Andrew Maynard, an expert on new scientific technologies, has a post reprising the notion of the two cultures (science and humanities, with a chasm between them). He offers a one-question poll and sees the results as indicating that the chasm isn’t necessarily that vast.
Ruth Seeley offers a similar poll from the humanities side.
I liked both polls, though as I commented to Ruth, I’m not sure her topic is necessarily comparable Andrew’s.
Ruth knows this isn’t a serious disagreement; we’ve had several enjoyable exchanges. The two polls did give me an excuse to test a polling plugin (a piece of code for WordPress blogs like this one).
Other than messing around in the tool aisle, I was shooting for a question like Maynard’s that touches on more fundamental concepts.
Okay; now you can scroll down to the comments and check. Then, if you would, the bonus round: a second poll to help analyze the answers:
6 thoughts on “Oh, the humanities…”
You didn’t look here before answering the first poll, did you? Of course not.
We don’t have a single line of the poems or the plays in Shakespeare’s handwriting. (This is one reason for the “who wrote Shakespeare” controversy.)
That puts an interesting spin on what “wrote” means.
Come on Dave, I’m a scientist – you don’t expect me to read to the end of the page do you?! :-)
I enjoyed the poll, Dave. But some of us straddle both cultures, so I think you should include that as an option in Part 2.
Andrew: I considered starting with Abstract, but that didn’t seem like a good strategy.
Elia: you’re right, of course. I wanted to nudge people to one side or another of Snow’s dichotomy. I’d like to think I straddle–I’ve read and enjoyed things like Kandel’s In Search of Memory, and I leisurely go through Levitin’s Cognitive Psychology. The account of the first gene map, in Time Love Memory, was the sort of science I wish I’d heard when I was in school.
Still, I freely admit more comfort in the humanities. That said, a certain level of non-comfort is often beneficial for learning.
Your humanities question was slanted to the scientific mindset, because it had a “right/wrong” answer. A true humanities question would require an essay answer and deal with meaning. Ambiguity drives scientists nuts! It was fun, though.
True enough, Wes–though I see the ambiguity sneaking in after you answer: So, if we don’t have any of his work in his hand–how do we know it’s his? What does “his work” mean? (And I’m cheerfully skipping over the “who wrote Shakespeare” angle.)