• A Dangerous Divide

    The Two Cultures in the 21st Century

    A Dangerous Divide

    The Two Cultures in the 21st Century

    Keynote Speakers: E.O. Wilson (Harvard University), John Edward Porter (Research!America), and Dean Kamen (DEKA Research)Presented by Science & the City, ScienceDebate2008, and the Science Communication Consortium
    Reported by Christopher M. Williams | Posted July 24, 2009


    On May 9, 2009, the New York Academy of Sciences' Science & the City program hosted a daylong symposium in honor of the 50th anniversary of C.P. Snow's influential lecture on the "two cultures." Whereas Snow focused on a gap of understanding between scientists and literary intellectuals, speakers at the Academy spotlighted a troubling gulf between the scientific community today and the general public. Because science and technology are critical tools for responding to many of society's most troubling problems, participants argued that this lack of understanding is having dangerous consequences.

    Panelists at the symposium focused on the historical context of the two cultures divide, barriers to effective science communication, ways in which lack of public understanding of science is affecting politics, and ways to improve science education and science citizenship. Topics discussed included challenges in making science relevant to nonscientists, institutional pressures that are making good science journalism more difficult, practical ways to engage politicians on scientific issues, and recommendations for ways to improve science education and public understanding of science. Speakers stressed that professional scientists have an important role to play in explaining what they do and why it should be important to those outside the scientific community.

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    Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and complete video.

    Keynote Addresses
    E.O. Wilson (Harvard University), John Edward Porter (Research!America), Dean Kamen (DEKA Research & Development Corporation; FIRST)

    The Two Cultures in Historical Perspective
    D. Graham Burnett (Princeton University), Ann Blair (Harvard University), Kenneth Miller (Brown University), Guy Ortolano (New York University)

    Science Communication
    Robert Keating (Discover magazine), Paula Apsell (NOVA, WGBH), Ira Flatow (Science Friday), Andrew Revkin (The New York Times), Carl Zimmer (Science Writer)

    Restoring Science to Its Rightful Place in Politics
    Chris Mooney (Author), Matthew Chapman (Science Debate, Inc.), Shawn Otto (ScienceDebate 2008), Francesca Grifo (Union of Concerned Scientists), John Porter, Darlene Cavalier (

    Science Education and Science Citizenship
    Sheril Kirshenbaum (Duke University), Kevin Finneran (Issues in Science and Technology), Adrienne Klein (Science & the Arts, Graduate Center of the City University of New York), Stuart Pimm (Duke University), Stacy Baker (Calverton School, Huntington, MD)

    Presented by:

    • Science and the City
    • ScienceDebate2008
    • Discover
    • Science Communication Consortium