C.P. Snow fans, prepare to head over to the Intersection to partake in an upcoming online discussion of Snow's famous "Two Cultures" address. In their new article, "The Culture Crosser," Sheril and Chris portray Snow as a sort of science policy prophet:
It helps to think of Snow as an early theorist on a critical modern problem: How can we best translate highly complex information, stored in the minds of often eccentric (if well meaning) scientists, into the process of political decision making at all levels and in all aspects of government, from military to medical? At best that's a difficult quandary; there are many ways in which the translation can go wrong, and few in which it can go right. Yet World War II had demonstrated beyond question that the nations that best marshal their scientific resources have the best chance of survival and success, making sound science policy an essential component of modern, advanced democracies.
Is that what Snow had in mind when he gave his speech - the best way for a nation to leverage science to make good policy? If so, why did it provoke such a vitriolic reaction from critics like FR Leavis? Reading Snow today, do you think the cultural divisions he perceived have been ameliorated or exacerbated by the burgeoning of the sciences?
Thanks for blogging our discussion, which I'm about to kick off. I think if you read the "Two Cultures" lecture next to Snow's "Science in Government" speech of just a year or so later, then our interpretation gains a lot of force--especially as Snow was himself a government science adviser. The problem is, nobody ever reads the "Science in Government" speech....