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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

The Two Cultures, and science communication

Toss Gascoigne  

The proposal is for a dramatic presentation centred on CP Snow's Two Cultures. On May 7 1959, Snow delivered the Rede Lecture at Cambridge University. Snow said that society was divided in two parts, those educated in the arts and humanities, and those from science and technology. The two sides could not communicate and this had serious implications for society. The ruling classes tended to be educated in the humanities. Without any understanding of science, they were ill-equipped to frame policies that would lead to a prosperous modern Britain. Their ignorance of science was compounded by their lack of interest, and their contempt for scientists who 'lacked culture and education'. Snow wondered how many of them could explain the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Two Cultures ignited a controversy that rages today. The proposal for Istanbul is a theatrical examination of this controversy. Is there a wall between the two cultures? Can people talk productively across this barrier, or is it the source of confusion, uncertainty and poor policy? Is science communication an attempt to patch over these difficulties, and can it succeed? The play is in development, and the proposal is for a 45 minute session presenting a substantial extract. The cast will be drawn from participants in the conference, each given a role and character to explore. The requirements are simple: a room with a low stage, capable of seating up to 200 people. Props and furnishings will be provided by the producers of the event. Actors will be recruited through normal PCST channels. We suggest the event be scheduled at about 5.30 pm, as a change in pace and relief from the discussions of the day.

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