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Is Science An Art?

  1. Sep 18, 2003 #1


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    Traditionally, it has been maintained that science and art are separate subjects - perhaps even diametrically opposed. But I hypothesise that true scientific endeavour is art in action, and that a good theory is an art form.

    First, what is art?


    1. [n] the creation of beautiful or significant things; "art does not need to be innovative to be good"; "I was never any good at art"; "he said that architecture is the art of wasting space beautifully"
    2. [n] the products of human creativity; works of art collectively; "an art exhibition"; "a fine collection of art"
    3. [n] a superior skill that you can learn by study and practice and observation; "the art of conversation"; "it's quite an art"

    And so art is based on the idea of something developed not for use, but for it's own sake in terms of "beauty".

    A good theory is beautiful. It is simply, yet has meaning to us, implications that unfold. It stimulates us intellectually, opens up new worlds, new ways of thing, and gets us closer to the truth. It harmonises with other ideals, flows onward and excites admiration. Why does a scientist do the work he does? Like an artist, I think it is down for the beauty of the ideas and knowledge itself.

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  3. Sep 18, 2003 #2

    Another God

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    But science is way too practical. It produces results which can be used to make things/change things etc.

    Science is also intrinsically linked with progress. There is a progression from one scienctific theory to the next, each an improvement on the last. New theories absorb old theories, encapsulating them and improving them. Art does not do this.

    (or does it...?)
  4. Sep 19, 2003 #3
    As I see it, some science is art and some isn't. Most of string theory's appeal is in it's elegance and beauty (much like that of Relativity in Einstein's eyes), and thus I believe that this is artistically appreciated (according to your definitions). However, much of what is done in the fields of (for example) Geology or Biology (I'm not cutting down on either field, I like both of them, they are just examples) is completely without artistic value, inspite of it's obvious scientific value.
  5. Sep 19, 2003 #4


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    I think you have sorta answered your own question here... Whenever we talk about an artist, we can usually point to "influences". A scientist can similar point to influences from the art of Newton, Planck, Einstein, Schrodinger, Dirac, Archemides, Aristotle...

    Maybe they are modern art? :wink:
  6. Sep 19, 2003 #5

    Science is the study of nature.

    Art is the study of nature.

    Any questions!?
  7. Sep 20, 2003 #6


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    That begs the question:

    Is ALL the study of nature art?
  8. Sep 20, 2003 #7


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    i think art is a result of nature, science defines nature...
  9. Sep 20, 2003 #8
    Art and science are a result of human nature. (Carl)

    People use art as one way of measuring, mimicing and studying nature.

    People use science as another way of measuring, mimicing and studying nature.

    Art is a word that describes the action of recording,
    reproducing and/or creating a phenomenon.

    Science is a word that describes, basically, the same action.

    It is the methodologies that differ between these two disciplines.

    There will always be an art to science as there will be
    a science to art.
  10. Sep 21, 2003 #9

    I disagree with this definition of "art". FZ+ gave a few definitions in the initial post that I'm a little more comfortable with. The reason I don't much care for calling "art" the action of recording or reproducing or creating phenomena is because, in the minds of most people, there is a difference between people who chop at a rock to produce an image, and people who are actual artists at sculpting (as an example).

    So, if there is something that distinguishes an artist from one who merely reproduces images (whether with pain or by sculpting or through music, etc...), then there must be some dividing line between which sciences (or uses of Science) are "art" and which aren't.
  11. Sep 21, 2003 #10
    All you have distinguished in your statement is the difference between bad art and good art. And, since this is a philosophy thread, good art and bad art and what determines them can be debated till the baited breath has abated.

    Its a similar dilema with science. There are scientists who will take a few minutes to decide on a theory, then listen to no one concerning their findings...

    and there are scientists who will take years to correctly and accurately represent what it is they have found in nature that warrents them spending time on a theory. Since this is a philosophy thread even these two approaches can be debated till the cows come home as to which method will sustain and hold up under criticisms best.
  12. Sep 22, 2003 #11
    Not really, in fact I don't think such a thing as "bad art" can exist, since (at the very least) in the mind of the artist it is "good".

    I think I already mentioned my example of the difference between science that is art and science that is not, namely: General Relativity (and it's newest off-spring, M-Theory) was recognized by it's creator (Einstein) merely for it's beauty and elegance. Thus, Relativity is artistic science. However, Quantum Theory (for example) is not in anyway "elegant" or "beautiful", and was recognized only for it's ability to predict the behavior of subatomic particles. Thus QT is not artistic science.

    What do you think of this distinction?
  13. Sep 22, 2003 #12
    "elegant" and "beautiful" are subjective terms that ascribe certain types of values to certain types of phenomena (such as theories). To some people QT is a high art form. I don't think you've made your point yet.
  14. Sep 22, 2003 #13
    Mentat seems to have hit it the closest, my opinion only, inasmuch as he recognizes in Art, an 'Artist', whereas in Science, No 'Artist' is recognized.

    Further to that is the Simplicity that Science work(s) are meant to be reproducable, to everyone who follows the same pathway of experimentation, whereas in Art, that simply is not the case, as Art is to be considered 'unique' to that Artist. (yes I know, it is reproducable, but isn't meant to be, and is NOT considered "original", "New" is what Science uses)

    I find the mention of geology interseting as I had previously (somewheres else, other then PF) used the idea of the view of the Rockies Mountains, that I had from my backyard in Calgary, as an example of sensible/palpable art, (you can feel the beauty) as the Beauty of them is undeniable, (even though you know what you look at is simply SOLID ROCK) and it was later pointed out that the same kind of beauty can be found in them right up close, the faucets of the rock crystals themselves, their arrangements and the beauty of the reflective nature of the surfaces.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2003
  15. Sep 22, 2003 #14


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    Mr Parson: So you would put art as a matter of uniqueness? But isn't it true that each person develops an unique understanding of a theory, and so though they may arrive at the same effect, the road they travel is different. They see the world differently.

    But my idea of art is as a matter of intention - art is something made with the intention not to be useful, but to be beautiful. And in science and art, beauty is synomous to a major part with truth - if only the truth in the way we see something. I think science to a degree at least qualifies.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2003
  16. Sep 22, 2003 #15
    FZ+my good man... I beg to differ on one point... the intention of art is to explore nature. There is nothing beautiful about Goya's men being torn apart by a giant or Munch's screaming maniac on the bridge... yet they fetch our attention and great monitary value while at the same time stimulating an understanding about the times during which these artists lived.

    The intention of art is that Art serves as a vent, a record, entertainment and even healing if you believe colour/art therapists. Each individual artist offers a new intention with their work... as does any professional in any profession.

    Otherwise, I agree that an exploration of the truth surrounding a matter is inherent in both disciplines, art and science... and, as I've stipulated... the more detailed the science gets in a society... the more detailed the art of the same society becomes and VISA VERSA.

    It is more often that not, over history, that science preceeds art. Art feeds off the discouveries and inventions of Science.

    This may continue for a time. Yet, philosophy, like art, can also tend to lead science into newer realms to explore. But, and I say but... who's to say what came first... the chicken or the egg?

    I am inclined to say that it is the inquisitive and scientific mind that brought into being most of what we call art, today.

    Everyone sees an emotional puddle of goo when they think of an artist. Yet, when you really think about it... the artist is studying the emotion... in many cases... not living them... but observing and utilizing them to communicate a state or condition.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2003
  17. Sep 23, 2003 #16
    Humm, how's about Eintstein's description of the Universe is an art form, in it's own right, but Einstein himself is NOT the artist, but merely the person describing the Art that he observes.

    When I do a painting, I am the Artist. the only real difference here is the manner of presentation of description, Einstein using language, and myself using color on canvas.

    Einstein is not allowed any license in his art form, I am allowed all of the license I would like to induge in, AND, am encouraged, (in certain art forms) to expand well past accurate description into the realm of interpretive, with accolades if it is done well. Einstein is clearly very restricted compared to what I, as a painter, am/can do(ing).

    I would agree that there is art in science, and that some forms of Science are clearly Art. Replication of observation of the interior of a human body comes to mind, and I have seen some clearly excellant examples of that kind of work.

    They meld, I suspect, and dividing them back separate is what poses some dilema.

    (lemme think on it some more.......Please)
  18. Oct 2, 2003 #17

    There is an equivocation involving the use of the word ART here. As well, there has been a drift in the meaning of both the words ART and SCIENCE for many centuries.
    To a person of modern times SCIENCE refers to a large discipline of enquiry. To someone of the past science referred to the aquired knowledge within an area of study. SCIENCE was passive while ART, being a skill or skills acquired from long experience was active.
    Today, the discipline of science is very much an art. It is not just something one knows but something one DOES. In SPARKS OF GENIUS, Robert Scott Root-Bernstein looks at about a dozen aspects of the art of science.
    Quantumcarl sums it up quite well.
  19. Oct 3, 2003 #18
    Do you mean with this?

    Because if it is that writing, well, he misses one of the most important differentiations between Art and Science, the oblique right of an artist to lie (outrightly, and known to be that!) in their presentation of a work. As in a completley imaginary landscape scene that has absolutely no comport in reality, can still garner attention, accreditation, and be seen as meritorious.

    NO scientist is permitted to hold to any "lie" that cannot be found as properly representing some aspect of reality, with, in this case only the use of the word "lie" being quoted as meaning an unrealized lie sometimes known as "The currently known truth" until Proven otherwise.
  20. Oct 3, 2003 #19


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    But the action of his theory is in itself an art - an artistic representation of another artwork, perhaps. The same with your painting, as the world you paint is the same world Einstein paints with his equations - true to the way you and he sees it.

    Let me use a loophole. In my opinion, using artistic license, going into the interpretive is still a description - but not of what comes in your eyes but of the way your mind conceives it. It is still truth to you.

    It can be argued that what we see of the world can only be through our subjective perception - thus, both the artist and Einstein are both truthful - but one of them represents a truth that the shared by the many, instead of the one.
  21. Oct 4, 2003 #20
    That stated, what I can represent, as an artist, is permitted to be an existent lie, a Scientist is restricted from using that, or claiming it as "his art" as/of/in origin, "I" (under my "name") am still permitted to claim it as mine, 'AaaaaaND! to be rewarded with recognition/fame/acclaim/noteworthyness/notoriety/(But NOT)Notoriousness{Unless I like killed someone, or something like that, UGH! wrong reasons!) for it.
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