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    The "great divide" is a term used to describe the knowledge gap between academics in the arts and humanities and academics in the sciences - and their frustrating inability to communicate with each other.

    In my experience, this divide is extremely one-sided, and basically comes down to arts students' extreme ignorance and apathy about science, rather than the other way around.

    For example - I am a science graduate, as are several of my friends - including physics, maths, engineering, and biology graduates. We also have several friends who have studied arts subjects like English literature, philosophy and history.

    The science graduates are all able to chat happily about "arty" subjects, such as musical theory, art movements, international politics, literature, history, philosophy, theology and religion, and understand concepts like structuralism, postmodernism, cultural relativism etc.

    Howver, the arts students become completely lost whenever even the most basic science is mentioned, such as how a nuclear power station works, or why men and women are biologically different. They don't even really seem to understand what science even is. Half of their otherwise intelligent opinions seem to be based on elementary misconceptions of scientific facts.

    Anyone else notice this? It's a huge problem IMO. Any arts students who actually know something about science? Do you feel ashamed of yourselves if you don't, or don't you care?
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    I would agree with that, currently studying politics and I know a little about science. But I struggle to talk at length and depth about science.

    But I would disagree it is as one sided as you are making out.
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    (Original post by py0alb)
    The "great divide" is a term used to describe the knowledge gap between academics in the arts and humanities and academics in the sciences - and their frustrating inability to communicate with each other.

    In my experience, this divide is extremely one-sided, and basically comes down to arts students' extreme ignorance and apathy about science, rather than the other way around.

    For example - I am a science graduate, as are several of my friends - including physics, maths, engineering, and biology graduates. We also have several friends who have studied arts subjects like English literature, philosophy and history.

    The science graduates are all able to chat happily about "arty" subjects, such as musical theory, art movements, international politics, literature, history, philosophy, theology and religion, and understand concepts like structuralism, postmodernism, cultural relativism etc.

    Howver, the arts students become completely lost whenever even the most basic science is mentioned, such as how a nuclear power station works, or why men and women are biologically different. They don't even really seem to understand what science even is. Half of their otherwise intelligent opinions seem to be based on elementary misconceptions of scientific facts.

    Anyone else notice this? It's a huge problem IMO. Any arts students who actually know something about science? Do you feel ashamed of yourselves if you don't, or don't you care?

    I think its more of a case of "I'm not interested in science" than "I don't understand science". I could have done sciences but chose to follow the "arty" path and ended up somewhere in the middle.

    The problem is that with science, you either know it or you don't, with the arts there are many areas of grey. This is why you are able to discuss the arts but we can't discuss science.

    Using the word ignorant is slightly extreme, it is usually the scientists who disregard the arts as unimportant and easy.
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    Yes, I agree. Other BSc students I know, and [trying to maintain some modesty here], I guess myself, can talk about and deal with some of the arts. I have a serious interest in politics, and when deciding what degree I was going to do it was between BSc Geography and BA English. However, most [not all] of the BA students that I know just downright fail to grasp the importance of the sciences or manage to cultivate an interest in it.

    Perhaps this is because the sciences are inherently affected by the arts - new philosophical ways of studying things, changes in societal morality and ethics, and other such factors, will all affect scientific research and applications. On the other hand, any feedback from sciences into the humanities is usually indirect, and is mostly expressed as advances in technology and gadgetry that change the study of the arts.
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    I'd disagree. I'm a science graduate, and have lived with Politics and Philosophy students. There were times when they got deep in their debates that I had no idea what they were talking about. If I dared enter an opinion it was either greatly naive or generalised (if politics) or could not be used as a valid argument (if Philosophy).

    As for Arts students not understanding the simplest scientific principles, not true at all. Sure, they usually have common misconceptions about various things, but plenty of a BA friends can talk about science to a moderate degree. Not as deeply as a science student, but like I said before, I can't go into politics or english literature or philosophy etc. as deep as they can in their specialist subjects.

    The only reason Science students have a slight advantage is that the arts subjects are usually general interest things that people pick up as hobbies. But that's all it is; a SLIGHT advantage. Sure I know a bit about a few arts subjects, but I'm not vain enough to claim to be anywhere near the same level as a BA student who's spent years studying their particular subject. Some BA students may not have an interest in science, but there are plenty of others who do
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    Science has an entirely separate vocabulary and an esoteric, detached playing field in which it operates, whereas literature or history is almost immediately accessible for everyone. Therefore, it is easy for science graduates to "chat happily" about literature or history and convince themselves that they are doing so at an equal level to literature or history graduates, whilst literature or history graduates cannot do so without initiation into the dark arts of science. Conceptually, there is no difference in difficulty between the arts and the sciences, but it is only the sciences that requires a particular knowledge of vocabulary, fundamental principles, etc., before one can think themselves able to "chat happily" about it.
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    As an Arts student who is rather ignorant about Science, I would say that this is down to the fact that it is easier to be knowledgable about the Arts than it is the Sciences. Just take a look at the weekend newspapers. There will be a wealth of articles about the Arts, from reviews of museum exhibitions to plays, making it very easy for a Science graduate to pick up information about culture and the Humanities. On the other hand, despite the major roles that science plays in our lives, it is much harder to pick up such a rounded basic knowledge.

    I'm not saying that I couldn't pick up a book on science, but its just not as featured in the media as the arts are, and therefore its harder for someone who doesn't have a particular interest in it to "just pick up" knowledge about from their surroundings.
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    (Original post by py0alb)
    musical theory
    Is a maths based science. :yep:
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    I think part of the problem is the lack of up to date information. Anyone can debate what's in the newspapers. I bought a BBC Focus Magazine and showed something of interest to my first-year neuroscientist girlfriend. She learnt it two years ago, at AS level.

    Plus, it depends what you mean by "international politics". For example, I'll talk to her about Israel/Palestine. It takes a little explanation to most scientists when I talk about the divide between Neorealism and neoliberalism, or the classical schools, or Social Constructivism...

    What bugs me the most is the consideration by some scientists (luckily, not my girlfriend), that the Arts are "easier" or Social Sciences are "not proper science", because everyone can understand a little. I find that very unfair.
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    (Original post by PoliticoJames)
    What bugs me the most is the consideration by some scientists (luckily, not my girlfriend), that the Arts are "easier" or Social Sciences are "not proper science", because everyone can understand a little. I find that very unfair.
    The argument to that is that everyone can understand a little "real" science.

    For example: The Metro publishes a piece on science every Friday. It has ranged from the explanation of the formation of Quarks to the difficulties of Nuclear Fission.

    Several of my friends are in to physics of one form or another. They too understand a little science. Granted, none of us, myself very much included, could work out any of the equations in physics, but we at least understand some of it.
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    (Original post by Reems)
    I think its more of a case of "I'm not interested in science" than "I don't understand science". I could have done sciences but chose to follow the "arty" path and ended up somewhere in the middle.

    The problem is that with science, you either know it or you don't, with the arts there are many areas of grey. This is why you are able to discuss the arts but we can't discuss science.

    Using the word ignorant is slightly extreme, it is usually the scientists who disregard the arts as unimportant and easy.
    I find the arts difficult, hence doing all science a-levels and a science based degree.

    OP- There are plenty of scientists that are as far to the science side of the divide as there are arty people way over. its a spectrum with very much grey. But I'm deffinately all white or black whichever is science!
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    People assume there is a massive gulf between the arts and sciences, and that they are completely unrelated. Really though, they are quite close, and interact with each other a lot.

    Contrary to you, OP, in my experience it tends to be my friends studying science subjects who have a chip on their shoulders about this stuff.
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    (Original post by MSB)
    Science has an entirely separate vocabulary and an esoteric, detached playing field in which it operates, whereas literature or history is almost immediately accessible for everyone. Therefore, it is easy for science graduates to "chat happily" about literature or history and convince themselves that they are doing so at an equal level to literature or history graduates, whilst literature or history graduates cannot do so without initiation into the dark arts of science. Conceptually, there is no difference in difficulty between the arts and the sciences, but it is only the sciences that requires a particular knowledge of vocabulary, fundamental principles, etc., before one can think themselves able to "chat happily" about it.
    This is spot on.

    It it also means that 'the sciences' isn't/can't be a homogenous group really, I'm a Comp Sci student but if someone starts talking about igneous rock or the composition of nitrogen I'm gonna be just as clueless and/or disinterested as someone who studies an art subject...
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    (Original post by Reems)
    It is usually the scientists who disregard the arts as unimportant and easy.
    Haha, I guess the feeling is mutual.
 
 
 
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