By Michael Edmonds 27/08/2014 14


“Science is more Creative than Arts”

This was the proposition of the debate that I took part in today as part of CPIT’s Research Month. As you might have guessed I was a member of the affirmative team.

It was an interesting experience and very popular – the room we used was filled to capacity. The opposing team won at the end of the day due to both the skill of the team, and the fact that the audience seemed to be made up of a large number of Arts students.*

I’ve recreated most of my 5 minutes of the debate below, but first I want to discuss some of the (sometimes frustrating) arguments our opponents used. First, because I used some notes, this was pointed out as demonstrating a lack of creativity, ignoring the fact I had indeed taken the time to create what I thought was a reasonable and creative argument. After all, I stated during my rebuttal – would Shakespeare and Keats have been better if they had ad libbed their work?

For one of our opponents creativity is synonymous with spontaneity, which I believe is incorrect. Our other opponents pointed to the scientific method and processes such as double blind experiments as lacking creativity. I tried to point out that these are only parts of science, and that the creativity comes in both the initials stages and the practice of science, however this argument didn’t seem to register. One example I gave, was of a NZ chemist who shocked her rather proper English supervisor by using condoms as gas containment vessels when the balloons normally used in the lab became unavailable.

It was also suggested that science only looked at things for which we already know or have predetermined the answer. This I found really frustrating. Indeed later in the debate our opposition started using creativity and the Arts also interchangeably, indicating I think the underlying problem – many of those in the Arts only see what they do as creative and science is about rules and the scientific method and confirming what we already know.

As I said, it was a very interesting experience and informative, in that I did not realise how restrictive an interpretation some people hold of science.

* It is interesting that this sort of event attracted far more Arts students than Science students. Are Arts students more interested in ideas, and perhaps science students just like to “get on with it”?

 

Anyway my 5 minutes introduction to the debate is as follows.

 

Science is more Creative than Arts

Today we are debating the statement that “Science is more creative than Art”. In doing so I’d like to make it clear that we are not debating that Science is better than Art, for both enrich our lives in many meaningful ways. Nor are we arguing that Art is not creative for it would surely be a great folly to do so. What we will be arguing today is that overall Science is more creative than Art.

In order to make this argument, we first need to understand what creativity is. In this debate I refer to the definition

“the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness” Oxford dictionary

“the ability to make new things or think of new ideas” Merriam Webster dictionary

With these definitions in mind, how do we decide whether science or art is the more creative?

I would put it to you that there are three questions that can help us decide.

1)    Which area has produced the most imaginative ideas?

2)    Which area has created the most new things?

3)    Which area produces new ideas and things under the more challenging conditions? Because surely creativity is greater when it is being used to solve problems and when it has to work within certain limiting parameters?

I believe the answer to all three of these questions is science.

 

I’m going to begin by addressing the last question first. I believe science has to be more creative because its very nature means it works within more restrictive parameters.

To demonstrate this I will draw on my experiences as an organic chemist, an area which has allowed the creation of literally millions of new substances. Part of my research involved creating this previously non-existent molecule here.

myfluoromoleculeblack

 

 

In some ways the creation of new molecules resembles the construction of a sculpture by an artist, however, it comes with complications – making a new molecule does not simply involve joining one atom to another, in the way an artist might assemble a sculpture piece by piece. Rather it involves taking molecules which already exist and modifying them, breaking them apart and joining bits back together under specific conditions to assemble the molecule I wanted. To create this molecule it took 2 years of solid lab work and required creating brand new techniques in chemistry.

I would argue that because of the challenges and time involved my molecular sculpting, it requires more creativity to achieve, than an artistic sculpture.

Now let us consider my second point – which area has created the most new things? Consider the room around us and objects it contains – science has helped create all of these things. From the production of the various metals, plastics, glass and even the wood products to the ideas that have allowed us to understand and harness the conversion of electricity to light and sound, the nature of gravity, and even the psychology of giving presentations – science has made the their creation possible.

Given the different natures of art and science, what would be a fair comparison of their relative creativity? Perhaps by giving each the same materials and seeing who came up with the most impressive idea or thing.

Take for example aluminium, plastics, gold and ceramics. What might art construct with these materials?


imageAl

imagesceramic
2dy  imagesgold

 

What about science?

 

090715-moon-landing-apollo-facts_big

 

Science has created and used these materials in arguably humankind’s greatest imaginative effort – to free us from Earth’s gravity, and propel an adventurous few across space, to stand on another world.

This great scientific achievement relied on the creation of hundreds of new materials, as well as the creation of ideas and concepts in astronomy, biology, physics, materials chemistry, psychology and medicine.

Creativity at the heart of the science which in a short few centuries has extended and enhanced our lifespans, enabled us to communicate and travel over great distances, all while, through creative insight, allowing us to understand, utilise and even challenge the laws of the natural world around us.

In conclusion, while I believe science and art greatly enrich our lives, when it comes creativity science is the more creative because it

1)      Has created more ideas and objects

2)      Has created more imaginative ideas

3)      Demonstrates more creativity while under more challenging and restrictive conditions

 

Featured image: Mandelbrot set . Wolfgang Beyer / Wikimedia


14 Responses to “Science is More Creative than Arts”

  • On attendance, perhaps the science students assumed there were no worthwhile points from the arts side and didn’t bother to show up. Was there anything they did well? I tend to tune out on the current science/arts crossovers. More heat than light there I think.

    On blind experiments, also someone had to “create” this method of determining outcomes reliably. It was by no means obvious that this was how things should be done prior the introduction of this technique.

  • Einstein was pretty creative alright, his theory contributing to astrophysics leaves 70% unexplained. Lucky we have alternative theory’s that aren’t quite as creative, being based more on observed facts rather than complex mathematics and speculations.
    The Electric universe there is an alternative to dark matter.

  • Darcy such a hot temper not very scientific
    Excuse me this is an open blog, people need to know there are alternative theory’s to the existing dogma that is out there that leaves so much unexplained.
    This is not hijacking this is public domain.

  • Derek I was pretty patient with you for several years. You proved yourself immune to patient explanation. Thus I’m trying my hand at outright hostility.
    And yes, turning every post to your pet topic is hijacking.

  • Interesting Darcey I didn’t know you felt so strongly about etiquette, freedom of speech is common law, you feel so strongly about etiquette,I feel the same way about new science that is over coming the problem of fossil fuels.
    I am annoyed at the agendas pushed by the media, for example the big bang. What a load of tripe but it is pushed at us like a religion. All based on the red shift and Einstein ” A Catholic priest got it and Einstein applauded and said, “This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.” More creationalist bollocks, I thought science was about thinking independently and analysing the information.
    Halton Arp worked on the red shift and he debunked the big bang but his work was suppressed and he was ostracised, a lot like what has happened to cold fusion proponents.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iE8ODcmd7c
    Now we have this dogma which is force feed to people and it is not scientific at all the way they treat anyone who threatens their views.
    So I am here to educate people as to the alternatives of this Dogma with solutions, what happens when the fuel runs out ? Cold fusion.
    The internet is common property, words are free, the message needs to be heard and if you aren’t going to say it I will. So bring it on.

  • Darcy,
    I’d prefer it if you didn’t use insults on here.

    Derek/electric kiwi – actually blogs aren’t public domain. This is my blog, It takes me time and effort to write what I write, and it is appreciated when the comments section actually contains relevant discussion and comments.
    I choose not to censor the comments but that doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t if necessary.

    I can understands Darcy’s frustration, as no matter what the content is you twist it to fit your beliefs around the “electric universe” which does not really stand up to scrutiny.

    If you are so single minded in your interest, and are incapable of discussing the actual topic of a blog perhaps you should set up your own to extol the virtues of your “electric universe”

  • Michael, I pretty much agree with you (I am after-all a PhD chemist); the planes fly, the computer works, we live much longer and have richer lives than our grandparents… The thing is the arts also enrich our lives and I would make the point that the moon landings were only possible because the vision was planted in our minds by the artists and novelists in the years leading up to the sixties.

    Additionally, I don’t accept that science and art are two separate separate cultures: my two reasons are:

    First because I think the instinct to create is fundamental to our humanity and that the basic creative skills are the same regardless of if the product is sciences side or arts side. Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein develop this idea in their book, “Sparks of Genius: the 13 thinking tools of the worlds most creative people” (1999). Certainly many top scientists are strong amateur artists.

    Second: I think the two culture idea leads to a divide-and-rule approach to education and professional funding that limits support for creative professionals and that ultimately diminishes us. New Zealand has been wise with the development of NCEA; science students can undertake project work following the scientific method; and likewise; artists, engineers, photographers, and designers use appropriate design methodology to develop their skills. Our society is enriched by this. I am also pleased that we are moving on to talk of STEAM fields rather than just STEM. It would seem to me that countries that fail to support the arts are often those that fail to support science too.

    What I am saying is that science and arts are two expressions of a fundamental human need: to be curious, to explore and create. And I am supporting the position that successful societies support their creative people to societies benefit, not one at the expense of the other.

    • Maurice,
      I agree with you completely, as I mentioned in my introduction both science and arts enrich our lives in many meaningful ways. And I agree with you regarding the artificial nature of the two cultures views – unfortunately debates require this sort of separation as part of their format.

  • The debate is a nice exercise whose results are less important than the discussion, sorry I missed it, but I’ll disagree with you. As things go, I have my feet firmly planted in both science and arts domains. (1) Which has created more novel ideas and stuff? I expect all songs ever sung alone out number scientific designs, then add all manner of literature. I wonder how many haikus have been written, or saxophone solos… (2) Which can create more imaginative stuff? Well science is constrained in what it can make by physical, chemical and biological realities. Works of fiction are not constrained in such a way, giving us fanciful jabberwockies and jabbering wookies. (3) Don’t forget haikus. A world in a grain of sand. Restrictive beauty. … Again, science has to follow physical rules which fiction does not. [Daniel]

  • if it wasn’t for music, scientists would not create a music player. if not of films,scientists would not think of creating video player to play it. I will like to say that science started with art .