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Let's talk science

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Science has many definitions and most of them are just altered versions of one another. Science as defined by Merriam-Webster- “ the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding”. Another definition is “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method or such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena”. This is the definition for natural science. There are many types of science and not one definition can really stand on its own as science without being  related to some other field of work.


            Science is considered to be on one side and all other disciplines on the other. Science is considered to be at the opposing end of everything but science. If religion takes one side then science is the other side. If literature is at one end then without a doubt science is at the other end. If art is for an argument then science is against that argument. These are conclusions that have been made about science so far. Science is at the other end, no matter what. Religion cannot be opposed by literature or art only by science. In the following paragraphs I would like to argue against this view.


            According to me, science is a part of everything, science completes every other discipline. It does not oppose any view rather it enhances it. Science is in the core of every subject and discipline and this can be said of the subjects that it is said to oppose. Science is essential to literature, art and religion and none of them would make much sense if there was no science involved. Sometimes the science may provide as a foil to a certain subject but it still is important to the understanding of that concept. Just like we cannot explain day without night and vice versa, in the same way we cannot explain a lot of concepts unrelated to science without science.


            Science is essential and nothing we learn is devoid of science. Science is an integral part of all knowledge. No fact, story and idea can subsist without science. Evolution rule of survival of the fittest applies to every idea and ideas that use right science survive and the others die out. The ideas that survive become facts and theories and the ones that die out become extinct. I would like to explain science in relation to religion first and then move onto the other areas which science is said to oppose strongly.


            “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” This is a quote by Albert Einstein who is considered to be one of the top scientists of all time. This quote points at how both are needed for each other’s existence. One is dependent on the other and without each other they are not complete and do not make any sense.  Science aims to explain the same things that religion does. They have come up with different stories but the roots of these stories arise from the curious nature of mankind. This curiosity can be explained using biology as a part of science or using god and his will as the reason for it. This idea of god and will can in turn be explained by science which explains the need for humans to believe in god. Of course science does not explain anything without encroaching on the territories of other subjects like philosophy and theology.

            No religious text is without science, every religious text has a summary of observations which try to prove a point that is the existence of god and give a detail account of moral conducts and thus are organized. No religious text is haphazardly written or incomplete in what it wants to say. Every religion is put through the test of evolution, if it survives it finds more people to believe in it. If it doesn’t survive then very few people believe in it and in a period of time it dies out. Some religions have died out during this time as have some rituals and stories found in these texts.

            The main scientific part of religion is the story of creation. This story of creation demands for a person to believe in science before believing in the story itself. Creationism is the story of this world and humans being a part of a complicated and intelligent design. Creationism talks about how there must have been a proper plan in the mind of a superior being before creating us and that there is a point, a goal for our existence. Getting an idea to make a world and planning it out is exactly what science is about. So, if one believes in creation stories one cannot do so without believing in science and  believing god as being a scientific being. If god’s entire essence is scientific then science is necessarily the essence of all religion. This is why I think that science is a base for all religion but science would not have much meaning without science either.

            Just as science is important for religion, science is important for art. Art and science go hand in hand just like religion and science. Science is just as basic to art as colors are. In fact colors themselves cannot be formed without science. We need science in order to understand which colors and dyes are made by which chemicals. We need to know what colors will be produced by the mixture of other colors.  Basic art requires science in order for it to take place. Art requires precision, plan and focus and an intention which again is a very important part of science. An artist learns about angles, anatomy and laws of physics and about substances all of which are an important part of science. Even normal perception which forms ideas and leads to imagination is based in science. We could never have imagination if we did not have basic science working to form a perception of anything in this world.

             “How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers.” This is a quote by Isaac Asimov which puts together my point in a clear and brief manner.


            A scientist and an artist are similar in a lot of ways. They both need to follow specific methods for specific results. Both are very headstrong about precision and accuracy and allow room for no faults. An artist and a scientist can barely be differentiated if not for the methods that they use. If you put a scientist and an art to solve the same puzzle they will probably go about solving it following the same path of reason and logic.  An artist and a scientist are both lost without their tools. There is no clear distinct line separating a scientist and an artist. There is scientist in every artist as every artist aims to improve mankind by new forms and works of art just like a scientist tries to discover new theories that can help improve the lifestyle of mankind. Both have the same intentions and without method, they would be the same.

            We through centuries have formed a stereotypical image of an artist and a scientist. One person who was both was Leonardo Da Vinci. People who could not categorize him as either placed him in the zone where one is either a genius or a mad man. And people who recognized his art only thought of him as an artist. Being both was not considered a possibility as science and art were at opposing ends or rather parallels that would never meet. Science was supposed to be left out of the realm of art and vice versa, but this was not possible back then and will not be possible ever. Science will always be closely tied with art and any argument against it is pointless.

            Now I would like to talk about how science and literature are connected to each other. I think that science and literature are more closely connected to each other than science to any other subject. Every part of science is a piece of literature and every piece of literary work is a science project.  Every part of science tells a story and every piece of literary work  has a summary of observations which sometimes fail and sometimes pass based on appreciation by its audience. Sometimes a piece of literature succeeds in getting its point across and sometimes it doesn’t just like sometimes an experiment is successful and at other times it isn't. But that doesn't mean that the idea behind the experiment was a failure and this applies to literature too.

            People stand divided on the issue of science and literature and refuse to allow for a bridge to help them acknowledge the connection that exists between the two. Many people have tried to explain the mix of literature and science without much success. One piece of literature that is scientific is ‘On the origin of species’ by Charles Darwin. No one denies that it is a work that tries to tell a story based in science. But people remember only the science part and forget that it is a story that is being told. This book is a part of the literature that we have accumulated and no one should deny that. Reading the book in just a literary context or scientific context does not change the fact that the book is related to both these areas. We cannot separate the two just by denying them.

            Another piece of work that would be considered to be completely literary has, in my opinion, a lot of science in it-not only in the writing technique but also the things that are being written about. This book is one of poems written by Walt Whitman called the ‘Leaves of Grass.’ Not many people would think that this book has any scientific implications at all. But I would like to disagree with them for several reasons. Firstly, having structure in anything is a part of science and structure is apparent in the way the poems are written even though some might say that Whitman is just rambling on. He has a structure in his poems and this structure is subtle but very difficult to achieve. The poem is structured in a way so that it captures the random rambling of the unconscious of a person perfectly. Secondly, the poem talks about Whitman’s observations of everything in this world. From blades of grass to his genitals to war to death Whitman makes excellent observations and then summarizes them. This is an acknowledged scientific method - to make a summary of observations. Lastly, he puts those summaries to test, he judges his reactions for every observation and reaches a conclusion. He decides that he loves everything in this world and that life needs to be celebrated. He did not just jump to this conclusion, he conducted a proper experiment, by testing his reactions against the world. This, too, is a very scientific approach to life and his literature. So, for all the reasons mentioned above I would like to say that this piece of literature is heavily scientific.

            Another piece of literature that is scientific but is more subtle about it is the book called ‘Sorrows of an American’ by Siri Hustvedt. Her plot and approach to characters is very scientific and cannot be ignored by anyone. The narrator of the story is trying to understand the psyche of the people around him and his own. He helps people understand and deal with their problems but he himself cannot deal with his own problems. The story deeply immersed in science because it tries to understand the working of human mind. It tries to explain the idiosyncrasies of someone by talking about their childhood and incidents that might have led to the development of certain habits. This is a scientific method, looking at history and specific events and judging their effects on the “subject”. Siri Hustvedt’s book follows that method very closely, at every point in the story we are jolted back to sometime in the past. If not the current subject’s past then some other related subject’s past. A person’s past is the key to understanding them and their thoughts in this book. A character develops only when we delve into their past and study their history in detail and this is involves science very closely. Any sort of study and research in order to make decisions is a part of science and that is exactly what this book does. It makes us study the past of someone in order to help us understand their present decisions.

            All the examples given above which include certain literary texts help make my point about science and literature clear. No story-teller can steer clear of science because it is an integral part of storytelling. If there was no science to base the story on there would be no stories around. Even people ignorant about science will understand that everything is a part of this world and every story revolves around the ideas in this world and so no story can escape this world therefore nothing that is being told can be beyond and without science. Science is this world that we live in and that cannot be denied even if science was called something else. Science is fundamental to our existence and we cannot break out of it. Darwin's work is scientific and literary, just like Whitman's and Hustvedt's. If people had to categorize them then the one would be science text, the other a  poem book and the last, a work of fiction. But this does not change the fact they are all of the above and at the same time scientific and literary.

            Just as none of the above areas of work could survive without science, science too would not be able to hold much meaning without them. Science would not have any meaning if the above mentioned areas didn’t work as mediums for science helping it give the exposure it needs in order to be useful. Science may be everywhere but if it does not have anything to help form then its potential cannot be realized to the maximum. No one would understand science if creationism did not use it and oppose it. No one would give science another thought if it wasn’t discussed as being parallel to art. Science and art are always seen as magnets with the same poles repelling each other but the truth is that they are opposing poles and that is why attract each other. Science and art form a perfect blend and science would not be recognized the way it is now, if not for art.

            Both religion and art are equally important in helping science reach its current level of recognition but literature is the most important one. Literature is the medium through which people have understood science as a method with concepts and theories. If there was no literature science would not be this well understood. Even the small group of people who can understand science and its place in this world would not exist if not for literature. For example the concept and theory of evolution would barely have an impact if it had not been written out and published as a literary text. Science owes a lot to literature and thus literature in as a tool for understanding science should not be discredited so easily.

            Science and the other disciplines may aim at different things but none can do anything without having science as its base. Science here means what the concepts that involve science and not the science as a practice itself. Science as a practice may be and is very different from art and religion. Science and art have very different techniques and require for different knowledge to be learned. What science involves is of importance here and the question of how science is done is of little consequence.


            As mentioned above science has many definitions and is almost always tied with some other area of expertise. The same dictionary which defines science also defines something called creation science. It also gives an example of scientific laws by calling cooking both an art and a science. Science cannot even be defined let alone understood without using art and religion and literature. Science is not a force on its own, it needs to be supported by art and religion and literature and philosophy and all the other areas of thought and work.


            Science involves the whole world since the whole world is included in science. So far, religion , art and literature have been explained using one part of science as being the core of their existence and that is evolution. Evolution is that part of science that is fundamental to everything else and thus explains why some stories, religions and works of art live and others die out. I would like to conclude by saying that the above examples hopefully help make my point about the relevance of science in everything. Science is not at the opposing end and we need to realize that. I would like to include a quote here that would be appropriate for understanding evolutionary science as the core of existence for everything from mankind to his ideas and his works -both good and bad. “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.[1]
















Paul Grobstein's picture

"science ... does not

"science ... does not oppose any view, rather it enhances it"

I like the argument.  Why though is it so commonly felt to be otherwise?