Via John Hawks, here's an interesting interview with writer John McPhee, known to many for his long-form explorations (and explanations) of geology.
When he starting doing that in the New Yorker, though, editor Wallace Shawn told him to go ahead, although he warned him that "readers will rebel". And that they did - McPhee says that he got extremely polarized feedback from those pieces: loved them, loathed them. His explanation?
Two cultures. There are some people whose cast of mind admits that sort of stuff, and there are others who are just paralyzed by it at the outset, no matter how crafty the writing might be. A really nice thing that happens is when people say, I never thought I’d be interested in that subject until I read your piece. These letters come about geology too, but there are some people who just aren’t going to read it at all. Some lawyer in Boston sent me a letter—this man, this adult, had gone to the trouble to write in great big letters: stop writing about geology. And it’s on the letterhead of a law firm in Boston. I did not write back and say, One thing this country could very much use is one less lawyer. Why don’t you stop doing law?
Good point! But I know what he's talking about. I remember William Rusher, who used to publish National Review, writing about how he had to tell a colleague that "there is no concept so simple that I can fail to understand it when presented as a graph". That made me feel the two cultures divide, for sure. But it's perhaps not as stark as the classic C. P. Snow formulation: there are plenty of scientists who appreciate literature and the arts, and (as McPhee notes), there are plenty of people who know more about the humanities who find that they enjoy scientific topics once they're exposed to them.
My two cultures, then are the people who can appreciate science and the arts, versus the people who can appreciate only one of the two. (I'm leaving aside people who can't appreciate either one). So there are one-mode-only folks like the lawyer who wrote above (or William Rusher), and the corresponding scientists and engineers who might never pick up a book or appreciate a painting. And it may just be my own prejudices speaking, but I think that there are more one-mode-onlies who fit that first description, and that actually does take us back to a famous quote from C. P. Snow:
A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?
Right he was, and is. If you (scientist or literary type), are up for an in-depth discussion on the Second Law, with reference to Shakespeare and much else, try this by Frank Lambert, who's put a lot of thought into the subject.