[SIGCIS-Members] Science wars quote that scientists can teach English but not vice versa

Thomas Haigh thomas.haigh at gmail.com
Fri Oct 21 13:08:40 PDT 2016


It’s definitely a two cultures argument, but I think the quote was an updated version and nastier. Though I could be conflating after all this time.

 

In the bigger picture I guess the difference between Snow and the 1990s dialog was that Snow was bemoaning the separation of science and the humanities and limited engagement with science by non-specialists. Whereas in the science wars, scientists were complaining that humanities people were pretending to engage with science but messing it up or challenging its authority.

 

Tom

 

From: Lee Vinsel [mailto:lee.vinsel at gmail.com] 
Sent: Friday, October 21, 2016 2:35 PM
To: Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com>
Cc: sigcis <members at sigcis.org>
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Science wars quote that scientists can teach English but not vice versa

 

Tom,

I'm fairly certain that you are paraphrasing ideas from C. P. Snow's The Two Cultures, though the way I remember it is that scientists have some knowledge of literature whereas people in the humanities can't tell you what the laws of thermodynamics are. 

But maybe you have something else in mind. 

Best,

Lee

 

On Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 3:32 PM, Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com <mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com> > wrote:

Hello SIGCIS,

 

I was looking for a quote I recall reading in the days of the “science wars,” probably late-1990s, from a scientist saying something like: “If all the English professors got sick and we were called in then we would so an OK job teaching Shakespeare etc. based on what we know and the inherent triviality of the humanities. Whereas if the physics professors got sick then the humanities people would be completely unable to step in, because science is hard.”

 

I tried constructing Google searches and doing Amazon’s search inside the book on Sokal & Bricmont’s Fashionable Nonsense and similar targets, but didn’t locate it. 

 

NB: I’m just looking for the source here, not for people eager to reignite the science wars by arguing for or against the proposition.

 

Best wishes,


Tom


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-- 

Assistant Professor
Program on Science and Technology Studies
College of Arts and Letters
Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, NJ 07030

leevinsel.com <http://leevinsel.com> 
Twitter: @STS_News

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