Response: CP Snow, Two Cultures

In 1961 C.P. Snow wrote an essay called, “The Two Cultures,” in which he described a separation between those in science and those in artistic intellectual pursuits. He didn’t see either side as being concerned with his fellow man and bettering their lives. He said that science without the input of humanities lead to the gates of Auschwitz. It is possible to justify that thinking as we witnessed science developing efficient gas for the slaughter that took place there and their describing the genetic defects in the Jews, to be solved only by their extermination.

At he same time American scientists are working on building an atomic bomb, which would be so powerful that by using it and destroying a huge population we would bring an end to the war we were in with Japan. To consider the previous statement as being true for all scientists would be false. At the same time destruction was occurring there were scientists working on discovering penicillin. World War II brought about so many wounded and losing limbs it caused scientists to improve medical knowledge and humanistic purpose.

The existence of the times of the suffering of millions through disease, war, water shortage, and starvation elicited creative writers to state that life is a tragedy. “We live alone and die alone.” We think of ourselves and our little problems while others starve.  There were scientific literary references such as  “the world ends not with a whimper but with a bang,” There is an effort for the two groups to try and understand one another but the differences don’t disappear. In religion and politics they go from irreligious and liberal to religious and conservative. Snow feels that emotionally they are more alike. He stated that they younger ones see social progress through science.

The elimination of Polio is an example as is the doctors and nursed working with Ebola patients in Africa. Five doctors have died by treating the disease. The potential is there for repairing the world. Unfortunately the ability to cause more brutal harm and destruction by using chemicals and unmanned drones is also there. The hope for peace never dies. The struggle goes on. As does the dreams of the young person off to college for the first time, trying to decide what he or she will do with their lives. How will they specialize? Does this specialization deepen the rift between science and art? Certainly there is a need for the two to learn from one another. Leaders who are sensitive to the need for both sides to pool their skills will help solve the separation.

Snow saw into the future understanding the need for scientists and writers to join in their dedication to social needs. Since he was part of both worlds he had an insight that wasn’t available to those who participated in only one of the professions. Rather he found a lack of communication that was practically ignorance in relation to one another.