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

Why is it difficult for people of science to be in the same room with artists

Why scientists cannot be on the same wavelength with the artists....

Science-art interactions are bringing people from various fields together. Instead of forging friendships between these people several times these interactions are ending in bitter skirmishes. After interacting with scientists, some artists tried to tease the former group of people and their way of doing things. I myself witnessed these things before my own eyes. I want to bring these things to the notice of both scientists and artists who are into collaborations.

This network has both artists (including writers and poets) and scientists.  It is true that some scientists here complained to me that the behaviour of the artists here 's disturbing. Scientists are usually introverts and want to be left alone. I had to warn the artists not to disturb the scientists making the former sulk.

Recently I had a few very detailed discussions with both scientists and science communicators ( journalists and writers) on why it is difficult for scientists to deal with people outside of their field. I want to put the concerns of these people of science before the artists too.

Science has, at times, accused art of being too imprecise and emotional, of lacking science's high standards of rigour. Art, on the other hand, has dismissed science as cold and dispassionate.

One thing all these people around the world dealing with science related issues told me is - the moment a person thinks he has all the answers, his mind will be closed and it is difficult to deal with closed minds. While for religious people "GOD" is the answer for everything, for artists "I, me and myself" are the answers for everything! ( I know people of religion and artists would now say - for scientists "science" is the answer for everything. But science is an ever-evolving subject and is very open to criticism, other criteria, and correction and therefore is not closed).

I wrote on science and religion and posted my article in the group 'Some Science' here (Ref 1).

I want to deal with art and artists in this blog.

For a fruitful collaboration/debate/discussion you need a shared praxis or a shared ground - even a partial one will do. If there isn't one at least you have to have open minds. In the absence of both these things, you can't even have a good discussion. I have seen this happening several times when scientists and artists were discussing things.

The moment a scientist says something about art, some artists would immediately object to it and say, "What do scientists know about art to say this?" Don't scientists have the right to say something about art that originated from the cultures they were born into and grew up in? Are scientists dumb not to take cues from the art world to understand what art is all about? Isn't the world of science dealing ( you will find here in the group 'research' proof ) with all art related issues too?

Artists, please don't close the doors to the opinions of scientists. Scientists fully know why they are saying something when they are saying it!

Another thing artists 'conclude' even before the discussion starts is 'scientists are different mental animals' ( 'mental' is a derogatory word used in this part of the world to say somebody is 'mentally ill'. 'Animal' again is another derogatory word used to mean 'uncivilized brute'. But while dealing with people from different parts of the world, I developed tolerance because I know these words are not as derogative in some other parts of the world and cultures as they are here ) and therefore cannot understand them and art properly. But scientists are human beings too and have all the human traits. They are not people from alien lands. They try to understand things, although they work differently. Artists should try to understand things from scientists' perspectives too for fruitful collaborations. It would be better if they try to understand all about the world of science.

Then artists have a strange feeling that all scientists are arrogant because they fail to see things form 'their ideas and beliefs' points of view. Ideas is okay but scientists have problems with 'personal beliefs' because they have no place in science. Usually scientists don't deny it if something is based on facts. Scientists would analyse everything by going deep into the depths of reasoning. If the 'belief' cannot fit into facts, they naturally reject it. They don't want to argue and waste their precious time with people who just ask them to accept things just because they believe in it. Arrogance has nothing to do with it.

Artists also say, 'alright we cannot save  lives like science does, but writing a poem or painting a thought-provoking piece can engender real-life change in the world around us, even if it doesn’t save a life or turn a wheel' ( when I asked scientists about this, they smiled and asked ' have artists tried till now to overcome the cultural conditioning of their own minds first? Then how can they change the world around them if they themselves are not open to change? All that they are propagating is their own beliefs - not facts to bring  radical changes! If a change happened at all it is because of science and technology - the lives of people have definitely improved from  cave-dwelling, hunting way of life to present day of comfort and food security. It is because of mismanagement of fruits of science by politicians, businessmen and greedy people who don't have much to do, these fruits of science are not reaching everybody. Has art or humanities tried to solve this problem in any way? On the contrary these problems are increasing day by day. We hope artists would walk the talk now).

Scientists think artists are loud, noisy ( they give examples of recent trends in music), very emotional, showy ( strange ways of dressing, hair styles etc.), irrational and not open to criticism! They try to attack you at every step and try to silence you down. Artists participating in the debates are often really so aggressive, trying to attack you with all their might because they are worried they would be outdone by facts and truth that they don't give you chance to even think , breathe and talk. You will be forced to withdraw and keep quiet! (According to some psychologists this type of aggression is related to dog's way of doing things. Dogs, it seems, attack first by barking aggressively so that the person they are barking at get mind-blocked with fear by the aggression, fail to think, and don't attack them in return so the dogs can be safe! Nice strategy). Artists refuse to accept facts, refuse to reason, argue only what they believe is correct and what the scientists say is wrong without giving valid reasons and facts. Although scientists too like art, they feel it is difficult to deal with people who create it.

Scientists really have a difficulty with uncontrolled emotional part of people's minds like artists, actors and people of religion have. This is because scientists would be told and trained to keep the emotions at bay as soon as they enter their work places because they interfere with neutral reasoning which is essential for scientific progress. They try to speak facts with a distance that is perceived as cold and unemotional. It is difficult for the scientifically trained persons to come out of this mold. And artists say scientists are cold and unemotional!

Artists think scientists too do things in the way they do but don't acknowledge it. This is not true according to scientists. You can read  why this is not true by clicking on ref 2 link.

If you make loud noises the thought processes and deep analyses would get disrupted. So scientists try to keep away from people who do this. They would rather concentrate on other important things like tackling more food production for ever growing population of earth - than on self indulgences like dressing. They hope and wish artists would try to understand the scientific way of doing things rather than argue, mock and attack.

These are some of the other opinions expressed by people of science (and please do remember that they are not my words):

*Artists say scientists should embrace art to understand science more and that science wont solve the world's problems by itself. We would rather say that the world doesn't know enough science to help itself. I can't see how forcing a microbiologist to read Chaucer or playing Chopin to a petro-chemist is going to benefit cultural understanding. Artists are urging us to dumb science down for the masses, something that is not conducive to public education and, quite frankly, insulting!

*We have tried to teach and find a middle ground, but time and again, it is obvious how so few of these people want to be taught. For them, angry and/or activist equals being informed.They do not care about any information that contradicts their tribal mythology. It takes far less effort to complain than to learn.

How many times are we confronted by people who claim "I have done the research", but show absolutely no knowledge of the science or even an accurate grasp of the issue? And then when you do try to provide an evidence-based response and demonstrate an actual knowledge, you are accused of being a shill.

This attitude of "it is the fault of how scientists present and engage, not the public" is equally untenable when that population of the public considers appeals to emotion and personal anecdote to be more reliable than fact.

*That's great. These people dare to tell us how to deal with people who's answer to everything is "it's the will of God".
This is what we've been waiting for for some considerable time.

*Liberal arts do not interact with the performing of science. Liberal arts are merely a spectator. The problem begins when the liberal arts begin to believe that they are entitled to input into how science is done or interpret the meaning of scientific investigations.

Interpretation of scientific results using a liberal arts or any viewpoint is not scientific in any way shape or form. But for further clarity, LA may be used to discuss applications, politics or values of the implications of the science or the results, but the science and results still stand apart.

Liberal Arts are as irrelevant to the conduct of science as a latte and scone. They may however, be used to make it more enjoyable or comfortable.

*It is the students of the liberal arts who need to embrace science, not the other way around. Somehow, our society has gotten the idea that someone can have a well rounded education by taking courses in various liberal arts while avoiding studying science. We should not have to explain to the public the scientific method or how peer review works. Those very basic concepts should be part of any well rounded education. It has been my experience that students of physics, chemistry and medicine are well acquainted with Shakespeare, Voltaire, Kant, Mozart, etc., but students of literature, music, art and history glaze over whenever even basic concepts of science are being discussed.

*The real problem is that most of the general population is abysmally ignorant of even the most basic science or engineering facts. The talking heads who dispense "news" are even worse off in this regard, and are actively given to fomenting hysteria around their (or their advisers) false idea of the facts surrounding such matters. Until our schools and parents overcome this illiteracy, it is very difficult to see how any progress can be made.

* Science has nothing to do with liberal or conservative arts. It is apolitical. A scientific theory will be demonstrate it's validity whether told in Shakespearen prose or in gutter slang. Eloquence has nothing to do with it. Science needs not the filters of humanities. That is just spin and fog.

* Science-art sojourns are for artists who want to play with new dolls and scientists who cannot do good science.

* Science exists apart and independent of the human condition and humanities.

For example, E=mc2 is an eternal condition and did not require the mind of man to understand it before it sprang into existence.

In contrast, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence required hundreds if not thousands of years of study into the human condition, and even some of the truths contained therein are still not self-evident. Art needs the effort of a human mind. Arts cannot exist without human beings and science is over and above human existence.

So stop gloating about the arts.


This really is interesting. I have dealt with artists, scientists, science-communicators, science-artists and gained very significant insights into the thoughts of people in these arenas . I presented these things with a view to help people from different fields in understanding things from others' points of view too.




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Comment by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa on February 3, 2014 at 9:13am




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