More on "Third Culture"

John Mcreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Thu, 7 Sep 1995 13:25:48 +0900

Matt Tomaso writes,

"A wide assortment of opinions, most of them justifiable,
have been expressed here regarding the split between
humanism and scientism. While it is clear that most of the
participants feel that there is no primordial or 'essential'
reality to these categories (which, of course, would make
them all the more interesting to Levi-Strauss - but I am not
Levi-Strauss), it is clear to at least two of us (Jeremy and I)
that the boundaries tend to dissolve under various
(probably not strictly economic) conditions."

I agree wholeheartedly with everything Matt says here and
in his other remarks. I observe with interest how many of
us have responded to the initial posting in re "Third
Culture" by addressing what Brockman has to say as a
definitional problem, i.e., how to define the categories
"sciences" and "humanities." This focus has been despite
our often expressed concern for the "social construction" of
meaning and the sensitivity to political nuance to which we

Geiger's noting that America at large has not been hostile
to science helps us to focus more clearly on what Brockman
is talking about. He is writing from the perspective of
someone who has been immersed for
much of his life in the publishing business in New York. As
a literary agent with close connections to this industry he is
struck by the fact that a number of scientists have emerged
who confound our expectations that scientists talk only to
each other and write persuasively on serious issues for the
general public. What is striking is not only that they write
in the way that they do, but the social/business reality that
their books are becoming popular and influential. In
contrast, the "critical theorists" who have shaped recent
thinking in humanities departments have become
increasinglyesoteric. I would hazard a guess that Stephen
Gould (who, like Geiger, I like very much) has at least 10
readers for every one that reads, say, Derrida. Seen in this
light, whether we should model ourselves on one or the
other is of more than intellectual interest. If we wish to
pursue political agendas and must, therefore, speak
persuasively to a wider public than ourselves the
practicalities to which Brockman points become of even
greater concern.

John McCreery