"Joints are and are not parts of the body. They cooperate through opposition, and make a harmony of separate forces. Wholeness arises from distinct particulars; distinct particulars occur in wholeness."I announced last week that biologist, writer and artist Jessica Palmer contributed a short essay about one of my 2008 drawings to SEED Magazine's Culture Section. In her article, "Seeing Antlers, Feeling Dendrites," Palmer asserts that good art acts as a vehicle of consilience.
- Herakleitos, circa 500 B.C.E.
Palmer has a more recent, related post on her tremendous blog Bioephemera. In it, she riffs on the complementary relationship of art and science.
"Basically, I think that good art prompts the viewer to find meaningful connections between things that seem unrelated, to draw parallels that previously went unnoticed. Art can be a springboard to insight. Science, which can so easily become insular and near-sighted, needs that springboard, even if - like a shared birthday - it's just a hook to get the story started.I agree heartily, though I would widen the scope of such "linkages" further.
It's worth noting that Darwin was a great scientist precisely because he could make meticulous, minute observations of a single species - he wrote a whole book about earthworm digestion, for heaven's sake! - while also seeing the grand, universal, far-reaching forces that shape finch beaks, beetle shells, poodles and pigeons. It's not easy to make those linkages, in history or in science; sometimes art, literature, or music can give the roving mind a nudge in the right direction. As Gopnik notes in his book, 'there is no struggle between science and art': both are ways of understanding the world, and their strengths are complementary."
There need not be struggle between science and any of the humanities, including - and this is the controversial inclusion - imaginative theology. The x-factor in these relationships is dogmatism. A rigid mindset stultifies ideology, and when science, philosophy or religion become dogmatic, they retard the human imagination and, with it, possibility.