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The Mind of a Scientist = The Mind of an Artist??

S L Forsburg forsburg at nospam.salk.edu
Wed Jan 8 06:53:36 EST 1997

On 8 Jan 1997, Cindy Hale wrote:
> >
> > I am also and artist/biologist and there are a very large number (seems to
> > me) of my biological friends who are also artists......
> >
> > It makes me wonder about this left right brain stuff.  Supposedly the right
> > brain is the "artistic" side and the left the "analytical" so the more
> > scientific.  But science is very creative in practice.  You need to be
> > able to visualize and make sense of things in a very abstract way many
> > times. Great artists/musicians/etc. have an understanding of their
> > media which is very detailed and meticulous which gives them the ability to
> > DO what they want with it.  This seems more "left brainish" to me.
> >
> > I seems to me that science and art are very similar processes and that our
> > brains are doing very similar things.

Linnea Ista answered:

> I belong to a dance group. Some one remarked one day that they found it
> very strange that many of the most active people (and some of the best
> dancers) were scientists and engineers.  They put it down to some sort of
> need for order and precision that allowed us to dance well. I think this
> is a common misconception about science in general: that science is not a
> creative endeavour and that scientists are not  creative people. 

Yes, I don't know why people have this idea that we scientists 
aren't creative.  To me, science is all about the same things
art and music are, and satisfies me the same way that doing
art or playing music or writing do (excpet I'm a lot better at science!)
Perhaps part of it is that so many people regard logic and
deductive reasoning as a limitation rather than a set of creative
tools, like knowing music theory or being facile with
language or being able to draw.

> same person a few weeks later was disappointed to learn that a woman who
> was leading a particularly exuberant dance is not a school teacher, but,
> in fact, an engineer. "What a waste of all that enthusiasm and life,
> being stuck in a lab all day". I didn't know how to respond.

That's very sad.  Science is like an adventure, like climbing
our own little Everest, as well as our chance to express ourselves.
AND we get to add to the world around us while we do it.

I think it was Isaac Asimov who said that the most wonderful
thing to hear in a lab is not "Eureka!"  but "Hmmmm...that's funny..."


Incidentally, if you consider us as creators analogous to artists
and performers, we have it made...look how much harder it is
to get a poem published or get an acting job or get a chance 
for an audition than it is to get a shot at doing science.  And we
don't have to wait tables to put ourselves through school.  Flawed
though the system undoubtedly is,  I think
we have a much better chance of our talents being recognized and
rewarded than most others who make their living creatively.

-- susan

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S L Forsburg          forsburg at salk.edu
The Salk Institute    http://flosun.salk.edu/~forsburg
La Jolla, CA

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