I have often admired Snow’s work (it influenced me in the sixties as I shifted to a study of mathematics) but his analysis was always flawed. We should consider how the early modern tried to balance the ‘two cultures’ and we should keep in mind the seminal work of kant who tried to correct the fallacies of scientism with an analysis of ethical and the aesthetic. Before letting the Snows pontificate on the humanities we should keep in mind that ‘science’ as such can’t even touch ethical or aesthetic questions.
The films function as middlebrow bio-pics, but by engaging with mathematical matters they also put some viewers in mind of the novelist C.P. Snow and his seminal “Two Cultures” lecture of 1959. Snow lamented the “ocean” that he felt lay between the literati and scientists, and accused the former of being “natural Luddites”. He himself could bridge this sea because he had been a physicist. He approved of the way the Soviets were training huge numbers of physicists and engineers (they had “judged the situation sensibly”), and worried that Britain would be left behind because of the “traditional culture”. He explained that at a literary party, not a single guest could repeat the Second Law of Thermodynamics (“the response was cold. And also negative”: it’s clear that he wasn’t the life and soul). He succeeded in making it celebrated among scientific laws.