What does this picture show?

Most will recognize something from antiquity, maybe a Greek statue, one of the Karyatides in the Erechtheion. Others see the effects of weathering on limestone.
Of course, both are right and each makes fun of the other. The first category of people are the educated ones; they say things like "e pluribus unum", they know what a sonnet is, they don't confound the Impressionists with the Expressionists and they are proud not to know what goes on under the hood of a car.

What the others know about antiquity is Pythagoras and maybe Thales. But they know why the sky is blue and the water wet. They delight in the solution of differential equations, and they are proud not to care about Oscar Wilde's private life. Such people are not considered educated; they are merely trained.


There are two cultures: that of the humanists and that of the scientists. The two don't understand each other, they have nothing to talk about, they have given up trying to communicate. Such lack of communication between the cultures necessarily leads to a lack of communication between the sciences and the public at large and therefore to a lack of understanding of the very foundations of our civilization. Lack of understanding leads to fear and fear leads to irrational decisions.


What has happened? Of course, specialization is necessary; no single human can grasp the immense explosion of knowledge that science has produced in the past two centuries. "Renaissance Man" is no longer possible.
On the other hand, the body of human knowledge is one. There must be communication within that body, between the specialists and between the disciplines. Nature is not divided into disciplines, nor are the problems that are facing us. Some examples:


Scientists are often being accused of lacking ethical standards. Some expect them to evaluate the ethical dimensions of their discoveries before they even start their research. Physicists are physicists and geneticists are geneticists; they are not ethicists. If they try to be, they end up being dilettants. Yet, the implications of the ethical aspects of modern scientific discoveries are enormous and they need to be discussed with real ethicists - who, on their part, need to know what it is all about.