SCI-ART LAB

Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

Yes, they are!  It is because the criticism and opinion on art works are mostly based on the perception of the individual who is doing it. It usually is not based on fact and truth. There are no rules to govern "good works" and "bad works"  in art. An artist can do anything he likes. And an art  critic may or may not like the way it is done and just based on his opinion, he can feel and say whether it is good or not. The same methods cannot be applied to science criticism.

I am writing this article because one journalist said he would like to criticize science and scientists just the way he does art and artists. You can read his article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/02/philip-ball-cri...

Any body who wants to criticize science and scientists should first learn fully about the subject and then only go ahead with the criticism. He or she should also have a fair knowledge about science culture. There are certain rules on how you can go about in conducting scientific research which most of the scientists follow. There are peer reviews to see and supervise  whether the procedures followed by scientists in their work are correct or not and whether the results are obtained in the right way or not. Anybody can repeat  scientists' experiments and find out whether he or she can reproduce the same results. In a way scientific research and results have to withstand the tests of time. 

I have seen people criticizing science without knowing any thing about the work and with prejudice just to support their beliefs both religious and personal. Science doesn't accept anything that is not rational and scientists don't accept criticism done with half knowledge. You can get away with anything rubbish with regard to art but you cannot follow the same rules for science.  Science criticism should be based on facts and truth. You cannot use the same yardstick for both. As the saying goes everyone is entitled to have his or her opinions (applies to Art) but not to his or her facts (applies to Science).

Some artists say the ability of art to communicate messages in a visceral, powerful manner that scientists, thus far, have unable to achieve. Scientists, according to him, have a tendency to underplay their predictions and data findings. “If a scientist were to overstate ... that person will acquire a reputation as someone who over-reads data and exaggerates interpretation ... and this casts a doubt on anything and everything they say”. On the other hand, artists can be more hyperbolic without the having to put their reputations at risk. Artists can use the authority of scientific pictorialism to walk a fine line between fact and fiction. Art can almost get away with pushing the envelope more than science. Undoubtedly Scientists would be more cautious while doing their work!

Agreed some scientists are influenced by certain things like politics, pressure by the industry and also personal problems. But these types are rare and there are checks and balances to overcome these type of influences. I don't accept the view that experts don't think about the broader context. They do and do it in a scientific way. I will give a few examples here: In science, nothing is a waste. People -laymen would be an appropriate word here -  say space science is waste. "What will you do by going to a moon? What is the use of finding that moon is a barren land?" It is just ignorance to think space science is a waste. The technology used in space science is being used now in medical field too to save money and lives! And this is a fact.

In fact, our former president, who is a scientist at Defence Research and Development Organization, Mr. APJ Abdul Kalam , collaborated with Care foundation doctors and developed a cost-effective stent using space technology. He also helped Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences doctors in developing low-weight ortho calipers  - prosthetic legs for polio-effected patients and amputees - using space age materials.

It is also being used to improve infrastructure and technologies used in industries. Are we not using satellites for communications and educational purposes?  So according to scientists space science is not a waste.

Some people may wonder about the benefits of finding Higgs Boson and work in Particle Physics spending billions of bucks. In fact Indian President Ms. Pratibha Patil while visiting CERN asked the scientists the same question.

My reply would be: Modern physics has led to tremendous leaps in technology, which have changed our lives. The entire electronics industry - the cell phone, the computer, the television were the products of scientific research in modern day physical laboratories. The World Wide Web was created at CERN! Accelerator science has led to many improvements in medical imaging which saves lives! Without modern physics, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Facebook, iPad, iPhone wouldn't have been born at all! There would be no silicon valley!

A glimpse of the Higgs Boson proves intellectual capabilities of Human Mind! We can understand the basic working of the universe and build hugely complicated machines that can stimulate fundamental physical processes. Is it a waste? Definitely not! And isn't it  an occasion to celebrate?

Here you can find other examples on how science in one field can be useful in other areas of human lives:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/basic-space/2011/11/27/why-the-...

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/basic-space/2012/01/09/how-brai...

Science is knowledge. It can be used one way or the other and nothing in science is ever going to be a waste. When Edison was asked what he had achieved by failing 999 times and only succeeding the 1000th time, he replied: I realized how you cannot make a bulb in 999ways.  That is the spirit of science. Can a common man understand it?

Moreover, people say science cannot solve all the problems and doesn't answer all the questions human minds pose. True! But think about this: This universe started with a Big Bang some 14 Billion years ago. But science is just a few hundred years old. It is still in its infancy. It has to learn a lot, study a lot, think a lot, experiment a lot and then only it can come up with all the answers we are seeking right now. How can you expect a child to solve all the problems of his  ancestors? And answer the questions posed by his great, great, great, great grand fathers? Is it appropriate to even expect such a thing? I don't think so. We should be amazed at how we have been able to get so far in understanding the things in this universe despite our inadequacies! Science is doing its best with the limited resources it has to both answer the questions and solve the problems. As the time goes by, I am pretty sure, it will succeed more and more.

  If you want to criticize science go ahead and do it. If it is true, science has no other go but to accept it (that is the beauty of science!). However, if scientists don't think it has any stuff in it, you have to blame only yourself. Good luck to you!

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Replies to This Discussion

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Fox News and other conservative sites miss the point of basic science.
Basic science projects are periodically singled out by people with political agendas to highlight how government “wastes” taxpayer money on seemingly foolish research. These arguments misrepresent the distinction between and the roles of basic and applied science. Basic science is not aimed at solving an immediate practical problem. Basic science is an integral part of scientific progress, but individual projects may sound meaningless when taken out of context. Basic science often ends up solving problems anyway, but it is just not designed for this purpose. Applied science builds upon basic science, so they are inextricably linked. As an example, Geckskin™ is a new adhesive product with myriad applications developed by my colleagues at the University of Massachusetts. Their work is based on several decades of basic research on gecko locomotion.

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