Scientific Arts

Science and art are two different worlds. Science is cold, distant, steady, and unemotional. Art is fickle, wild, unscheduled, and unpredictable.

Or is it the other way around?Quintus_Horatius_Flaccus

In the west, in America, we have placed science and art in separate, distinct buckets. But anyone who knows the process of scientific discovery — the developing of methodologies, the analyzing of data, the guessing as to causes, the evaluating of peer’s work — knows the process has elements of art. Scientific discovery requires creativity. The scientist does not blaze a new path using a map. The scientist, the discoverer, writes the map.

And at the same time, art is not without its known processes. Comedic timing, plot development, hero structures, linguistic tools — writers have the most ancient maps at their disposal. For a clinical look at writing, artists can turn to the ancients or contemporaries; they can ask Horace or Francine Prose about the methods of creation, the weapons for inspiration.

Science pursues truth through objectivity, a futile aim. In the hands of humans, the pursuit of objective truth will always have a hue of politics, a bias — whether deliberate or not — that skews results in small and large ways. We drop the data that does not pass some intangible “smell test”; we do not ask the questions our professors and mentors assured us were already answered; we listen to researchers who agree, and prepare rebuttals for those who do not; we fail to execute due diligence on the work of friends and colleagues.

Art pursues truth through perspective, a futile aim. In the hands of humans, the pursuit of perceived truth offers only an incomplete glimpse. The photograph does not translate the sounds; the video does not smell like the trees, wind, and fire; the painting has changed the colors to a near facsimile; and each medium hopes to capture just enough so the core message survives.

Art can be studiously created — it can also be nascent and haphazard, a lightning strike of perfection. Scientific discovery can be a product of careful research, and it can be a Petri dish left unattended at just the right time and place. Art can be a science, and science an art.

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