Mae Jemison on the Arts and Sciences - talk

Mae Jemison, former astronaut, doctor, art collector and nearly a professional dancer, talks about why the culture of seeing art and science as being only suited to one type of person or the other is ridiculous and counter productive.  In fact, she makes the point that if you tell an intellectually talented person "well either you can have the intuitive thinking and be an artist, or the logical, focussed thinking of science" they will probably not be interested in either, and choose something else entirely that promises some of both.  As educators and contributors to culture, it is necessary, she argues, to convince students that it aint so.

As a professional artist who happens to have a science degree, this was obvious to me, but still it seems that many people don't get the connection.  Both the arts and sciences use linear, analytical thinking as well as non linear, intuitive thinking to solve problems.  The combination of types of thinking could be sumarised as "creative thinking".  

Jemison makes the interesting point that the Arts and Sciences are not just two sides of the same coin, but exist along a continuum of human knowledge.  But even if both fields use creative thinking, they are clearly different in purpose and outcome.  She describes the real essential difference like this: Whereas the Sciences seek to understand universal facts about the external world, independent of personal experiences, the Arts seek to understand universals facts about the external world through relating personal experiences.  How's that for a rebuttal of relativism?

I believe the connection is even deeper than that: the artist, in order to gain mastery over their craft, needs to be analytical to understand how the craft works, to develop the principles and understanding that universally create particular effects in their viewer.  The artist progressees through experiments - and the results of the experiments are read from the response of their own eye and that of their viewers.  The idea was developed further in an essay i read recently about neuroscientists investigating aesthetics, who were convinced that great artists have shown great insight about the way the brain processes visual information.