Context : OnScience


I'd say science and art are separate because they have different aims,

different methods and different criteria for success. Truth and Beauty

aren't the same thing (pace Keats)

There's lots of overlap. You need to be creative to do both. Some theories

are beautiful. Some artistic works are true. Some scientists use aesthetic

judgement to guide their intuition. Some artists do genuine scientific

research as part of their art-making.

But these don't hold consistently. Some theories are true but not

beautiful. Some artistic works assert nothing and are neither true nor

false. Some are just false, but attractive fantasies. Some scientists have

no aesthetic sense. And many artists do nothing scientific.

In fact there is only kind of output from science : thoeries. Art has many

types of output (often at the same time) : objects like paintings and

sculptures, abstract objects like texts and musical scores, mass produced

objects like prints and recording; emotional objcts like experiences (both

in the mind of the artists and the audience) and sometimes knowledge about

the world or interesting conceptual assertions.

Well... It seems that we might have different axioms here. I think we both agree that science and art are manifestations of human creativity. I think they are also interdependant. If one takes a journey towards purity, then offcourse, differences emerge. The question is, what are the qualities of these differences, i.e. what do they mean. Some people may argue the people come in different speiceies, and that it means a constant conflict - some might see the same thing and think it means constant learning... As with humans, I fail to see the differences more than these of different ways towards a common goal. Because of this common goal, people do get enriched by one another. This enrichment comes in different ways, but valid all the same. That is true in the case of choice between bricks, steel, wood, cement etc. as materials for buildings, or indeed for sculptures. Or the cultural environment which provides for considering and testing what might have seemed unthinkable.. (enter europe between 2 world wars..)

But I urge you to look at simpler elements than outcomes of things. Look at language, the way we talk... We do not seperate in our thinking the science and the art of it - we think and talk. We learn how to talk in different situations, with different people. We play with linguistic theories, we learn and invent for ourselves an individual lingo. Sure we can look at it from scientific eyes and ask if ways we say hold true over time. We can look at it and ask whether or not they provide ways for others to interact with... But essentially, I think we could not speak had we constantly had to categorise our language in terms of areas of human endeavours.

Yes.. I am saying "go with it".. Whatever that "it" is... If it's "science" or "art" or "technology" or "cooking" - does it really matter unless one tries to sell their stuff for funds etc..? Can a society live well if each interest group in it is divided from the other and when they do "meet" all they talk and produce is around that "difference"? Does it not sound like a vinyl with a very visible scratch?

– Aharon

At the risk of a). trying to capture the discussion in an analogy necessarily-biased towards one side of the discussion, and b). sounding like a ponce, I'd like to compare all this to a colour, or hue chart. Think Photoshop, or Gimp, or a palette, or whatever, so long as it has two important qualities:

  1. Extremes of colours (e.g. all red, all blue, white, black)
  1. The smooth graduation between these colours.

This palette, then, is our "domain". Call it life, knowledge, consciousness, whatever you like. "Science" occupies an area of this palette, while art occupies another, just as we what we define as "red" or "blue" is actually an entire area of hues with no definable edge. "Red" and "Blue" themselves can intermingle, blur, just in the same way that "science" and "art" can. There are differences between the extremes, but there are also places where the two are practically the same thing.

Question is, what are represented by all the other colours? How about Eastern science, meditation, philosophy, all the fields that are neither really "art" nor "science"? How about "light" and "dark" groupings?

I should stop taking drugs now.


I'd like to know why you all find it so intuitive that there isn't a hard distinction. Look, I can go to the supermarket to buy bread, or I can go to buy meat. In both cases I do most of the same things : I put on my shoes, I walk to the supermarket, I find stuff on the shelves, I put it in my basket, I take it to the checkout, I pay money for it, I take it home. These activities are almost identical. But this doesn't mean that meat is bread. They're totally distinct things. And "bread shopping" doesn't blend into "meat shopping" (although sometimes I may do both in one trip).

The deliverables from art and science are two equally distinct thing. Science delivers theories about the world. Art delivers things. (Although sometimes virtual things)


Sure. You can argue that bread shopping is not like meat shopping, and you can take it further and argue that car shopping has nothing to do with neither meat nor bread shopping. However, it can be equally argued that in the 1st instance it is food shopping, the 2nd its shopping and has to do with consumerism, and that you had to shop for food to enable car shopping. I really do not think these questions are interesting as an argument, though they are all valid. The question is how such questions effect life.

There are consequences for separation, just like gender, "ethnic" and "cultural" based divides - so is the case with endeavours. More so when these are creative endeavours which by their nature thrive upon interactivity and inter relations rather than strict borders. In a way, and you might not like this metaphor, the situation we have now is like a fascistic regime governing our creative endeavours. Indeed much of the kitch (and not in a positive way) that comes in sci-art works, is remarkably akin to the kind of works the nazis chose to highlight. This is in terms of misunderstanding of materials, procedures, un imaginative metaphors and language which makes basic tokenish points...

Regarding theories, check . . Some of Beuys's works were simply theories...

— aharon

I was, for some reason, thinking about what art and science were on the walk back from work today. I get a lot of things thought about then. I'm not sure that I can remember it all, but I'll comment here a bit...

Picking up on Phil's comment, "Science delivers theories about the world. Art delivers things." which I just read...

I realised today that one of the differences between Art and Science, at least in an academic sense, is how you produce a desired result. A scientific result comes from measurement, theoreticising, and (maybe most of all) producing something that is consistent and reproducible by others. It is about being able to work out what will work, what will happen, given a particular circumstance. Art, on the other hand, is a much more "personal" analysis. There is nothing to say that a particular approach will always be a correct approach, whether it be regarding a painting, photo, or an essay. Indeed, this is not even a simple "progress" problem - if 2 people were to produce the exact same painting, independently, then it is probable that each would be received differently according to both the person inspecting each, and (importantly) the circumstances of the person producing it.

However, that is not to say that the two are mutually exclusive. We seem to be agreed that a particular theory, or scientific solution, may hold to be beautiful in the eyes of some. Similarly, 'technical' ideas such as the golden ratio show that a scientific view can be taken of artistic works. Much of this lies more in psychological sectors, as we know it.

I think I need to adapt my "hue" analogy (above) a little. It is not sufficient to say that art and science are extremes of a spectrum. Rather, it is better to see art and science as, say, the bass and treble aspects of a sound wave. Any particular object or notion will, dependent on both it and the observer, contain particular 'amounts' of both artistic and scientific merit. The observer is, IMHO, the more important of the couple, in general.

So what is the point of all this? What effect does it have on us, as observers/objects?

I don't think that we necessarily change the object we are observing according to how we see it. I can spend my lifetime studying the technical aspects of the art masterpieces and determining precisely what makes them so great, but so long as I accept that part of their grandeur is their history and their origins, it still takes a very specific, very human set of circumstances in order to create an original masterpiece. Similarly, a handful of artistically-heavy pieces may be able to give me fresh perspectives that even a thousand technically-proven systems cannot.

What does matter is how we see the world, and interpret our environment. Understanding how a tree works does not necessarily help me to appreciate the tree's function. I think that we need a happy medium between the two, although in terms of a general sense of wellbeing, I tend towards a greater emphasis on the artistic side of things, perhaps because it makes more sense to live in a world, rather than just understand it. Unfortunately, I think we are heading away from this, and towards a much more scientifically influenced world, the danger being that we come under the false allusion that somehow science == progress.

Hmmm, does that help some?

Think that was me, that last rant. Anyway. I think I've come ronud full circle on this one, to agree with Phil's very fisrt comment:

I'd say science and art are separate because they have different aims

Yes, the intent is key. Art cannot be proven. Any "artistic quality" of a scientific theory is merely a side-effect. One sets out to be qualitatively and emotionally assessed, while the other sets out to be absolute amongst humans.

That's not to say they're distinctly separate. After all, they both emerge from the same place.