It has always irritated me a bit when people talk of scientists as lacking in creativity. This criticism often comes from ‘artsy’ people who consider themselves to be well…..creative.
We all accept that chipping at a block of stone until a muscular figure emerges is creative; that writing poetry which brilliantly describes what many of us think, but can’t express is creative; that composing a symphony is creative.
Yet, why is it that so many people then do not think that what scientists do is not creative? The image is that of a robotic, almost lifeless figure, pouring and mixing things in the lab, until something important happens, almost by accident.
What got me thinking about this – again – today was the arrival of my 7-year-old son’s report card on the doormat. It seems that he has ‘very high’ ability in maths AND visual arts.
Now, like any Dad, I was delighted with my son’s good report card. But, I also questioned why I – who should know better as I have a degree in science and arts – was left wondering how he could possibly be good at both maths and art.
Thing is, both maths and art are creative endeavours and he’s obviously a creative little chap.
How can anyone argue that the mathematics which yielded an ingenious strategy to split the atom was not creative? Or that putting men on the Moon didn’t require creativity, or building the Large Hadron Collider required no creativity.
It’s nonsense, yet the powerful myth of the robotic, dull and diligent scientist in a white coat persists.
In recent years, there has been a surge in co-operation between scientists, engineers and mathematicians, all coming at problems with a different perspective. That has yielded tremendous new insights and knowledge for mankind.
I would argue that what we now need is more research linkages between the scientists and the arts. In Ireland, we have a great heritage in both fields, and it make sense to combine all our talents to good effect.
The benefits to society – please nobody mention economics, patents or start ups! – would be enormous.
Meanwhile, take a bow young Ted. You’ve an ice cream coming to you later.