“Sometimes, Morty, Science is more art than science.” Is what animated character, Rick, from Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” says to his grandson, after completely making much of humanity into Cronenbergian mutant beings. That line is a bit of a joke on the show, but I took it to mean some writer on the show maybe slyly trying to say something about the nature of science that totally resonates with me.
Creativity fascinates me to no end, and perhaps I may end up in a lab to try to look at the creative process in great detail in many ways (some may think the idea to be beyond the reach of any mere human’s understanding). But I fear, even though many do see it as essential to be a great artist, some might not see it as important in science. Non-scientists may only perhaps see it as what Thomas S. Kuhn called ‘normal-science’ that is, the slow mundane process of: fact-collecting, fact-checking, replicating past experiments, expanding experiments, etc… or to put it simply: the boring process of following highly repetitive methods. This view is perhaps mostly the result of taking lab courses in school. But at many times when investigating something in nature, a nimble and highly imaginative mind is most needed. As Firestein writes, in the book I recommend in our reading list here at the STEAM HUB, what really gets all scientists stir-crazy and excited to go to work is not learning a list of boring facts, it’s what the scientists don’t know that begs them to really think hard and come up some new knowledge or understanding. Like a empty canvas an artist has yet to start, the possibilities seem endless and tantalizing. Only in science, the empty canvas is the gaps in knowledge in the particular field any scientist is working in. The gap in knowledge can’t be filled with anything at the scientist’s whim, it must cohere with some of the solidly known facts in the appropriate field, but really it takes a creative spirit to want and enjoy thinking about how to fill that gap or gaps in science. To just be satisfied with current explanations found it science books, is to be a geeky smug know-it-all, not a real scientist. Really good scientists are painfully aware of the mysteries in their favorite discipline of choice, and want nothing more than the creative insight that will make everything fall into place and provide someway to test the idea. The problem of even testing the novel insight, may prove to have some challenges that drive a more creative need in the scientists. Yes Art and Science as a process resemble each other. They do this through the novel-seeking, high connectivity in thoughts, and playfulness that overlaps with the “whatever it is that creativity is”, to make me say all the time, “that science is sometimes more art than science.”