- Critical Thought | TV
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Night & Day. Up & Down. Before & After.
Art & Science.
You get the idea. Aside from the increasing melding of science, technology and art – such as the transmodern molecular modeling-based art forms created by Shane Hope – Art and Science are often viewed as being different in so many ways that they appear essentially unrelated. Art is often seen as creative, intuitive, expressive, sensual, experiential, and emotional; Science, as methodical, logical, explicative, intellectual, cognitive, and rational.
Nevertheless, appearances can be deceiving – and a deeper ontological question remains: Are Art and Science related, and if so, how?
Alas, there’s a catch: The question is not quite right. We need to ask not how, but where. And to that question, there is an answer: In the human brain.
Enter consilience – defined as the linking together of principles from different disciplines, especially when forming a comprehensive theory – seeks to formulate a unified theory of knowledge. Although first used in 1840 to describe a feature of observational induction by William Whewell in The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, the term was popularized, broadened to include all arts, science and humanities, and – most importantly – given a foundation in neuroscience by biologist Edward O. Wilson in his 1998 book, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge.
But wait – there’s more! In addition to Wilson’s pronouncement of neurobiological primacy, studies of brain activity using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans show that the same areas are active (they “light up,” so to speak) when subjects engage in a wide range of activities – listening to music, constructing a mathematical proof, viewing a painting, writing poetry, discovering a scientific principle – that they find pleasurable.
In other words, Art and Science meet in sentiment, which occurs in well-defined areas of the brain. And for Wilson, “…science explains feeling, while art transmits it” (p.127) – but even more fundamentally, “the common property of science and art is the transmission of information…and…the respective modes of transmission in science and art can be made logically equivalent” (p.128).
There you have it.
Art & Science. The same, only different.
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