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 Рdefined as the linking together of principles from different disciplines, especially when forming a comprehensive theory Рseeks 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 Рmost importantly Рgiven 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.

fMRI Brain Scan

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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2 Responses to Art & Science: The Same, Only Different

  1. Craig Mattoli says:

    When I was a child, I would reporduce things that I saw, using tinkertoys, building blocks, or drawings. I also collected horses and riders, and my dad put up a platform on which I could arrange my horses, soldiers, and other things…what people, in art, today, call installations [hate that word and concept]. I was also good at math, but the inductive, not deductive side, as I learned later when I happened to see standard test scores. When I went to college, I majored in physics, math, and linguistics. To me, the models that I made, in mathematical physcis, were an art form, just like sculpture. During physics graduate school, after making some new models in mathematical physics, I discovered the concept of arbitrage, and I went to finance graduate school, wrote a thesis, A Generalized Stochastic Approach to Market Analysis, using the models of physics [much of which financial models have always been since Von Neumann got invloved in the early 1900’s] from quantum field theory, which was the reason that I got interested in arbitrage to begin with.
    When people ask me the connection between physics, art and finance, I say they’re all the same. I am gald that someone else seems to understand. In the end, what we think of is probably limited by our brain’s wiring, on the one hand, and creativity is just variations on a theme…the sun and moon have always been in the sky, seen by man, but it took thousnads of years to finally make them into the wheel.

  2. a thought provoking article.. one i relate to the most…. this seems to have made my doubts and theories clear. thank you!

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