Historical Antecedents

The Debate between Matthew Arnold and Thomas Henry Huxley

In the late 1870s and 1880s Matthew Arnold, an English poet and cultural critic began to make public statements, including lectures at Cambridge University and the Royal Society of Arts, claiming that undo interest in the sciences was undermining British schooling. He felt the need to defend the traditions of classical humanism and reemphasize the moral dimensions of education. Thomas Henry Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog,” who argued that “the free employment of reason, in accordance with scientific method, is the sole method of reaching truth” was one of Arnold’s targets. He responded in kind with a number or lectures of his own alluding the Arnold as someone “born in a pre-scientific age.”


The Two Cultures Debate

“Two Cultures Debate” occurred in the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1959 British physicist and novelist C. P. Snow delivered the Rede Lecture in Cambridge titled “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.” In this famous piece that later partisans of the Science Wars would reincorporate in their arguments, he described what he saw as a deep cultural divide between the two parts of higher education, the sciences and humanities, in both Britain and America. Though both sides were to blame for the intellectual gulf, literary intellectuals were in his view the most at fault. Cambridge English professor and literary critic F. R. Leavis answered Snow at the 1962 Richmond Lecture, “Two Cultures?: The Significance of C. P. Snow” where he dismissed the novelist’s abilities and questioned Snow’s credentials claiming the problem Snow identified did not exist. For the next decade or so, Snow and Leavis, as well as their followers would attack each other in public lectures and in the press.