“Is medicine an art or a science?”
This was a subject that came up during class discussion last week. Instead of debating whether or not this is true, I would instead argue that much of science is in fact an art.
Art — n.
1. The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination… (works produced by human creative skill and imagination)
2. A skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice
Science — n.
The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment
The above are abridged excerpts from the New Oxford American Dictionary, selected to bolster my argument. The second part of the definition of art draws its own bridge to science. Science is a skill, and is certainly helped by practice.
The more difficult comparison comes in the use of “creative skill and imagination.” I believe the formation of scientific theory involves a lot of grappling in the dark, in an attempt to formulate explanations for seemingly contradictory observations and natural behaviors. This guesswork, or hypothesizing, calls upon human ingenuity and creativity, and cannot be supported by rationality alone.
I am not suggesting that science is a subset of art, just that the theoretical backdrop may in fact fit inside art’s bubble. The practical whole of science has always felt much more universal, capable of being understood by alien beings in a way that art seems less likely to be. I venture that a significantly larger proportion of the intelligent life out there in the universe practice more of something like science than something like art.