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  1. GingerCoffee
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    Tim Minchin: Science inspires, so don't let your art rule your head

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by GingerCoffee, Nov 3, 2013.

    Well, as if my science musings haven't been causing enough trouble around here, Tim Minchin had to go and write the forward to, "The Best Australian Science Writing 2013", and I just had to share. Did I mention this theme is heavy in the novel I'm writing? :p

    Here are some excerpts from the forward, or you can go to the link and just read the whole thing.





    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/science-inspires-so-dont-let-your-art-rule-your-head-20131101-2wrjb.html#ixzz2jXWKHRD9
     
  2. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Science is very helpful. Medicine and new technology has saved millions upon millions of lives and then we have enviornmental science and physics and so forth and....But I don't have a scientific mind, I have an emotional mind, an artistic mind. I will achieve nothing in science in this lifetime, and that's that.And that's OK, because I will accomplish other things.
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I can agree with what he's saying. However, from my experience, I've found that artists (more precisely, liberal arts students) appreciate science and everything it does. None of them are anti-science in any way, shape, or form. As for the unpoetic issue, I think people have trouble finding poetry in math, which is used heavily in physics for example. Not many people can truly appreciate math. Hell, I know I can't because I was never really good at it. There is a flip side, however. A lot of the science students I know can't appreciate literature or philosophy. So this problem goes both ways.

    By the way, I'm from the Portland area. I didn't even know about the fluoride issue until just now.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    re my new home state's decision about fluoride, when it comes to adding chemicals or any 'foreign' substance to what we eat or drink, i'm always going to err on the side of caution... and will always applaud those in authority who do the same...

    thalidomide was considered safe to alleviate nausea in pregnant women, remember? [those of you old enough to have been around then]... so, try to tell all the deformed and now-dead children born as a result, that it shouldn't have been banned... and tell their mothers they shouldn't feel like it was their fault for believing the scientists and taking it...

    and try to tell all the mothers of DES daughters who were told taking diethystilbestrol was necessary to prevent a miscarriage and was proven safe, that it didn't cause all the auto-immune diseases, that their children are now suffering from... i was one of them and my beloved, beautiful youngest daughter has to deal with 4 or 5 serious chronic and disfiguring disorders that have no cure, for the rest of her life...

    sure, science can 'inspire'... sometimes... but it can also mislead and inflict agonies and death on millions, when scientists are so full of themselves and their self-assumed infallibility that they won't admit to being fallible in time to save their victims from the consequences of science's oft-made mistakes...
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Taking an artistic approach to interpreting scientific data doesn't seem to make much sense to me. Nor does applying too much of a scientific mind to artistic pursuits. Each has its place.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    A couple of you are reading Minchin differently than I did. He's asking why science and art appear to be mutually exclusive. Specifically, "This apparent inverse correlation between artistic interest and scientific literacy seems to play out all over the world."

    He commented additionally, that the notion science is unromantic, unartistic, uncreative, etc., is a false stereotype about science. Again, Minchin says idea art and science are mutually exclusive is based on a false conceptualization of science.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    [side track] Fluoride is a natural component of water sources all over the country, it's hardly analogous to thalidomide and DES. In those locations with naturally occurring fluoridated water, tooth decay is demonstrably less.

    In addition, why aren't you equally concerned the water you drink that is unnaturally chlorinated to make it potable? Isn't that even more 'unnatural'? [/side track]
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think they are at opposing ends of a spectrum, but there is plenty of room for overlap. I wouldn't apply an overly scientific approach to art, or an overly artistic approach to science.

    Fluoride is toxic, of course, but at the levels found in fluoridated water the benefits appear to outweigh the harms (if any).
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    Whoops, sorry, I hit 'like' when I meant to hit 'reply'. I don't 'not like' what you posted, but it would be silly to 'like' it given my reply.

    Conceptualizing two overlapping magisteria as opposites on a continuum makes no sense to me at all. Do you think there is no science in Michelangelo's David? In Mozart's concertos? In Ansel Adam's photographs? Surely you recognize the science in science fiction? Was Orwell's '1984' devoid of rational thinking about where he saw the world possibly headed?

    [side track]Water in excess is toxic. The issue is about arguing against fluoridation on the basis it is 'unnatural' in amounts that fluoridated water exists naturally in other parts of the country and ignoring the fact an unnatural amount of chloride has been added since potable water was implemented in the city. [/side track]
     
  10. JJ_Maxx
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    Flouride is like x-rays, a little is very beneficial, a lot is not good.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Responses like this are what make me think you get in such a hurry to disagree with people that you don't bother reading what they said. This only make sense by way of reply if I said the two were mutually exclusive , but instead I said there is plenty of room for overlap. Don't know what else to say about that.
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    While they can both benefit from each other, there will always be a separation between the two. For example, there's no way to scientifically measure beauty in a piece of art. It depends on individual tastes. At the other end, there's not much room for interpretation in science. If your interpretation doesn't agree with what we observe in nature, then it's just plain wrong.
     
  13. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Opposites overlapping make sense. What about sunrise and sunset as mixtures of day and night?
     
  14. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    And keep in mind that art may be seen as more "reachable" to some. It takes years to learn and practice science, but even a person who cannot read or write can make a poem or story or song in their head.
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    Did you or did you not describe science and art as opposing ends of a continuum?

    Perhaps it is the communicator and not merely the communicatee.

    On the other hand, I wasn't trying to be completely adversarial in your other thread, though it may seem that way.
     
  16. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    No one responded to my posts! I'm not sure if I should be happy or sad.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    OK, I'll answer: :)
    I had to learn to write fiction, as evidenced by where I was 2 years ago and where I am now. But I've always had a naturally logical mind and exploring anything from fossils to Catholic rituals has fascinated me since childhood.

    I think we all come in different flavors and what happens after we're born grows from that.
     
  18. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Where were you two years ago, if you don't mind me asking?


    Most of what I know about fossils came when I did a "Fossil digging experience" on vacation, lol. I can be interested in exploring things when it interests me though. Sometimes I just get this urge to look random stuff up.
     
  19. GingerCoffee
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    I've always toyed with the idea of writing a novel but never did more than that. Then I decided I had a story I wanted to tell and my own characters I wanted to bring to life. I wrote the whole draft out, that just happened, the story had no trouble pouring out. Then I wrote a chapter and presented it to a critique group, keeping in mind I really did not know how to write and determined to take their advice.

    I made all the basic rookie mistakes: lots of telling, little showing, leaving half of what was in my head out of the paper, important things I knew, but the readers didn't, thinking I had expressed emotion but finding out I hadn't.

    Now two years later, I love what I'm writing, it looks nothing like those first attempts. Now the critiques are useful in a different way. For example, in the last chapter I brought to the group, (a month ago because I've had to miss Oct due to a busy work schedule), the readers didn't think my character had a young enough voice. But I want her to be precocious, smarter than her age. I solved the problem, I had her climb a tree like a kid would. In contrast, the other girls, 2 years older, are wearing dresses and makeup and wouldn't dream of climbing a tree. My character becomes young without dumbing down the conversations.


    You have plenty of time to explore.
     
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  20. 123456789
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    Unfortunately, sometimes you do have to apply art to science. Instruments don't always work for no apparent reason. Mysteriously, the same chemical reaction responds differently on two different days. John can get a better microscope image than Jay, despite them both following the same protocol. The _insert random name_ lab has a superstitious tradition where they perform this ritual to get good results. "Art" and "science" both exist within our minds. Of course there should be gross overlap.
     
  21. minstrel
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    Anyone can practice science. It's often said that all children are born scientists - their investigations of the world, and how they learn from them, are science.

    What you're getting at here, I think, is that science is cumulative and art is not (at least, art is not as cumulative as science). It takes years of training to advance science from its present state, because we stand on the shoulders of giants (in Newton's phrase). In art, we all stand on the ground. Anyone can practice science, but untrained and undirected people will simply discover what others have already discovered before them. Untrained and undirected artists can still do something original and valuable.

    This makes art attractive to novices - they say, "Hey! I can do this!" But what they create might not be attractive to appreciators of art - the art produced by novices often appears crude. Science is not attractive to novices because it's difficult, but it is very attractive to the appreciators and users of science. Your computers and cell phones and medicines and so on would be impossible without science. Also, the discoveries of advanced science are often extraordinarily beautiful - everything from the double helix of DNA to the amazing pictures from the Hubble telescope are mind-blowing.
     
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    Just two years ago?!? You're a fantastic writer. I'd never guess. And you're right, I do.
     
  23. smoha
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    Never been to Byron Bay myself, except for quick stop over on a road trip to Sydney once... But to be a little more on topic, I don't think science and art need be mutually exclusive, and personally I've always been amazed at the perfection of nature. Although perfection might be putting it a little strongly; there's all these nifty little things that seem to somehow worked themselves out, and even if just one little thing were to be out of place the results would be catastrophic. I am off course, in a limited capacity referring, to the biological sciences though. But even in physics, the way everything just works, has always flabbergasted me. As a rule in the everyday realm, the laws of physics can't be broken, and when they are, the implications are fascinating to consider. Mind you, I say this not as any kind of scientist myself, and in comparison to the experts I am woefully ignorant, but there's a certain beauty to it. Off course, it takes certain mindsets to look at it that way, hence the big hubbub when differing minds meet.
     
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    I can't agree with you here--that is, I can't agree with you that art and science are fundamentally different in this way. There's a tremendous amount of previous work, accomplishments, techniques, and traditions to build on, in art as well as science. I would say that artists and scientists both usually build on the work of others, but that in both cases it is theoretically possible to create contributions without having mastered the work of others.

    For example, a gardener who knows only the most basic principles of plant breeding can create an entirely new plant, one that has never existed or been discovered by anyone before. And if he's working with plants that others haven't done breeding work on, he may discover characteristics of that species that no one has ever discovered before. Now, you may argue that those basic principles of plant breeding constitute training, but they can be as simple as "throw out the plants you don't like and replant the ones that you do."
     
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  25. minstrel
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    This is true. I stated my position in terms that were too black-and-white. You're right: it's theoretically possible. I do maintain, though, that it's far easier for a relatively untrained artist to create something new and valuable than it is for a relatively untrained scientist.
     
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