12 March 2010

The three cultures

During the mid-twentieth century, the British physicist and novelist Charles Percy Snow wrote and spoke of the gulf between the ‘two cultures’; the humanities on one side and the sciences on the other. Snow observed that a breakdown in communication between intellectuals from both camps of knowledge was obstructing efforts to solve the world’s problems. In the nineties, American science writer John Brockman updated the concept of the two cultures by positing the emergence of a ‘third culture’. This third culture consisted of scientists and other intellectuals who were communicating their (mainly scientific) ideas directly to the public and in the process challenging the traditional cultural authority of writers and thinkers from the humanities.