Tanner Lectures take up question of ‘two cultures’

April 4, 2012

Lisa Jardine, the Centenary Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, will deliver the 2012 Tanner Lectures on Human Values at the Whitney Humanities Center (WHC), 53 Wall St., April 11–12.

Jointly titled “The Two Cultures: Still Under Consideration,” the lectures reference the provocative 1959 pronouncement by British scientist and novelist C.P. Snow (1905–1980) that “the intellectual life of the whole of western society” was being split between two cultures: sciences and the humanities.

“In 1959 C. P. Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’ lecture started a firestorm of debate about the relative merits of the sciences and humanities within the western educational system,” comments Jardine. “In these lectures I shall argue that the force of Snow’s argument, and that of contemporaries including Jacob Bronowski (my father), became lost behind the shrill voices of intransigent opponents. …”

The first lecture, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: C.P. Snow and J. Bronowski,” will be on Wednesday, April 11; the second, “Science and Government: C.P. Snow and the Corridors of Power,” will be on Thursday, April 12. Both will take place at 5 p.m. On Friday, April 13, a group of prominent scientists and humanists will gather to consider further if and how the two “cultures” can engage with each other. The panel discussion — “Why Should Scientists and Humanists Talk to Each Other Anyway?” — will take place at 10:30 a.m.

Joining for the April 13 panel discussion will be three Yale scholars: Tamar Szabo Gendler, professor of philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science; Daniel Kevles, the Stanley Woodward Professor of History and professor of history of medicine, American studies, and law; Eric Dufresne, the John J. Lee Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, with joint appointments in the Departments of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Physics, and Cell Biology. David Marshall Miller, who teaches in the philosophy and history departments at Duke University, will moderate.

Free and open to the public, all the Tanner events will take place in the WHC auditorium.

Jardine’s career exemplifies her commitment to sustaining meaningful dialogue between scientists and humanists. A fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an honorary fellow of King’s College and Jesus College, Cambridge, she holds honorary doctorates of letters from the University of St. Andrews, Sheffield Hallam University, and the Open University, as well as an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Aberdeen. She is a trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum and has served as chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the U.K. government regulator for assisted reproduction. In 2013-14 she will serve as President of the British Science Association.

Among the titles in Jardine’s extensive bibliography are “Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance” and “Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution.” Her most recent work, “Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland’s Glory,” won the prestigious Cundill International Prize in History. Jardine also writes and reviews widely for the media, and appears regularly on arts, history, and current affairs programs for TV and radio. She is a regular presenter of  “A Point of View” on BBC Radio 4.

The Tanner Lectures on Human Values were established by the American scholar, industrialist, and philanthropist Obert Clark Tanner, who hoped that these lectures would contribute to the intellectual and moral life of humankind.  Both lectures and the panel discussion are free and open to the public. For more information contact Susan Stout at 203-432-6556 or susan.stout@yale.edu.

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