Paul Merchant, interviewer for A Changing Planet writes:
This post is addressed to fellow ‘An Oral History of British Science’ interviewer, Tom Lean. In CP Snow’s novel ‘The New Men’ (1954), the central character and narrator, Lewis Elliot, discourses on linked intellectual and political differences between physicists and engineers:
The engineers...the people who make the hardware, who used existing knowledge to make something go, were, in nine cases out of ten, conservatives in politics, acceptant of any regime in which they found themselves, interested in making their machine work, indifferent to long-term social guesses. Whereas the physicists, whose intellectual life was spent in seeking new truths, found it uncongenial to stop seeking when they had a look at society. They were rebellious, questioning, protestant, curious for the future and unable to resist shaping it.’ (p.136-137)
At least two questions follow. Is this distinction between the scientific work of physicists and engineers valid? If so, are these different ways of thinking scientifically expressed in political thought and action?