Why Art And Science Are More Closely Related Than You Think
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Has an art ever become a science? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Answer by Dave Featherstone, Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, on Quora:
Science = art. They are the same thing.
Both science and art are human attempts to understand and describe the world around us. The subjects and methods have different traditions, and the intended audiences are different, but I think the motivations and goals are fundamentally the same.
I think one of the most primitive innate needs of humans is to understand the world around us, and then share that understanding.
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We need to understand because we are terrified by things that are unpredictable, that don’t make sense. I don’t care how crazy you say you are, how much you think you like adventure. Unpredictability and senselessness are stressful. They drive people to suicide. It happens in war. It happens as a result of neurological diseases like schizophrenia. Scary movies are all about unpredictability and things that just cannot be real. We crave order. We crave predictability.
We share because we are social creatures. The success and failure of others is meaningful. We are bound up in this world together. All in the same boat, so to speak. Thus, when we have information, we like to share it. Even if it’s trivial. Who doesn’t gossip? Who doesn’t like to be the bearer of news? Who doesn’t like to show off some new insight? Everyone loves to talk about themselves, share their viewpoint, make their opinion heard. Quora and Facebook and telephones and books and movies are all about sharing our points of view and seeing the world through another’s eyes and experiences.
At this point, I could make up some evolutionary ‘just so story’ about how sharing our perceptions with others made us successful as a species. And you would like it, because it would make sense. And you would like it because I shared it. And we would all feel good about it, even though it’s complete nonsense that I just pulled out of my ass.
So … does that make it science or art?
It doesn’t matter. Both artists and scientists strive to see the world in new ways, and to communicate that vision. **
When they are successful, the rest of us suddenly ‘see’ the world differently. Our ‘truth’ is fundamentally changed.
Both scientists and artists with nothing new to reveal are failures. Scientists and artists who cannot communicate their insights are failures. It takes both skills to make a successful scientist or artist. Scientists who can communicate but have nothing new to say are frauds and hype-sters. Artists with new views of the world but who cannot communicate them effectively are crackpot fringies.
Scientists tend to struggle more gaining the new insights. Artists tend to struggle more with the communication. Both often work hard to gain the background and skills that will help them be successful. That’s why there are prestigious schools of science and art.
Scientists do experiments over and over and over, trying to pin down some new aspect of reality. Once they have their new understanding, there are pre-arranged traditional modes of communication that make that part easier.
Artists often start with the new vision, then work through ‘periods’ in which they explore how best to get the message across. They have shows. They seek feedback to help them understand what works.
Artists and scientists often need to invent new concepts and technologies to accomplish their goals.
Both science and art have useful spin-offs. Applied science is technology. Applied art is decoration. Technology and decoration are applications of science and art for practical purposes. Technology and decoration make life easier. But they don’t change how we fundamentally perceive what is around us. Science and art do.
Art = science.
** I used visual art analogies, but I think this is true for any art medium, including music, written word, spoke word, dance, mathematics, and cooking.
This question originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:
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