Like species on an evolutionary tree, ‘Science’ and ‘Art’ have been growing apart since their last common ancestor. Thanks, in part, to increasingly rapid technological development we have seen the disciplines diverge even further. People often believe that this distance is unbridgeable and the two fields are irreconcilable. The gap is, in fact, broadened by those on either side of the debate, who peg themselves ‘artists’, ‘thinkers’ or ‘practicalists’ vs. ‘scientists’. Which of these do you consider yourself? Do you recognize the reaction upon telling someone you are (or hearing someone is) an artist/scientist?
Separation between these two “irreconcilable” sets of thought can be worsened by an exclusionist, elitist attitude often present in scientific circles. Active inclusion of those with different kinds of knowledge (potentially lacking ‘scientific knowledge’) is downplayed or even shunned. This, in turn, is matched by the same separationist ideals in artists who paint scientists as overly-intellectual, logic-bound, unfeeling reductionists.
Although perhaps understandable given the high level of sophistication associated with both fields’ recent research endeavours, this dichotomy is to the detriment of society. Take for example, Traditional Ecological Knowledge from North American First Nations. Mistakes in the attitude and behaviour of both tribal leaders and scientists has led to the alienation of many First Nations and the exclusion of indigenous knowledge that can help advance scientific understanding (see great paper here!). Only by acknowledging and understanding the other side’s logic will we be able to move forward together for the betterment of mankind.
I believe that through fun, yet simple, science experiments we can help merge the two fields and incorporate people who historically would have veered away from Science. Understanding the scientific process and the logic behind it in a ‘hands-on’ manner helps elucidate scientists’ thinking and behaviour to non-scientists. It demystifies the decisions that are made, which, without understanding, may be easily villainized. Emphasizing that being a scientist does not require access to the fanciest equipment or latest research, opens the ‘club’ up to new members. Science is an all-inclusive society – open to all, regardless of background or expertise. Thinking in a scientific manner qualifies you!
A large-scale, community-driven ‘opening of Science’ to non-scientists through inclusive, interesting and simple science experiments will lead to greater scientific literacy in our society and the decharacterization of ‘Scientists’ and ‘Artists’ as completely separate people. This will enhance the amount of knowledge available to all (as new scientists share their insight and receive new information), lead to greater public involvement in scientific practices and will usher in a new era of ‘Scientific Artists’ that can enhance the field for everyone: the Renaissance reborn.
Science can be inclusive: it IS by its very nature. It is up to us to open the doors.