Divided on divide 1

November 18, 2005

Brian Morton is incorrect to conclude that C. P. Snow's two-cultures divide still exists in both directions (Opinion, November 11).

Most scientists "do" the arts for fun, everything from reading texts to textual analysis, including via the weekend supplements (compare the supplement with the "I'll talk slowly so that you can understand" science in most print media).

With a few honourable exceptions (Melvyn Bragg for one) most "literary types" simply can't hack it in science for one simple reason - the level of the bar for scientific reasoning has become higher over time, while postmodernist relativism has denuded the arts of their rigour. This is most evident in the visual arts, where no one appears able to inform the emperor of his nudity.

You simply can't get away with relativism in science; some things are just plain wrong. That understanding in the sciences, rather than simple arrogance, is why scientists are generally confident enough to engage with the arts, whereas many literary intellectuals would be hard-pressed to multiply one three-digit number by another three-digit number.

David McAlpine

Professor of auditory neuroscience

University College London

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