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Thread: Science and the Arts.

  1. #1 Science and the Arts. 
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    I have just finished reading the famous essay by CP Snow, the British novelist and scientist.
    Snow argued the arts and the sciences formed two separate cultures with few genuine links between them.
    He regarded this as a tragedy of major proportions.
    I am an individual with deep roots in the arts world altho' I do regret I have not, as yet, made the progress I expected.
    I believe my potential as a writer in the history field, and as an author of romantic novels, has not, so far, been fulfilled.
    However, I do agree with Snow and, at present, I am trying, with some success, to achieve a better understanding of the world of science.
    I have just "finished" a biography of the scientist Paul Dirac, but I must admit I found both the man, and his work, difficult to understand.
    My partner, generally supportive, but capable also of negative comments remarked, recently, it was not wise to mention famous scientists, or complex scientific theories, if one only possessed limited knowledge.
    I am inclined to do this after a number of refreshments!
    Lastly, several weeks ago, I was shown a photograph of a famous individual.
    I did not know his name and, when told his name, I did not know the man was a scientist.
    His name was James Clerk Maxwell and, especially as a Scot, I should have been able to answer both questions!
    I have not dared to inform anyone, in my my social circle, of this major failure.


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  3. #2  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    What's your point?

    I believe my potential as a writer in the history field, and as an author of romantic novels, has not, so far, been fulfilled.
    Given that you've previously admitted that you've never had anything published (although that may have changed in the interim) that's for sure.

    I have just finished reading the famous essay by CP Snow, the British novelist and scientist.
    Snow argued the arts and the sciences formed two separate cultures with few genuine links between them.
    He regarded this as a tragedy of major proportions.
    Yeah, and he was also somewhat off the mark... (thus he subsequently revised his opinion).

    I have just "finished" a biography of the scientist Paul Dirac
    Reading or writing? If the latter you have set yourself a hard target.

    but I must admit I found both the man, and his work, difficult to understand.
    Nothing difficult about the man at all.


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by cameron buttle View Post
    I have just finished reading the famous essay by CP Snow, the British novelist and scientist.
    Snow argued the arts and the sciences formed two separate cultures with few genuine links between them.
    He regarded this as a tragedy of major proportions.
    I am an individual with deep roots in the arts world altho' I do regret I have not, as yet, made the progress I expected.
    I believe my potential as a writer in the history field, and as an author of romantic novels, has not, so far, been fulfilled.
    However, I do agree with Snow and, at present, I am trying, with some success, to achieve a better understanding of the world of science.
    I have just "finished" a biography of the scientist Paul Dirac, but I must admit I found both the man, and his work, difficult to understand.
    My partner, generally supportive, but capable also of negative comments remarked, recently, it was not wise to mention famous scientists, or complex scientific theories, if one only possessed limited knowledge.
    I am inclined to do this after a number of refreshments!
    Lastly, several weeks ago, I was shown a photograph of a famous individual.
    I did not know his name and, when told his name, I did not know the man was a scientist.
    His name was James Clerk Maxwell and, especially as a Scot, I should have been able to answer both questions!
    I have not dared to inform anyone, in my my social circle, of this major failure.
    The Scots should be very proud of him indeed. He ranks with Newton, Faraday and Einstein. But for some reason he is far less widely appreciated. Perhaps he is more of a scientists' scientist than the others, due to the nature of what he worked on.
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  5. #4  
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    My personal experience (as a mathematician) makes me wonder if Snow was only looking at it as an artist, not appreciating science. Many scientists that I know, including myself appreciate art, although not as well as an art critic.
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  6. #5  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathman View Post
    My personal experience (as a mathematician) makes me wonder if Snow was only looking at it as an artist, not appreciating science. Many scientists that I know, including myself appreciate art, although not as well as an art critic.
    That was Snow's main error.
    The "intellectuals" were almost entirely ignorant of science yet (what he missed was that) scientists generally were (probably by dint of actually being *gasp* human) almost all well-versed in "culture".
    I.e. the "intellectuals" would look down their nose if someone wasn't au fait with Shakespeare or Kandinsky or... yet saw absolutely nothing wrong in (in fact some were immensely proud of) being ignorant of the laws of thermodynamics.
    "[Dywyddyr] makes a grumpy bastard like me seem like a happy go lucky scamp" - PhDemon
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  7. #6  
    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    True, you will find (according to Snow's dichotomy), many more scientists who have read (and understood), a work of Shakespeare than artists who understand the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (which Snow himself didn't really understand if you read his writings on the subject...)
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathman View Post
    My personal experience (as a mathematician) makes me wonder if Snow was only looking at it as an artist, not appreciating science. Many scientists that I know, including myself appreciate art, although not as well as an art critic.
    I understood, perhaps wrongly, that as a scientist, and a novelist, Snow was generally more critical of the "literary intellectuals" than members of the scientific community.
    Certainly this view was accepted by some, such as the critic F.S. Leavis, who regarded Snow as a "public relations man" for the scientific establishment.
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  9. #8  
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    One of the besetting sins of English intellectual life has been the snobbery associated with science. As Dywyddyr points out, many literary intellectuals were, and are still, proud of their ignorance of science and mathematics. It is, when you think about, it a pretty disgusting state of affairs when learned people actually take pride in knowing nothing about a major discipline of human thought. It is, I think, something dating from the Industrial Revolution in England, when the aristocracy, who all knew their Latin and Greek, looked down their noses at the industrialists and scientific and engineering entrepreneurs who were bringing them steel, steam power, canals and railways and electricity - and thereby threatening to upend the social strata that they sat at the top of. It's HG Wells's Morlocks vs. Eloi.

    You do not get this to anything like the same degree in Continental Europe. In France and Germany, engineers and doctors of science are respected, and not treated as joke nerds with biros in their breast pockets. It's the English class system. (I say English, as in Scotland it is not the same, I think).
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  10. #9  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    ...such as the critic F.S. Leavis...
    Do you mean F. R. Leavis?
    "[Dywyddyr] makes a grumpy bastard like me seem like a happy go lucky scamp" - PhDemon
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    ...such as the critic F.S. Leavis...
    Do you mean F. R. Leavis?
    I did indeed.
    I apologise unreservedly!
    Just to be clear, with regard to this dispute, I did not agree with the stance taken by Leavis.
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