Saturday, September 5, 2009

outra vez C. P. Snow

Mesmo depois de 50 anos, o ensaio As Duas Culturas, de C. P. Snow, continua muito popular e frequentemente citado. O físico teórico Lawrence M. Krauss cita-o num artigo da Scientific American deste mês, intitulado C. P. Snow in New York. No seu texto, Krauss começa por comentar como a visão de Snow evoluiu para a actualidade:

Earlier this summer marked the 50th anniversary of C. P. Snow's famous "Two Cultures" essay, in which he lamented the great cultural divide that separates two great areas of human intellectual activity, "science" and "the arts". Snow argued that practitioners in both areas should build bridges to further the progress of human knowledge and to benefit society.

Alas, Snow's vision has gone unrealized. Instead literary agent John Brockman has posited a "third culture", of scientists who communicate directly with the public about their work in media such as books without the intervening assistance of literary types. At the same time, many of those in the humanities, arts and politics remain content living within the walls of science illiteracy.

Krauss explica este fenómeno por várias razões, entre elas a seguinte: scientific illiteracy is not a major impediment to success in business, politics and the arts. E acrescenta algo que me parece particularmente importante:

At the university level, science is too often seen as something needed merely to fulfill a requirement and then to be dispensed with. To be fair, the same is often the case for humanities courses for science and engineering majors, but the big difference is that these students cannot help but be bombarded by literature, music and art elsewhere as part of the pop culture that permeates daily life. And what's more, individuals often proudly proclaim that science isn't their thing, almost as a badge of honor to indicate their cultural bent.

Na segunda parte do artigo, Krauss aborda o sempre polémico tema da religião, dizendo que the Templeton Foundation (...) has spent millions annually raising the profile of "big questions", which tend to suggest that science and religious belief are somehow related and should be treated as equals. E, sem papas na língua, remata:

The problem is, they are not. Ultimately, science is at best only consistent with a God that does not directly intervene in the daily operations of the cosmos, certainly not the personal and ancient gods associated with the world's great religions.

Finalmente, o artigo termina assim:

Snow hoped for a world that is quite different from how we live today, where indifference to science has, through religious fundamentalism, sometimes morphed into open hostility about concepts such as evolution and the big bang.

Snow did not rail against religion, but ignorance. (...) the only vague notion of God that may be compatible with science ensure that God is essentially irrelevant to both our understanding of nature and our actions based on it. Until we are willing to accept the world as it is, without miracles that all empirical evidence argues against, without myths that distort our comprehension of nature, we are unlikely to bridge the divide between science and culture and, more important, we are unlikely to be fully ready to address the urgent technical challenges facing humanity.

Sublinhados meus.