With the passage of time, Snow's point has become outdated as science and technology have increased in importance, while an education in the classics is seen as quaint and effete more often than as the essential mark of a gentleman. However, it seems to me that there is a new dichotomy to which attention needs to be drawn. I'm going to call the two sides "evidence-based" versus "agenda-based".
Science and mathematics are the primary examples of evidence-based academic disciplines. If you're going to put forward a hypothesis in these fields, you'd better have evidence to back it up. That evidence takes the form of theory and observation in science, and deductions from the axioms of formal systems in mathematics, computer science and some philosophy. Medicine is starting to embrace the evidence-based approach, and in law, there has always been an expectation that you will use "evidence" such as precedent, legislation and the constitution to make your case.
I'm sure it's possible to take an evidence-based analysis in the humanities also, for example by using textual analysis to support your interpretation of a poem, say. But the humanities seems to be the home of an alternative approach which I call agenda-driven. This is precisely the reverse approach; you start with a conclusion based on your agenda, and instead of looking for evidence to support it, you then interpret the world through the lens of your chosen agenda.
Whether it's radical feminism, critical race theory, cultural Marxism or whatever, the MO is the same. You start by assuming that the whole of society is misogynistic, racist etc., and you are required to see the world through the filter of this unquestionable assumption. Everything you see is taken as evidence to strengthen your initial assumption; nothing can possibly weaken it.
In this respect (and many others), agenda-driven studies have far more in common with religion than they do with science. What's more, there seems to be an increasing tendency to denounce the evidence-based approach as masculine, exclusive and oppressive, while agenda-driven approaches are declared to be more inclusive and social-justicey, and more aligned with the "feminine energy" - and other such gobbledygook.
If you doubt me, check out:
- Newton's Principia = Newton's Rape Manual
- "E=mc2 is a sexed equation because it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us."
- Scientists haven't solved the Navier-Stokes equations of fluid mechanics because fluids are icky and feminine. Nothing to do with the fact that NS is a nonlinear parabolic-hyperbolic set of equations that cannot be solved in closed form.
In a subsequent post I plan to address the essential difference between science and religion. There is a reason why scientific knowledge has increased explosively in the last few centuries, while theologians are basically restating the assertions of Thomas Aquinas 800 years later, and still haven't decided whether the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and Son or the Father alone, the burning question which split Christianity into Eastern and Western factions long ago.
Feminists often bemoan the shortage of women in STEM fields, yet at the same time, the more extreme seek to emasculate science and turn it into a religion in the name of gender uniformity. How is that supposed to be empowering?