In Context #13 (Spring, 2005, pp. 13-18); copyright 2005 by The Nature Institute
From Two Cultures to One: On the Relation Between
Science and Art
All science is rooted in experience. We have nowhere to begin except with whatever we are aware of -- and nowhere else to end either. If, as scientists, we discipline and extend the range of our experience, we do so in order to gain new understandings describable in terms of this widened experiential horizon. How could we understand or describe anything that lies entirely outside our experience?
The link to experience can be easy to forget amid what physicist Arthur Zajonc has called the "mess of formulas" constituting the hard sciences -- and all the more so when our philosophical heritage inclines us to believe that objective truth consists precisely of whatever is not contaminated by human subjectivity. Since our experience is always the experience of a human subject, this distrust of the subject puts the experiential basis of science at continual risk.
We can sense the risk when we note how experiment in science has more and more become the province of computer simulation and of elaborate equipment that disconnects the researcher from the crucial events being investigated