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Not With The Band: Art Versus Science? Really?


Many people have a tendency to oppose science to art, with sentences such as ‘oh you are an artist so you obviously don’t understand anything about science’, or vice versa, ‘you are a scientist so you can’t appreciate art’. I caricature a bit, but I swear I have encountered this dichotomous way of thinking many times. Or people want to hierarchize them, art is better than science or the reverse, and this is obviously ridiculous. For me, the two fields have always been complementary of each other, giving me satisfaction at different levels. As a matter of fact, I would not be able to choose between the two, because they certainly do not fill the exact same function in our lives and do not correspond to the same way of thinking.

Last year, I read this sentence in one of Henry Rollins’ columns for the LA Weekly: ‘Art, in all of its manifestations, is humanity’s greatest hit. Science is cool but not as cool as Coltrane.’ And let me disagree with him, because honestly science can be as cool as it gets. May be I am blessed with a brain which does not exclude one to make room for the other, may be some people are unable to appreciate both at the same time, but I see as much greatness in science than in art. Of course there’s bad science, but there is also bad art so they are equal for this point.

It may be difficult to appreciate both of them because the way of thinking is so different. In science, there is no place for ambiguity, no room for grey areas, you are either right or wrong, whereas art triumphs in this domain, and excels at ambiguity. There is no wrong interpretation of a song for example, it is just what you make of it with you own life experience, although some interpretation, the ones that transcend your own little self, can be better than others. Sometimes, science meets art at this level, several theories are proposed and there is confusion. However, they are not all correct, and eventually one one will survive. Physic is still divided between the theory of general relativity and the theory of quantum mechanics, but scientists don’t like it and are working at finding this magical theory of everything that would unify all theories into a unique one. Science works very hard at organizing the chaos into order whereas it is not the goal of art, which often embraces the chaos and plays with it. So here are two opposite ways to apprehend the world around you, but they are not necessarily incompatible if you know how and when to use them.

Science is important to debunk what is not reality or facts, science works with evidence, but of course, art doesn’t care about that since it is often immersed into the unreal. I am happy to have this scientific part of my brain that tells me when something belongs to the myths, otherwise everything could eventually become reality?

Art and science are both products of human brains, and if they are different in their approach, both are revealing some part of the truth in the human experience. More than anything I would like to kill this idea that scientists are these cold human beings doing experiments, totally out of touch with their feelings, whereas artists are more in touch with their humanity. This is silly because scientific discoveries have been made with as much suffering, sweat and blood than the most significant works of art. Intuition, emotions, and the subconscious mind contribute as much for science discovery as for artistic creativity. As a matter of fact it is wrong to use creativity only for art because Galileo, Einstein, Darwin and tons of others were damn creative human beings. Creativity and intuition bring art and science together, as they are both the results of these strange combination raising from the human brain, ‘The greatest scientists are artists as well’, said Albert Einstein who knew that intuition and inspiration were keys in the scientific discovery. ‘There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws, he also said, ‘There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.’,

It seems that any creative idea comes from an unconscious intuition we have and may be presented to the world according to our ability: ‘If what is seen and experienced is portrayed in the language of logic, then it is science. If it is communicated through forms whose constructions are not accessible to the conscious mind but are recognized intuitively, then it is art’, said Einstein who had definitively understood the strong connection between art and science: ‘If I were not a physicist,’ he also said, ‘I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music…. I get most joy in life out of music’. He was obviously this perfect example of a genius mind who was seeing beyond his own field of work.

Thus, we have to stop with this opposition between art and science, both are interested by the expression of intuitive ideas and feelings, and the rest seems to be in the presentation. One of the two may be more accessible to you, either art or science, but both bring a large contribution into the human experience and Einstein was as cool as Coltrane.

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