Category Archives: C. P. Snow

Science Is the Refusal To Believe on the Basis of Hope

C. P. Snow? Carrie Snow? Barrington Moore Jr.?

Dear Quote Investigator: Scientific theories should be constructed from carefully gathered facts and data. The empirical process requires the subordination of credulous wishes and desires. Succinctly stated:

Science is the refusal to believe on the basis of hope.

This statement has been ascribed to C. P. Snow (Charles Percy Snow) who famously spoke about the divide between the sciences and the humanities in his lecture on “The Two Cultures”. The comedian Carrie Snow has also received credit as has the American sociologist Barrington Moore Jr. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI believes that the ascriptions to C. P. Snow and Carrie Snow are mistaken, and QI will present conjectures about what caused these fallacious linkages.

The earliest instance known to QI appeared in an essay with a 1965 copyright date titled “Tolerance and the Scientific Outlook” by Barrington Moore Jr. The following excerpt mentioned C. P Snow, but did not credit him with the expression: 1

To pose the issue in terms of Sir Charles Snow’s “two cultures” seems to me to miss the main point, since both technicist science and academic humanism seem to me fundamentally similar ways of dodging the big problems and encapsulating the intellect in a cocoon of professional esteem. The conception of science used here will be a broad one: whatever is established by sound reasoning and evidence may belong to science. Insights from literature and philosophy become part of science as they become established. Their gropings and explorations are part of the whole rational enterprise. Only when such thinkers refuse to submit themselves to verification do they separate themselves from science. For the essence of science, I would suggest, is simply the refusal to believe on the basis of hope.

The phrase “I would suggest” signaled that Moore crafted the quotation under examination. The phrasing has been streamlined over time.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1969, A Critique of Pure Tolerance by Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, Essay: Tolerance and the Scientific Outlook by Barrington Moore Jr., Essay Copyright 1965, Start Page 53, Quote Page 55, Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified with scans)