From my experience in industry and in academia, the issue is very much alive. The illustration by Matt Collins is from a column by Lawrence Kraus in the 07/29/2009 Scientific American, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Snow’s Rede Lecture. His column can easily be applied to the present election campaigns. I am personally a believer in Snow's thesis, and since I enjoy both of these cultures, I have been often frustrated by people’s tendency to join one and criticize the other.
The outlooks of both cultures are necessary to secure high product quality. In a classic article entitled Competing on the Eight Dimensions of Quality in the November 1987 Harvard Business Review, David Garvin discussed the topic of product quality, and then listed the following necessary elements— Performance, Features, Reliability, Conformance, Durability, Serviceability, Aesthetics, and Perceived Quality. This was a time when U.S. industry had spent great effort on, and achieved great success in radically improving the quality of its products, spurred on by Japanese competition and the realization that improved quality led not only to added value, but decreased costs.
But although recognizing the importance of the final two elements, Garver did not emphasize them as hard as the others, because as he explained, he felt that judgment was not as universal in the case of aesthetics, and intangibles, such as advertising and brand names, influenced the customer"s perception of quality. The first six of his topics are easier to quantify, and be handled in a more scientific way (measured), but aesthetics and perceived quality certainly play a large role in the decision process of the consumer.
When I wrote my Good Products Bad Products Book I suggested a number of elements that were perhaps more on the humanistic side than the scientific—perception of performance and cost, human fit, craftsmanship, overall emotional impact, aesthetics, elegance and sophistication, symbolism and cultural fit, and finally consistency with global limits ( a topic both scientific and humanistic). I did so because I felt that they received less attention than they deserved in Industry, compared with the first six listed by David Garvin.
Although both scientific (if you would technical and quantitative) thinking and humanistic thinking are required for high product quality, continual effort is necessary to cause such a thing to happen. Even in the relatively large design activity in the Stanford Engineering school, where my office is located and where everyone would probably claim they support the merging of Snow’s two cultures, a walk around shows local areas where the white boards are covered with equations, and others where they are covered with sketches and post-it notes—not many with both. Much of the university, like much of the world, seems to tend to divide over mathematics. A few years ago, the Stanford Anthropology Department actually formally split into those who worshipped such things as probability and statistics, and those who did not. Fortunately, it has now been put back together, and can resume arguing about which of two equally necessary approaches is more important.
In many companies with which I am familiar, the split is even more apparent.