to persuade those willing to be persuaded, but fishy enough for those less sure to keep sniffing away at it. That defence is that religion and science are compatible because they are not talking about the same things. Religion does not make empirical claims about how the universe works, and to treat it as though it did is to make a category mistake of the worst kind. So we should just leave science and religion to get on with their different jobs free from mutual molestation.

The biologist Stephen Jay Gould made just this kind of move when he argued that science and religion have non-overlapping magisteria (noma). In Rock of Ages, Gould wrote that science deals with "the empirical realm: what the universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry." In short, science is empirical, religion is ethical.

A version of this strategy was also adopted by the physicist John Polkinghorne and the mathematician Nicholas Beale in their book, Questions of Truth. As they put it: "Science is concerned with the question, How? – By what process do things happen? Theology is concerned with the question, Why? – Is there a meaning and purpose behind what is happening?"

It sounds like a clear enough distinction, but maintaining it proves to be very difficult indeed. Many "why" questions are really "how" questions in disguise. For instance, if you ask: "Why does water boil at 100C?" what you are really asking is: "What are the processes that explain it has this boiling point?" – which is a question of how.


Critically, however, scientific "why" questions do not imply any agency – deliberate action – and hence no intention. We can ask why the dinosaurs died out, why smoking causes cancer and so on without implying any intentions. In the theistic context, however, "why" is usually what I call "agency-why": it's an explanation involving causation with intention.

So not only do the hows and whys get mixed up, religion can end up smuggling in a non-scientific agency-why where it doesn't belong.

This means that if someone asks why things are as they are, what their meaning and purpose is, and puts God in the answer, they are almost inevitably going to make an at least implicit claim about the how: God has set things up in some way, or intervened in some way, to make sure that purpose is achieved or meaning realised. The neat division between scientific "how" and religious "why" questions therefore turns out to be unsustainable.

Consider, for example, anthropic fine-tuning, which the religious physicist, Paul Davies, calls "The Goldilocks Enigma": the conditions in the universe are just right for life to have evolved, and had a few things been just slightly different at the Big Bang, none of us would be here. At the moment, there is no generally accepted scientific explanation for why or how this is so. Taking off his physicist's coat and donning his theologian's hat, Polkinghorne answers the "why" question by saying that the life-enabling laws of physics are "graciously provided by the creator". Not only does this introduce agency-why where we'd normally just look for scientific-why, it is also a claim about how the universe came to be this way, namely, by divine fiat. It trespasses onto the "how" territory of science, but since it cannot explain the mechanism by which God intervened, nor test the hypothesis that he did so, it is no substitute for a proper scientific answer.

Of course, there are ways of understanding religion that do not fall into this trap. A Spinozistic "God-or-nature" could act with a purpose that was, at root, simply the playing out of natural forces. But the theistic God is "behind" what happens, not simply part of it.


Alternatively, you might say – indeed many do – that religion is not about belief at all, and so never explains anything in terms of agency-why. I'll be saying more about this approach in future posts. But for the moment, we can say that any religious belief that involves an activist, really-existing God and claims that religion has something to say about why things happen, must also be encroaching on questions of how they happen, too. And if that's true, the easy peace which many claim should exist between science and religion just isn't possible.

The religious believer could bite the bullet, accept that religion does make some empirical claims, and then defend their compatibility with science one by one. But the fact that two beliefs are compatible with each other is the most minimal test of their reasonableness imaginable. All sorts of outlandish beliefs – that the Apollo moon landings never happened, for instance – are compatible with science, but that hardly makes them credible. What really counts, what should really make the difference between assent and rejection of an empirical claim, is not whether it is compatible with science, but whether an evidence-led, rational examination of a view supports it better than competing alternatives.

So the fact that science is compatible with religion turns out to be a comforting red herring.

The less comfortable wet fish slapped around the face is that how easily science and religion can rub on together depends very much on what kind of religion we're talking about. If it is a kind that seeks to explain the hows of the universe, or ends up doing so by stealth, then it is competing with science. In such contests science always wins, hands down, and the only way out is to claim a priority for faith over evidence, or the Bible over the lab. If it is of a kind that doesn't attempt to explain the hows of the universe, then it has to be very careful not to make any claims that end up doing just that. Only then can the science v religion debate move on, free from the illusion that it rests on one question with one answer.
science  religion  twocultures 
may 2017 by ayjay
Building a Bridge Between Engineering and the Humanities - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Acquiring the habit of overcoming habitual perception is one process that brings engineering and the arts together. It is how great writers impart human experience in new ways, and it is how engineers innovate. Technology does not proceed along a preordained single path, as one might suppose from a textbook or problem-solving approach. Like literature, engineering sometimes works not by satisfying recognized needs but by creating the needs it satisfies. And that is also like literature: Tolstoy did not satisfy someone’s need for a novel called Anna Karenina.

But Tolstoy did provide his readers with a glimpse into Anna’s inner life. Similarly, engineering thrives by going beyond the technical into the realm of its human users. More and more, engineering education is recognizing the importance of understanding devices, systems, and processes in terms of the people who use them.

At the heart of human-centered design is empathy, and empathy is what literature, above all, is good at teaching. When you read a great novel, you identify with a character, experience what she is experiencing, follow her thoughts and feelings moment by moment from within. You do this with people of a different culture, age, gender, social class, nationality, profession, and religion. You do it with several characters in the course of one long novel, and not just once, but countless times, until it becomes a habit. Empathy creates better people and better technical innovations for people to use.

So how do we ensure that more skillful innovators emerge from academe?
twocultures  academe 
april 2017 by ayjay
Science as Salvation? | The Nation
Their current disaffection commenced in the early nineteenth century, when the “natural philosopher,” a man of parts, began to be replaced by the specialized “scientist,” a term coined in the 1830s. A new division of labor emerged. Scientists claimed to establish objective facts and laws about the natural world by stifling their imagination and relying on empirical observation, testing and prediction; humanists embraced the Romantic imagination, interpreting the ambiguous nature of human experience through empathy as well as analysis. At the dawn of the twentieth century, reconciliation beckoned within the new domain of the “social sciences.” Economists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists and historians combined rational inquiry with intuitive insight—the sort of “scientific use of the imagination” proposed by the scientist John Tyndall and exemplified by the fictional icon Sherlock Holmes. Nevertheless, methods clashed and philosophies jostled. Should social scientists seek simple, encompassing laws like the natural sciences, or should they highlight particularity and uniqueness, like the humanities? The debate revolved around approaches deemed “nomothetic” (generalizing) or ”idiographic” (individualizing)—terms so ugly they assured public disinterest.
twocultures  science 
august 2014 by ayjay
Isaiah Berlin on the two cultures
Those who have made large claims for non-scientific knowledge have been accused by their adversaries of irrationalism and obscurantism, of the deliberate rejection, in favor of the emotions or blind prejudice, of reliable public standards of ascertainable truth; and have, in their turn, charged their opponents, the ambitious champions of science, with making absurd claims, promising the impossible, issuing false prospectuses, undertaking to explain history or the arts or the states of the individual soul (and to change them too) when quite plainly they do not begin to understand what they are... because they will not, being vain and headstrong, admit that too many factors in too many situations are always unknown, and not discoverable by the methods of natural science.
twocultures  from notes
august 2014 by ayjay
Niles Eldredge and S. J. Gould, "Biology Rules," 1998
I cannot speak for the practical politics and sociology of forthcoming culture in the next millennium, which threatens (at least at the outset) to be dominated by electronic technology just as an electronic glitch may burp us up into its being. The humanities may lose this political struggle, and become rarefied, marginalized or even extinct—at least by our current definition.

But we who love and support these enterprises (even those of us who operate as scientists on their day jobs) will have only ourselves to blame if such a disaster should befall the human spirit. The humanities cannot be conquered, engulfed, subsumed or reduced by any logic of argument, or by any conceivable growth of scientific power. The humanities, as the most glorious emergent properties of human consciousness, stand distinct and unassailable. Any complete human life, any hope for attaining the Old Testament ideal of wisdom, must join the factuality of scientific understanding to the moral and aesthetic inquiry of our most particularly human capacities. Why not try for perpetual balance and communion between these disparate sources of wisdom: "Whither thou goest, I will go"?
twocultures  humanities  from instapaper
august 2014 by ayjay
LRB · Jerry Fodor · Look!: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson
The distinguished biologist E.O. Wilson has been thinking hard about this; which is a fine thing. But not to very great effect; which is too bad. The key issue is this: if physics fixes all the facts there are, does it follow that all the explanations that there are are physical explanations? Would the physicalistic unity of being entail the physicalistic unity of knowledge? Wilson clearly thinks so. ‘I have argued that there is intrinsically only one class of explanation. It traverses the scales of space, time and complexity to unite the disparate facts of the disciplines by consilience, the perception of a seamless web of cause and effect.’

Consilience is an epistemological thesis: roughly, it says that all knowledge reduces to basic science. This would appear to be very different from the metaphysical thesis that all the facts supervene on the facts of basic science. In particular, it is by no means obvious that the epistemological kind of physicalism follows from the metaphysical kind. And if it doesn’t, then an enthusiast for the second might consistently – even plausibly – reject the first. Wilson’s failure even to notice this possibility makes a shambles of his book.
scientism  twocultures  from instapaper
august 2014 by ayjay
Leavis on Snow (quotes)
The conception—it hardly amounts to that but there’s nothing else—is what is given here: ‘Computerized teaching systems will make available the world’s finest teaching to any child within reach of a communications system.’ This is education; at any rate, it doesn’t occur to the essayist to go beyond this. The statement, of course (there are a number like it), has a context that extends the explicitness a little, and the context is what we have here (this statement, too, being driven home by a number on the same pattern): ‘These computing systems will form an interlocking network of information retrieval and processing systems well able to master the information explosion and the demands of any educational set-up.’ It will bring out the force and intention of the assumptions so confidently in possession here if I read out the two sentences that follow: ‘With this network established man will have passed from the industrial age into the cybernetic age, and will have to re-think his approach to education, employment, leisure and society at large. He will have to re-think his approach to education because the computer will gradually control all structured tasks, whether they be the production of goods or the carrying out of commerical procedures.’ The approach, it is plain, will impose, universalize and rigidify the implicit notion, crude and brutally uneducated as it is, of the reality: there will be no re-thinking, no thinking at all, and the possibility of the kind of thought made so desparately necessary (even on the essayist’s own account of the problem, though he doesn’t know what the most important phrases in it really mean) will be eliminated—eliminated as a conceivable influence on development. What ‘structured tasks’, for instance, are involved—could be, or should be—in the study of English literature?


I am not suggesting that we ought to halt the progress of science and technology, I am insisting that the more potently they accelerate their advance the more urgent does it become to inaugurate another, a different, sustained effort of collaborative human creativity which is concerned with perpetuating, strengthening and asserting, in response to change, a full human creativity—the continuous, collaborative creativity that ensures significance, ends and values, and manifests itself as consciousness and profoundly human purpose” [...] “A very strong, persistent and resourceful creative effort, then is desperately needed—a collaborative creativity to complement that which has produced the sciences.
twocultures  from notes
august 2014 by ayjay
Bryan Appleyard » Blog Archive » The Two Cultures: As Divided As Ever
Miller, for example, is very keen on the links between Cubism and Einstein’s physics, which, I suppose, is fair enough. But what about the great paintings of Joseph Wright of Derby? They are more clearly influenced by science than anything in Picasso, but they are perhaps less acceptable because they point to an awkward unease with this new knowledge. Bringing in literature would have made the same point even more acutely – from Wordsworth and Ruskin’s distaste for industrialisation to Huxley and Orwell’s fears of technological tyranny, the dominant theme of art’s relationship to science has been suspicion.

In contrast, the artists Miller lists seem to be very keen on science and technology, attempting to embody quantum theory, relativity, cosmology, biology and almost every other discipline into their work. I don’t doubt that this frequently produces beautiful objects, but, judging by the illustrations, these don’t seem to be engaging with science so much as deploying its imagery. Indeed, artists do tend to make this very point, perhaps because they cannot in any useful sense integrate what they do with science itself, nor, indeed, have any effect on the work of the scientist. Interviews with great artists – say, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter or David Hockney – on the subject of their own attitudes to science would have been much more illuminating.

In his conclusion, it becomes clear that what Miller really wants is an art entirely subservient to science. He talks of artificial intelligence turning “somewhat fuzzy notions of aesthetics in music into a more quantifiable one” and remarks that “relating aesthetics to algorithms further demystifies it”. Good luck with that, but it sounds to me as though the Third Culture will have no art at all, only algorithms and a few nice pictures to distract us.
twocultures  from instapaper
august 2014 by ayjay
Michel Serres
The third phase of Serres’s work was announced and inaugurated by Eclaircissements, the series of conversations with Bruno Latour which proved to be a best-seller in France; the English translation, Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time (1995) is probably the work by which Serres is still best known to his English-speaking readers. In these conversations, Serres reviews his earlier work and, rather unexpectedly, given his earlier emphasis on open, chaotic and non-totalisable systems, promises a synthesis in his work to come.

I want to finish drawing this navigational map, this inventory – fluctuating and mobile – before I die. Once this work is done it will be clearly seen that all the rapports I traced out either followed or invented a possible road across the ensemble of movements from place to place. (Serres and Latour 1995: 105)

The subsequent works of the 1990s exhibit a twin concern with the nature of information and the global. So one may mark out three phases in Serres’s work: projection; immersion; and synthesis. In the third phase, Serres seeks to be at once inside and outside the topics, the places and subjects about which he writes. The sudden swerves of object and argument are still there, but Serres now seeks to articulate the ways in which local and global phenomena have become imbricated in the emerging culture of information. The effort to synthesise the local and the global heightens Serres’s preoccupation with a form of thought that has been operative in his work from its beginning: that of topology, or dynamic space.
twocultures  science  culture  from instapaper
august 2014 by ayjay
How Harold Wilson came to write his famous 'white heat' speech | David McLoughlin | Science | theguardian.com
In Wilson's papers there is little on automation apart from a newspaper article written by Vivien Bowden in which he had written "modern computers were 5,000 times as fast as the primitive computers of 1952". Wilson used the example of computers to emphasise the speed of technological change and, to underscore the scale of the problem, said, "We may well have to provide by new industrial development 10 million new jobs by the early seventies."

For the education parts of the speech Wilson drew upon a speech he had made in Glasgow on 8 September 1963. It attacked selection at 11 years of age, noted the shortage of university places and explained the proposal for a "university of the air". Wilson's speech extends over about 19 and a half pages of foolscap. The four speeches I have identified, somewhat re-jigged, contributed about eight and a half pages of that. The sections on expanding educational opportunity and the final rhetorical coda paraphrased parts of the policy document Labour and the Scientific Revolution. Little of it was entirely original.
LAM  twocultures  modbrit 
august 2014 by ayjay
Harold Wilson's 'white heat' speech was aimed at the 'squeezed middle' | Steven Fielding | Science | theguardian.com
As I have pointed out elsewhere, Wilson's speech was designed to address more than the country's alleged failure to apply science to industry. It formed part of Labour's attempt to make itself relevant to what its leaders were assured was a new electoral landscape, one in which the "traditional" working class was in decline and nationalisation outmoded. That at least is what Labour leader Hugh Gaistkell told his party's conference in 1959 a few weeks after it had lost its third general election in a row.

Those who accepted Gaitskell's revisionist analysis believed Labour had to focus its appeal on those "intermediate voters" found in the skilled working class and lower middle class who were enjoying rising real incomes on an unprecedented scale. They believed this group had rejected the party in 1959 because they thought it out of date and only standing for the lowest in society.
LAM  twocultures  modbrit 
august 2014 by ayjay
White heat at 50: Wilson's techno-futurism distracts us from his real goals | Science | theguardian.com
The white heat speech was a means of redefining Labour's policy to avoid the question of nationalisation, but it embraced two other radical policies – hostility to the common market and the over-inflated warfare state. Many Labour people were hostile to the rampant consumerism of the affluent society, and supportive of the poor of the world, particularly in the Commonwealth. Wilson pressed these buttons too. What was needed, he said, was an "increase in Britain's productive power", not "some new gimmick or additive to some consumer product" which television adverts would "tell us all to buy a little more of" when "we did not even know we wanted [it] in the first place". It was very nice, he said, to do research on colour television and bigger and better washing machines to sell in Dusseldorf, but instead "we should be mass producing simple ploughs and tractors", and researching "one or two horsepower steam engines, because that is what the world needs". The scientific departments of the new universities should be working on plant breeding, fertiliser, animal husbandry for the poor world, which should be supplied with transport equipment by otherwise redundant railway workshops.
LAM  twocultures  modbrit 
august 2014 by ayjay
Leavis v Snow: the two-cultures bust-up 50 years on | Books | The Guardian
'There can be no two opinions about the tone in which Dr Leavis deals with Sir Charles. It is a bad tone, an impermissible tone." Lionel Trilling's magisterial judgment expressed a very widely held view. Both at the time and since, FR Leavis's lecture critiquing of CP Snow's "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution" was and has remained a byword for excess – too personal, too dismissive, too rude, too Leavis. Whatever view they have taken of the limitations and confusions of Snow's original contentions – and Trilling, among others, itemised a good many – commentators on this celebrated or notorious "exchange" (if it can be called that: there was little real give and even less take) have largely concurred in finding the style and address of Leavis's scathing criticism to be self-defeating. Aldous Huxley denounced it as "violent and ill-mannered", disfigured by its "one-track moralistic literarism". Even reviewers sympathetic to some of Leavis's criticisms recoiled: "Here is pure hysteria."
LAM  twocultures  modbrit 
august 2014 by ayjay
Harold Wilson's 'white heat of technology' speech 50 years on | Matthew Francis | Science | theguardian.com
Wilson began by reflecting on the pace of technological change and its implications for industry, but it was not until the closing moments of his speech that he uttered the lines for which it would be remembered. Drawing his remarks towards their conclusion, Wilson warned his audience that if the country was to prosper, a "new Britain" would need to be forged in the "white heat" of this "scientific revolution".

But there was more to Wilson's speech than stirring rhetoric. For one thing, it marked Wilson's entry into a long-running discussion about the role of science in public life. In 1959 the novelist C P Snow had used his Rede Lecture to claim that British social and political elites were dominated by "natural Luddites", whose ignorance of science and engineering made them singularly unfit to govern a world in which technology was becoming ever more important.

A book based on Snow's lecture quickly became a bestseller, and the debate was reopened in 1962 when the literary critic F R Leavis dismissed Snow as being nothing more than a "public relations man" for science whose "consecrated public standing" was out of all proportion to his intellectual gifts.
LAM  twocultures  modbrit 
august 2014 by ayjay
Essay: Sing to Me, O Muse (But Keep It Brief)
In the antagonism between science and the humanities, it may now be said that C. P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures” was certainly right in one particular: Technology has routed the humanities. Everyone wants the latest app, the best device, the slickest new gadget. Put on the defensive, advocates for the humanities have failed to make an effective case for their fields. There have been efforts to promote the digital humanities, it being understood that the adjective “digital” is what rescues “humanities” in the phrase. Has the faculty thrown in the towel too soon? Have literature departments and libraries welcomed the end of the book with unseemly haste? Have the conservators of culture embraced the acceleration of change that may endanger the study of the literary humanities as if — like the clock face, cursive script and the rotary phone — it, too, can be effectively consigned to the ash heap of the analog era?
twocultures  from instapaper
july 2014 by ayjay
Introduction | Edge.org
Who are the third-culture intellectuals? The list includes the individuals featured in this book, whose work and ideas give meaning to the term: the physicists Paul Davies, J. Doyne Farmer, Murray Gell-Mann, Alan Guth, Roger Penrose, Martin Rees, and Lee Smolin; the evolutionary biologists Richard Dawkins, Niles Eldredge, Stephen Jay Gould, Steve Jones, and George C. Williams; the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett; the biologists Brian Goodwin, Stuart Kauffman, Lynn Margulis, and Francisco J. Varela; the computer scientists W. Daniel Hillis, Christopher G. Langton, Marvin Minsky, and Roger Schank; the psychologists Nicholas Humphrey and Steven Pinker.

During the past three years, I have had ongoing one-on-one discussions with the above mentioned scientists about their own work and the work of other scientists included in the book. The result is not an anthology, nor is it an overview. I see it as an oral history of a dynamical emergent system, a celebration of the ideas of third-culture thinkers who are defining the interesting and important questions of our times. Here they are communicating their thoughts to the public and to one another. It is an exhibition of this new community of intellectuals in action.
july 2014 by ayjay
The New Humanities | The Point Magazine
Sadly, the respect of present-day humanities scholars for “the way things have always been done” ranks just barely above their respect for the presidency of George W. Bush. There might have been a time when the humanities offered a counterweight within the university to the sciences’ relentless optimism and obsession with “progress,” but since at least the 1970s—perhaps not incidentally when the enrollment numbers began to decline—only the heretics have stood up for anything resembling tradition. Today’s humanities professors speak of nothing but “new research opportunities,” nothing but “progress,” nothing but the gross injustice of the “way things have always been done.”

Wieseltier and Pinker’s debate is thus academic in the pejorative sense. Wieseltier accuses Pinker of wanting the humanities to submit to the sciences; Pinker maintains that he simply wants the humanities to admit the relevance of scientific methods. Yet with a couple of exceptions (the Core at Columbia and the University of Chicago, the St. John’s colleges, that place out in the California desert where they herd cattle while debating Plato) the scholarly humanities have admitted much more than the relevance of the sciences: they have submitted; they have been subsumed.
twocultures  from instapaper
june 2014 by ayjay
Marc Andreessen and the Inevitability of Catastrophic Ideas - The Awl
Those affiliated with the humanities—who interest themselves in all the things that can't be measured, but must be judged instead, like moral, aesthetic and philosophical questions—are experiencing a daily low-grade fever of dissatisfaction (or generalized rage, in the case of Sam Biddle) as we are daily sold on the inevitability of catastrophic ideas. In 2003, Donald Rumsfeld told a reporter that the OMB had estimated that the Iraq War would cost something less than $50 billion—the total sum, to be shared by the US and its allies. There would be "smart bombs," plans laid by expert warmongerers, all kinds of precision.

None of this persuaded the people who'd read their history and learned about the politics, who were warning against the likelihood of disaster and of civil war and the emboldening of extremists, and who marched in their millions (many, many millions) in the streets of the world's capital cities in early 2003. So it rankles in a particular way to see that the true cost of the Iraq War topped $2 trillion not long ago.

What is the study of humanities for? It's to prevent this. To apply the lessons of history, and consider the possible costs to the future. To consider not only what will profit us but what will be right for us to do, and why. Andreessen, a dyed-in-the-wool measurer and chart-monger if there ever was one, is a man who would never even dream of a just world, where all would sit at the same table. He is the living example of what is lost when we value things only through the money they represent.
twocultures  politics  tech 
june 2014 by ayjay
Science as truth
Although some may snipe and others carp, there can be no denying the proposition that science is the best procedure yet discovered for exposing fundamental truths about the world. By its combination of careful experimentation guided by theory, and its elaboration and improvement of theory based on the experiments it has inspired, it has shown itself to be of enormous power for the elucidation and control of nature. There appear to be no bounds to its competence: it can comment on the origin and end of the world, on the emergence, evolution and activities of life, and it can even, presumably, account for the activities and beliefs of sociologists.

This claim of universal competence may seem arrogant, but it appears to be justified. No other mode of discovery has proved to be so effective or to contribute so much towards the achievement of the aspirations of humanity. Foremost among these achievements is the continually renewed reinforcement of the view that the human brain is such a powerful instrument that it can illuminate whatever it selects as its object of study, including itself. A second major achievement is the demonstration that the world is a rational place, and although it may be too complex globally to be subject to much prediction, science continually reaffirms the view that structures and events can be explicated. Third, of course, in this awesome load of achievements is the rich abundance of goods and technologies that science provides for society, including medicine, transport and communication.
twocultures  science  scientism  from instapaper
february 2014 by ayjay
Planet of the Future « Boom: A Journal of California
Robinson: My story here is that from the very start science and capitalism were very tightly bound together, like conjoined twins, but were not at all the same, and indeed were even opposed systems of thinking and organization. They were born around the same time, yes; but if you regard them as identical, you’re making a very bad mistake. Capitalism’s effect on humanity is not at all what science’s effect is on humanity. If you say science is nothing but instrumentality and capitalism’s technical wing, then you’re saying we’re doomed. Those are the two most powerful social forces on the planet, and now it’s come to a situation of science versus capitalism. It’s a titanic battle. One is positive and the other negative.

We need to do everything we can to create democratic, environmental, utopian science, because meanwhile there is this economic power structure that benefits the few, not very different from feudalism, while wrecking the biosphere. This is just a folk tale, of course, like a play with sock puppets, like Punch and Judy. But I think it describes the situation fairly well.

Boom: What about democracy?

Robinson: I think democracy is crucial, but it needs the power of science to prevail. Democracy can be bought. Capitalism can defeat democracy, unless there is democratic science and science for democracy. The big heavyweight that could actually defeat capitalism in this world is science. It’s the method that copes with the natural world and makes both the necessities and the toys, and makes the food for the seven billion. Democracy can get whipped if it doesn’t have this utopian practice of science backing it. Secularism, the rule of law—these are aspects of scientizing the social world. They are part and parcel with the scientific method. Once again, I’m just talking sock puppets, but this is the way I have been trying to explain it in my novels.
LAM  twocultures  SF  from instapaper
february 2014 by ayjay
No, there aren’t “two cultures” | Oscillator, Scientific American Blog Network
To say that science is objectively focused on external reality and not, to quote the best subtitle of all time “produced by people with bodies, situated in time, space, culture, and society, and struggling for credibility and authority,” is to ignore the external reality of how science and culture shape one another through the life and work of scientists. The problem with the “two cultures” concept then is neither that non-scientists don’t know enough about thermodynamics, nor that science can’t fully capture the ineffable power of art, but that separating science off from culture leads to bad science.

The belief that science and scientists are somehow above the influence of cultural forces has made it easier to pass off harmful stereotypes and cultural biases as scientific facts. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the “science” of human difference and the generations of scientists who studied the “natural” inferiority of women and basically any minority group ever. These “scientific” beliefs about human nature change over time not because of the progressive power of science to correct previous errors with new evidence, but because of the changes that happen in culture when disenfranchised people fight hard to be heard — in politics, in art, and in science.
twocultures  from instapaper
january 2014 by ayjay
What is the common ground between art and science? And how is Beethoven like Darwin? | Science | The Observer
IAN McEWAN: That old, two-culture matter is still with us, ever since [CP] Snow promulgated it back in the 50s. It still is possible to be a flourishing, public intellectual with absolutely no reference to science but it's happening less and less. And I think it's less a change of any decision in the culture at large, just a social reality pressing in on us. And it's true that climate change forces us to at least get a smattering of some idea of what it is to predict systems that have more than two or three variables and whether this is even possible. The internet has created sites like John Brockman's wonderful edge.org, where it's possible for laymen to sit in on conversations between scientists. And when scientists have to address each other out of their specialisms they have to speak plain English, they have to abandon their jargons, and we're the beneficiaries of that.

NIMA ARKANI-HAMED: It's an asymmetry that doesn't really need to exist. Certainly many scientists are very appreciative of the arts. The essential gulf is one of language and especially in theoretical physics, the basic difficulty is that most people don't understand our language of mathematics which we use to describe everything we know about the universe. And so while I'm capable of listening to and intensely enjoying a Beethoven sonata or an Ian McEwan novel it can be more difficult for people in the arts to have some appreciation for what we do. But at a deeper level there's a commonality between certain parts of the arts and certain parts of the sciences.
december 2013 by ayjay
Scientism and the Integrity of the Humanities - The New Atlantis
The continuing debate about the application of scientific methods beyond their appropriate domain reached a wider mainstream audience this year, with the publication of Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker’s essay “Science Is Not Your Enemy” in The New Republic. Pinker responds to criticisms of scientism with a spirited defense of science, thereby missing what those criticisms target. Certainly, for anyone who takes for granted the benefits we derive from science, a reminder of its many blessings is always in order. But as far as I know, none of the essays about scientism that Pinker cites — including my own 2012 New Atlantis essay “The Folly of Scientism” — criticize science as such. While Pinker correctly says that these other essays reject scientism, his failure to give an accurate account of what scientism is and to engage closely with its critics, and his subsequent fortification of science rather than scientism, show that he misunderstands the matter altogether.
twocultures  science  humanities 
december 2013 by ayjay
Leon Wieseltier Responds to Steven Pinker's on Scientism | New Republic
What von Mises and Diamond—and Pinker—deny is that the differences between the various realms of human existence, and between the disciplines that investigate them, are final. For these scientizers, they are not differences in kind; they are differences only in appearance, whereas a deeper explanation, a scientific explanation, will expose the underlying sameness. The underlying sameness is the presumption of scientism. The scientizers do not respect the borders between the realms; they transgress the borders so as to absorb all the realms into a single realm, into their realm. They are not pluralists. With his uniform notion of intelligibility, Pinker rejects the momentous distinction between the study of the natural world and the study of the human world, as it was developed by thinkers from Vico and Dilthey to Isaiah Berlin and Bernard Williams. Here is Dilthey, in 1883: “The impossibility of deriving mental or spiritual facts from those of the mechanical order of nature—an impossibility based on the difference of their sources—does not preclude their inclusion within the system of nature. But there comes a point where the relations among the facts of the world of human spirit show themselves to be incommensurate with the uniformities of natural processes in that the facts of the human world cannot be subordinated to those established by the mechanistic conception of nature. Only then do we witness ... the boundary where knowledge of nature ends and an independent human science, shaped by its own central concerns, begins.” Some of Dilthey’s language is archaic—we no longer think of the natural universe mechanistically, and we would call his “human science” history and the humanities, and we would likely refer to “human spirit” as consciousness—but his cartography of knowledge, and the principles that justify its demarcations, remains valid. The boundary is porous, of course: whatever else we are, we are also animals, and the impact upon us of material causes is indisputable. But we are animals who live in culture; which is to say, the biological or psychological or economic elements of our constitution do not operate in sovereign independence of “the human spirit.” They are inflected and interpreted in meanings and intentions. We do not only receive material causes, we also act upon them. For this reason, we cannot be explained only in terms of our externalities. Not even our externalities can be explained only externally.
humanities  science  twocultures 
december 2013 by ayjay
Leon Wieseltier: The Answers | New Republic
In this way science is transformed into a superstition. For there can be no scientific answer to the question of what is the position of science in life. It is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question. The idea that physical facts fix all the facts is not an idea proven, or even posited, by physics. Rosenberg does not translate non-scientific facts into scientific facts; he denies that non-scientific facts exist at all. But in what way is, say, The Jewish Bride a scientific fact? It is certainly composed of fermions and bosons, but such knowledge, however true and fundamental, casts no light upon the power of the painting, or the reasons for its appeal. The description of everything in terms of fermions and bosons cannot account for the differences, in meaning and in effect, between particular combinations of fermions and bosons. But Rosenberg’s complacence survives such an objection, since he holds also that “the meanings we think are carried by our thoughts, our words, and our actions are just sand castles we build in the air.” This leads him to a boorish attack on the humanities, which are “nothing we have to take seriously, except as symptoms.” What they symptomize is “the search for motives and meanings in thoughts about things,” which has all been retired by neuroscience; and also our sad need for narrative. (Never mind his bedtime story about the adventures of the hominid in the savanna.) The humanities are “fun,” he avers, but they “are a scientific dead end.” And so they are, which is a big part of their claim upon our reverence. It does not help that Rosenberg cannot spell the well-known name of the ancient Latin poem that he admires; or that he regards F.R. Leavis as the inventor of the New Criticism and “the progenitor of preposterous twentieth-century literary theory”; or that he gives “the Humanities’ greatest hits” as The Odyssey, Hamlet, War and Peace, Middlemarch, and Sophie’s Choice. I thought that the argument for imagination and interpretation as instruments of human knowledge was settled long ago—when Vico read the ancients, or when Mill read Coleridge, or when Dilthey read Schleiermacher; but here we are, still wrestling with the distinction between explanation and understanding, still enduring the old crap about the hegemony of the natural sciences.
humanities  science  twocultures 
december 2013 by ayjay
Philip Kitcher: The Trouble with Scientism | New Republic
The conflict between the Naturwissenschaften and the Geisteswissenschaften goes back at least two centuries, and became intensified as ambitious, sometimes impatient researchers proposed to introduce natural scientific concepts and methods into the study of human psychology and human social behavior. Their efforts, and the attitudes of unconcealed disdain that often inspired them, prompted a reaction, from Vico to Dilthey and into our own time: the insistence that some questions are beyond the scope of natural scientific inquiry, too large, too complex, too imprecise, and too important to be addressed by blundering over-simplifications. From the nineteenth-century ventures in mechanistic psychology to contemporary attempts to introduce evolutionary concepts into the social sciences, “scientism” has been criticized for its “mutilation” (Verstümmelung, in Dilthey’s memorable term) of the phenomena to be explained.

The problem with scientism—which is of course not the same thing as science—is owed to a number of sources, and they deserve critical scrutiny. The enthusiasm for natural scientific imperialism rests on five observations. First, there is the sense that the humanities and social sciences are doomed to deliver a seemingly directionless sequence of theories and explanations, with no promise of additive progress. Second, there is the contrasting record of extraordinary success in some areas of natural science. Third, there is the explicit articulation of technique and method in the natural sciences, which fosters the conviction that natural scientists are able to acquire and combine evidence in particularly rigorous ways. Fourth, there is the perception that humanists and social scientists are only able to reason cogently when they confine themselves to conclusions of limited generality: insofar as they aim at significant—general—conclusions, their methods and their evidence are unrigorous. Finally, there is the commonplace perception that the humanities and social sciences have been dominated, for long periods of their histories, by spectacularly false theories, grand doctrines that enjoy enormous popularity until fashion changes, as their glaring shortcomings are disclosed.
humanities  science  twocultures 
december 2013 by ayjay
John Gray: The Knowns and the Unknowns | New Republic
This illustrates a fundamental problem with scientism. A shift of meaning occurs when “morality” is used as a theoretical category in a putative scientific discipline. In everyday parlance, “morality” is a term heavily freighted with value: to call something moral is to distinguish it from things that are immoral or amoral, or to which moral judgments simply do not apply. When “morality” features as a theoretical category, this prescriptive element falls away. When “morality” becomes a term of art in a supposedly scientific discipline, there is no longer any difference between good and bad moralities.
science  twocultures  philosophy  JohnGray 
december 2013 by ayjay
Science is not the Enemy of the Humanities | New Republic
In other words, the worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science. Though the scientific facts do not by themselves dictate values, they certainly hem in the possibilities. By stripping ecclesiastical authority of its credibility on factual matters, they cast doubt on its claims to certitude in matters of morality. The scientific refutation of the theory of vengeful gods and occult forces undermines practices such as human sacrifice, witch hunts, faith healing, trial by ordeal, and the persecution of heretics. The facts of science, by exposing the absence of purpose in the laws governing the universe, force us to take responsibility for the welfare of ourselves, our species, and our planet. For the same reason, they undercut any moral or political system based on mystical forces, quests, destinies, dialectics, struggles, or messianic ages. And in combination with a few unexceptionable convictions— that all of us value our own welfare and that we are social beings who impinge on each other and can negotiate codes of conduct—the scientific facts militate toward a defensible morality, namely adhering to principles that maximize the flourishing of humans and other sentient beings. This humanism, which is inextricable from a scientific understanding of the world, is becoming the de facto morality of modern democracies, international organizations, and liberalizing religions, and its unfulfilled promises define the moral imperatives we face today.
science  humanities  twocultures 
december 2013 by ayjay
Leon Wieseltier Commencement Speech at Brandeis University 2013 | New Republic
Our glittering age of technologism is also a glittering age of scientism. Scientism is not the same thing as science. Science is a blessing, but scientism is a curse. Science, I mean what practicing scientists actually do, is acutely and admirably aware of its limits, and humbly admits to the provisional character of its conclusions; but scientism is dogmatic, and peddles  certainties. It is always at the ready with the solution to every problem, because it believes that the solution to every problem is a scientific one, and so it gives scientific answers to non-scientific questions. But even the question of the place of science in human existence is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical, which is to say, a humanistic, question.
humanities  twocultures 
december 2013 by ayjay
The Question Concerning Technology: In Praise of the Counterpunchers
In my book I describe four characteristics that define the fundamental nature of technology. One of those characteristics is continuous expansion. Technique always seeks to widen its sphere of influence; it is never content with stasis. As the political scientist Langdon Winner put it, “technology goes where it has never been. Technological development proceeds steadily from what it has already transformed and used up toward that which is still untouched.” Another defining characteristic of the nature of technology is its aggressive single-mindedness. Individual technologies can be subtle and flexible, but overall technology drives forward toward its goal without the slightest consideration of such niceties as fairness, good will or the common good. "Technique worships nothing, respects nothing," Jacques Ellul said. "It can be accepted or rejected. If it is accepted, subjection to its laws necessarily follows."   These two principles help explain why the humanities have declined. Like a bully on the playground, technique is pushing them aside. The “creative class,” to use Richard Florida’s term, will thrive only to the extent it is able to produce products that satisfy the purposes of technique. The humanities’ diminishment is in direct proportion to technique’s ascension, an ascension that has increased at an exponential rate since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Over the past several decades the social sciences tried to justify their existence by adopting “scientific” methodologies, concessionary moves that failed to arrest their dwindling enrollments. Meanwhile psychology has been subsumed by pharmacology and literature professors are applying Big Data techniques to analyze Elizabethan novels.
humanities  twocultures  from instapaper
december 2013 by ayjay
Brain drain - The Spectator - Roger Scruton
We should recognise that not all coherent questions about human nature and conduct are scientific questions, concerning the laws governing cause and effect. Most of our questions about persons and their doings are about interpretation: what did he mean by that? What did her words imply? What is signified by the hand of Michelangelo’s David? Those are real questions, which invite disciplined answers. And there are disciplines that attempt to answer them. The law is one such. It involves making reasoned attributions of liability and responsibility, using methods that are not reducible to any explanatory science, and not replaceable by neuroscience, however many advances that science might make. The invention of ‘neurolaw’ is, it seems to me, profoundly dangerous, since it cannot fail to abolish freedom and accountability — not because those things don’t exist, but because they will never crop up in a brain scan.
neuroscience  twocultures  from instapaper
december 2013 by ayjay
Securing the Borders: On the Genealogy of Scientism (Part II)
What interests me about these otherwise tired arguments about “scientism” is the way in which they echo certain features of disputes about the concept of “enlightenment.” Indeed, it’s tempting to see the opposition between “science” and “scientism” as a continuation of the contrast between “true” and “false” enlightenment. That opposition, as I’ve suggested in earlier posts and summarized in the paper I gave in Bilbao when I wasn’t hunting pintxos, began to fade by the close of the nineteenth century with the recognition, among those had been trying to defend a “true enlightenment” that remained grounded in religious truth, that “enlightenment” was now firmly in the grip of what would eventually come to be known as “the Enlightenment.” But it would appear that the struggle was prolonged by the emerging contrast between “science” and “scientism.” Purged of its overt theological content, this contrast would drag on into the next century, becoming increasingly heated  around the time when two German exiles living in Los Angeles explored these and related matters in a book called Dialectic of Enlightenment. I hope, in a later post, to contrast their account with the discussions of scientism that were being offered, around this same time, by von Hayek and Voegelin.
twocultures  from instapaper
december 2013 by ayjay
The Two Cultures of Educational Reform - NYTimes.com
Indeed, it is worse than that, as Bok acknowledges in several passages that, again, cast a pall over his characteristic optimism. Not only has the twin emphasis on quantitative methodology and vocational instruction failed to achieve genuine educational breakthroughs; but it has apparently had deleterious effects. The more the focus has been on disciplines where computational skills are central, the greater the erosion of the skills we refer to as “critical thinking” (another phrase I abhor, but one impossible completely to eschew these days): a “longitudinal study of twenty-four thousand undergraduates revealed that majoring in engineering was associated with declines in writing ability, cultural awareness, and political and civil participation.” And the “surprising finding” of another study “was that the writing of seniors who majored in science had actually deteriorated over the four years of college.” There’s something those would-be engineers and scientists aren’t getting; we might call it training in serious thought, another of those “intangibles” that escape the net of numerical assessment.
education  bloggable  twocultures 
september 2013 by ayjay
T H Huxley on Matthew Arnold
Mr. Arnold tells us that the meaning of culture is "to know the best that has been thought and said in the world." It is the criticism of life contained in literature. That criticism regards "Europe as being, for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one great confederation, bound to a joint action and working to a common result; and whose members have, for their common outfit, a knowledge of Greek, Roman, and Eastern antiquity, and of one another. Special, local, and temporary advantages being put out of account, that modern nation will in the intellectual and spiritual sphere make most progress, which most thoroughly carries out this programme. And what is that but saying that we too, all of us, as individuals, the more thoroughly we carry it out, shall make the more progress?"

We have here to deal with two distinct propositions. The first, that a criticism of life is the essence of culture; the second, that literature contains the materials which suffice for the construction of such a criticism.

I think that we must all assent to the first proposition. For culture certainly means something quite different from learning or technical skill. It implies the possession of an ideal, and the habit of critically estimating the value of things by comparison with a theoretic standard. Perfect culture should apply a complete theory of life, based upon a clear knowledge alike of its possibilities and of its limitations.

But we may agree to all this, and yet strongly dissent from the assumption that literature alone is competent to supply this knowledge. After having learnt all that Greek, Roman, and Eastern antiquity have thought and said, and all that modern literatures have to tell us, it is not self evident that we have laid a sufficiently broad and deep foundation for the criticism of life which constitutes culture.

Indeed, to any one acquainted with the scope of physical science, it is not at all evident. Considering progress only in the "intellectual and spiritual sphere," I find myself wholly unable to admit that either nations or individuals will really advance, if their common outfit draws nothing from the stores of physical science. I should say that an army, without weapons of precision, and with no particular base of operations, might more hopefully enter upon a campaign on the Rhine, than a man, devoid of a knowledge of what physical science has done in the last century, upon a criticism of life.
LAM  science  humanities  twocultures 
august 2013 by ayjay
The Arnold-Huxley debate is worth recalling because a similar issue is now emerging around ''technological literacy.'' Again, the question is whether colleges have failed to understand or reflect the extent to which the world is being changed by manmade objects.

''For the first time we are able with technology to influence the character of the environment that we live and work in,'' said John Truxal, a professor of technology and society at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. ''If we are going to do this, it's important that students have some picture of that technology.''

The problem, of course, is that the intellectual discipline behind the production of technology - engineering - is as absent from the curriculum of most college students as science was in the late 19th century. Most colleges divide their curriculums into three sections: the arts and sciences, the social sciences and the natural sciences. But technology falls between the cracks, with its own rules and way of thinking.

The scientist seeks to understand the world and operates against an absolute standard. His findings either describe nature accurately or they do not. By contrast, the engineer is problem-oriented. He seeks not to describe the world but to change it.
LAM  education  science  humanities  twocultures 
august 2013 by ayjay
Literature and Science (1882)
And so we have turned in favour of the humanities the No wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel, against the Eternal! which seemed against them when we started. The ‘hairy quadruped furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in his habits’ carried hidden in his nature, apparently, something destined to develop into a necessity for humane letters. The time warns me to stop; but most probably, if we went on, we might arrive at the further conclusion that our ancestor carried in his nature, also, a necessity for Greek. The attackers of the established course of study think that against Greek, at any rate, they have irresistible arguments. Literature may perhaps be needed in education, they say; but why on earth should it be Greek literature? Why not French or German? nay, ‘has not an Englishman models in his own literature of every kind of excellence?’ As before, it is not on any weak pleadings of my own that I rely for convincing the gainsayer; it is on the constitution of human nature itself and on the instinct of self-preservation in humanity. The instinct for beauty is set in human nature, as surely as the instinct for knowledge is set there, or the instinct for conduct. If the instinct for beauty is served by Greek literature as it is served by no other literature, we may trust to the instinct of self-preservation [230] in humanity for keeping Greek as part of our culture. We may trust to it for even making this study more prevalent than it is now. As I said of humane letters in general, Greek will come to be studied more rationally than at present; but it will be increasingly studied as men increasingly feel the need in them for beauty, and how powerfully Greek art and Greek literature can serve this need. Women will again study Greek, as Lady Jane Grey did; perhaps in that chain of forts, with which the fair host of the Amazons is engirdling this University, they are studying it already. Defuit una mihi symmetria prisca, said Leonardo da Vinci; and he was an Italian. What must an Englishman feel as to his deficiencies in this respect, as the sense for beauty, whereof symmetry is an essential element, awakens and strengthens within him! what will not one day be his respect and desire for Greece and its symmetria prisca, when the scales drop from his eyes as he walks the London streets, and he sees such a lesson in meanness as the Strand, for instance, in its true deformity! But here I have entered Mr. Ruskin’s province, and I am well content to leave not only our street architecture, but also letters and Greek, under the care of so distinguished a guardian.
LAM  humanities  science  twocultures 
august 2013 by ayjay
The Two Cultures Controversy: Science, Literature and Cultural Politics in Postwar Britain | Reviews in History
Strictly, however, the status of ‘controversy’, the term foregrounded in the title of Guy Ortolano’s fine and painstakingly-researched book, The Two Cultures Controversy: Science, Literature and Cultural Politics in Postwar Britain was only conferred some three years later, when the Cambridge literary critic, F. R. Leavis, entered the fray with an intemperate response to Snow in his Richmond lecture, ‘Two cultures? The significance of C. P. Snow’.(3) Recognising, perhaps, that Snow was by then much better known as a novelist than as a one-time scientist, Leavis spent much of the early part of the lecture undermining Snow’s authority to speak by pillorying the banality and vulgarity of his literary style. Even in the remainder of the lecture, he answered Snow’s charges only obliquely. He went on to advance a thesis honed (alongside the critical writings of  I. A. Richards and the American New Critics) and refined over a 30-year career as a founding father of Cambridge English and modern literary criticism; a thesis therefore entirely familiar to many of his academic contemporaries: that in a society like the present where the advances of science and technology threaten a future of momentous and ‘insidious’ change, ‘mankind ... will need to be in full intelligent possession of its full humanity ... a basic living deference towards that to which, opening as it does into the unknown and itself unmeasurable, we know we belong’.(4) For 30 years, Leavis had pursued a mission to justify the establishment and growth of the ‘English school’ or the discipline of English Literary Studies as the vital centre of university education, the only centre which might hold together the fragmenting specialisms of an increasingly technological era. The English School would radiate an influence, ‘a centre of consciousness ... for our civilisation’ (5), by preserving a ‘living culture’ against the fragmenting effects of the advance of modernity in its guise of economic and technological or material progress (referred to disparagingly as ‘jam tomorrow’). The pursuit of other kinds of knowledge or cultural practice, for Leavis, depended on the vitality of this bedrock, ‘a prior human achievement of collaborative creation, a more basic work of the mind of man (and more than the mind), one without which the triumphant erection of the scientific edifice would not have been possible: that is, the creation of the human world, including language’.(6)
LAM  twocultures 
august 2013 by ayjay
Lisa Jardine on the Two Cultures
In fact, I suggest that the lecture Snow gave in 1959 was the culmination, rather than the beginning of a post-war debate about the role of science in British society. It was an argument which had begun in the final years of the Second World War, and had been enlarged on and developed in the course of the 1950s, in the context of discussion about the direction Britain should take in manufacturing and technology as the country came off a war footing. That debate eventually crystallized in Snow’s mind in 1960 into a series of lectures he delivered at Harvard, and which were published in 1961 under the title Science and Government. F. R. Leavis – Snow’s bitter Cambridge adversary in the ‘Two Cultures’ debate – makes no reference to this later publication in his own Richmond lecture, delivered at Downing College (from which he was shortly to retire), and published in the Spectator in March 1962. There is no reason to believe Leavis had even read Science and Government, since it did not address the parochial themes inadvertently introduced by the unsuspecting Snow in The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.

Snow’s argument, I shall maintain, was framed in the critical years after the end of the Second World War, and was meant as an urgent appeal to those who were shaping the policies and priorities of the post-war English-speaking world. The urgency of the question is to be detected in the Two Cultures lecture, in spite of its sometimes annoyingly bantering tone, in the repeated ‘I intend something serious [here]’ of the opening paragraphs, and in Snow’s reiterated claims that the fracture across the humanities/science divide introduces a fatal flaw into contemporary planning for Britain’s future purpose and prosperity.

A single passage from the Rede lecture sets the more serious tone of what I intend: ‘I believe the pole of total incomprehension of science radiates its influence on all the rest. That total incomprehension gives, much more persuasively than we realise, living in it, an unscientific flavour to the whole ‘traditional’ culture... It is the traditional culture, to an extent remarkably little diminished by the emergence of the scientific one, which manages the western world [my emphasis]. This polarisation is sheer loss to us all. To us as people, and to our society... The degree of incomprehension on both sides is the kind of joke which has gone sour.’
LAM  twocultures 
august 2013 by ayjay
“The Two Cultures” today by Roger Kimball - The New Criterion
Snow first used the famous phrase in 1956 as the title for an article in The New Statesman. The article provided the germ for his 1959 Rede Lecture at Cambridge University, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, which was subsequently printed in Encounter magazine in two installments. As soon as it appeared, the brief, avuncular work—in book form it fits comfortably into fewer than sixty printed pages and is full of men who “muck in as colleagues,” etc.—became a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. The edition I have was published in 1961; by then it was already in its seventh printing. Its fame got an additional boost a year later when the critic F. R. Leavis published his attack on The Two Cultures in The Spectator. Originally delivered as the Downing Lecture at Cambridge, “Two Cultures? The Significance of C. P. Snow” is a devastating rhetorical fusillade. It’s not just that no two stones of Snow’s argument are left standing: each and every pebble is pulverized, the fields are salted, and the entire population is sold into slavery. Leavis spoke of “the preposterous and menacing absurdity of C. P. Snow’s consecrated public standing,” heaped derision on his “embarrassing vulgarity of style,” his “panoptic pseudo-categories,” his “complete ignorance” of history, literature, the history of civilization, and the human significance of the Industrial Revolution. “Snow is, of course, a—no, I can’t say that; he isn’t: Snow thinks of himself as a novelist,” Leavis thundered, but in fact “his incapacity as a novelist is … total”: “as a novelist he doesn’t exist; he doesn’t begin to exist. He can’t be said to know what a novel is.” It gets worse. Snow is “utterly without a glimmer of what creative literature is, or why it matters.” “[N]ot only is he not a genius,” Leavis concluded; “he is intellectually as undistinguished as it is possible to be.”
LAM  science  humanities  twocultures 
august 2013 by ayjay

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