Scientist Pushback

Morgan Meis’s piece “Religion Island” has riled up the scientists. From the mailbag, here’s theod / usa:

This is an extremely silly & ignorant meme. Scientists are busy discovering/codifying/organizing new information, which is a lot harder and time-consuming than it looks to the non-scientist. The world is a complicated place; specialization of labor is in effect. Scientists do creative things, so stop expecting them to write music in their spare time. Astronomers, biologists, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, etc who are pushing the boundaries of knowledge are as inspiring as any artist if you learn how to pay attention. I know many more scientists who understand music, than I do musicians who understand science.

And this from Tel / Washington, DC:

I come to the subject of art in science from a somewhat different perspective. I work at a scientific journal, and am an aspiring fantasy novelist. I regularly see the intersection of art and science in my job.

Whenever an author produces a figure to illustrate their ideas, or creates a beautiful piece of cover art, you find that crossroads. The Human Body exhibits, the art of Audobon [sic], even the interior of the National Academies building; these are all places where art and science intersect in a very obvious way.

That’s the case on the more artistic side of the coin, too. There, art and artifice have fused so thoroughly that most people don’t even realize it. Art and music are enabled by our understanding of the world and how it works. They always have been. How could you have an electric guitar without an understanding of electricity? A symphony, without an understanding of the acoustics of the instruments and the hall? Even those great Buddhas were made possible by the tools of their time, and an understanding of the stone the artists were working with.

Dawkins doesn’t care to know much about the Buddhas of Sri Lanka, and he’s very foolish for that. But I wonder whether many artists of the world care to know about the impulse behind many scientists. Whenever I talk to a scientist about their work, I see that look of wonder, excitement, and joy in their eyes. I know it, because I’ve felt it. The speak to me with the same voice I have when I tell someone about my book. Their research is their art. The great symphonies of science are there in all their beauty. They just look like an equation, or a map of the genome, or a Large Hadron Collider. If a sculptor passes them by without thinking or understanding, the equation will be as serene as Dawkins’ Buddhas.

And this from Derek:

You seem to be asserting that if a major piece wasn’t inspired by science, it was necessarily religious. To me, orchectral music in the 19th and 20th century reflects a huge shift to the secular. You’ve got lots of composers mining folk songs for themes; you’ve got liebe Freunden and not liebe Gott in the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth; you’ve got Holst’s The Planets; you’ve got musique concrete; you’ve got Einstein on the Beach and Doctor Atomic.

Indeed there are those who recognize the beauty and intersection between science, religion and art. What do you think?