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Arts Vs Science Essay

In a world brimming with diverse disciplines, none sparks a more spirited debate than the comparison between arts and science. The realms of artistic expression and scientific inquiry stand as two distinct pillars of human knowledge and creativity.

This essay embarks on a journey to dissect the complexities of this age-old dichotomy, unraveling the unique characteristics of both domains and exploring the potential synergies and tensions that arise when arts and science converge or diverge. As we delve into the profound interplay of creativity, logic, imagination, and empirical inquiry, we aim to shed light on the nuances that shape our understanding of these essential dimensions of human intellect.

Table of Contents

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Collect ideas about the topic.

Before we set off, let’s gather some cool ideas about arts and science:

  • Creativity Unleashed: Arts are all about imagination and creating beautiful things, like paintings, sculptures, and music.
  • Expressing Emotions: Through arts, people can show how they feel – like painting a picture to express happiness or writing a song about love.
  • Communication: Arts help us communicate ideas and stories that sometimes words can’t explain.
  • Understanding the World: Science helps us understand how things work in the world – from the stars in the sky to the tiny cells in our bodies.
  • Problem Solving: Scientists use their skills to solve puzzles and answer big questions, like finding ways to cure diseases or inventing new technologies.
  • Exploring and Discovering: Science is like exploring new lands. It’s exciting to find out things that nobody knew before.

compare Essay on art vs science

Creating Essay Outline

1. Introduction

Introduce the topic of arts and science and liken it to having two amazing games to choose from.

2. Arts: Creativity Unleashed

Explore the creative aspects of arts, including painting, sculpture, and music, and how they let imaginations run wild.

3. Arts: Expressing Emotions

Discuss how arts are a medium to express feelings and emotions, using examples of paintings and music.

4. Arts: Communication

Explain how arts help us communicate complex ideas and stories that might be hard to put into words.

5. Science: Understanding the World

Dive into the world of science, where understanding everything from stars to cells opens up new horizons.

6. Science: Problem Solving

Highlight how scientists tackle challenges and solve problems, making life better through their inventions and discoveries.

7. Science: Exploring and Discovering

Portray science as an adventure, where discoveries are like finding hidden treasures that expand our knowledge.

8. The Harmony of Arts and Science

Emphasize that arts and science aren’t really enemies – they can work together to create something even more amazing.

9. Balancing Act

Acknowledge the importance of both arts and science and how they contribute to a well-rounded world.

10. Final Thoughts

Sum up the main points and express appreciation for both arts and science as pillars of our diverse and fascinating world.

Writing the Essay On Science vs. Art

Arts: creativity unleashed:.

Imagine a world where you can paint the sky any color you want or create magical tunes that dance through the air. That’s the world of arts – a canvas where creativity knows no bounds. Artists use their imagination to paint breathtaking pictures, sculpt masterpieces from stone, and compose melodies that touch our hearts.

Arts: Expressing Emotions:

Arts are like the feelings you get when you play your favorite game – you can’t explain them, but you know they’re there. Artists use paintings to capture happiness, sculptures to freeze moments of joy, and songs to express love and friendship. It’s like turning emotions into beautiful masterpieces.

Arts: Communication:

Arts are like a secret language that everyone understands. You can tell tales of ancient times through paintings, show the bond between people through sculptures, and share dreams through music. It’s like writing stories with colors, shapes, and melodies instead of words.

Science: Understanding the World:

Now, let’s switch gears and zoom into the world of science. Imagine looking up at the stars and wondering how they twinkle. Science is like having a special pair of glasses that lets you understand everything around you. Scientists study stars, cells, and everything in between to uncover the mysteries of the universe.

Science: Problem Solving:

Scientists are like detectives, solving the puzzles of life. They find ways to fight diseases, invent cool gadgets, and make our world better. It’s like solving a tricky level in a game, but the prize is a healthier, happier world.

Science: Exploring and Discovering:

Imagine being an explorer in a new land, finding treasures that nobody has seen before. Science is like exploring the unknown, and discovering hidden wonders. Scientists venture into the depths of oceans, unravel the secrets of cells, and journey into space to find new planets. It’s like unlocking new levels in the game of knowledge.

The Harmony of Arts and Science:

But wait, here’s a secret – arts and science aren’t really enemies. They’re like two best friends who make the game even more exciting. Imagine using science to understand how colors mix in a painting or how vibrations create music. Arts can be even more magical when they dance with science.

Balancing Act:

Just like in a game, where you need different skills to win, our world needs both arts and science to shine. It’s like having two main characters in a story, each with their own strengths. Arts bring beauty and emotions, while science brings understanding and solutions. Together, they create a well-rounded world.

So, as we wrap up our exploration of arts and science, let’s remember that they’re both incredible parts of our world. It’s like having two amazing games to play, each with its own set of challenges and victories. Whether we’re painting on a canvas or uncovering the mysteries of the universe, both arts and science make our world colorful, fascinating, and full of wonder.

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Art Vs Science: An In-Depth Comparison

Art and science – two distinctly different fields that employ opposite approaches, right? While art relies on subjective inspiration and emotion, science utilizes objective logic and reason. But it’s not quite so black and white.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Art and science differ primarily in their methodology and goals . Science follows the scientific method to make testable claims about the natural world. Art allows free expression of ideas and emotion through creative mediums.

However, the two disciplines often complement and inspire each other.

In this comprehensive guide, we will compare and contrast art and science across various dimensions – methodologies, aims, thought processes, values, language and more. You’ll gain new insight into the similarities as well as differences between these multifaceted fields.

Let’s dive in to unravel the complex relationship between art and science.

Methodology and Validation

When comparing art and science, it is important to understand the different methodologies and validation processes that are involved in each field.


In art, the methodology often involves a more subjective and creative approach. Artists rely on their imagination, intuition, and personal experiences to create their work. They may experiment with different techniques, materials, and styles to express their ideas.

The process of creating art is often seen as a form of self-expression and exploration.

On the other hand, science follows a more systematic and objective methodology. Scientists use the scientific method, which involves making observations, forming hypotheses, conducting experiments, and analyzing data.

The goal of science is to uncover knowledge and understanding about the natural world through empirical evidence and logical reasoning.

In art, validation is often subjective and based on individual opinions and interpretations. The value and significance of a piece of art may vary from person to person. Critics, curators, and art enthusiasts play a role in validating and recognizing the artistic merit of a work.

However, there is no standardized or universally accepted validation process in the art world.

On the other hand, science relies on peer review and replication to validate its findings. Scientific research is subjected to rigorous scrutiny by experts in the field before it can be accepted as valid. The process of peer review ensures that scientific studies are credible and reliable.

Additionally, scientific findings need to be reproducible by other researchers in order to be considered valid.

It is important to note that while art and science have different methodologies and validation processes, they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there are areas where art and science intersect, such as in scientific illustration, data visualization, and even in the creative thinking process involved in scientific research.

For more information on the scientific method, you can visit Scientific American .

Goals and Objectives

When it comes to the fields of art and science, it is important to understand that they have distinct goals and objectives. While both aim to expand knowledge and understanding, they do so in different ways and with different purposes in mind.

Art Goals and Objectives

Art, in its various forms, is primarily focused on self-expression, creativity, and aesthetic appreciation. Artists strive to evoke emotions, challenge perceptions, and make a statement through their work. The goals of art often include:

  • Creating something visually appealing or thought-provoking
  • Conveying a message or story
  • Eliciting emotions or sparking introspection
  • Exploring new ideas and pushing boundaries

Artists may not always have a clear-cut objective in mind, as the process of creation can be an organic and intuitive one. The beauty of art lies in its subjective nature, allowing for multiple interpretations and personal connections.

Science Goals and Objectives

Science, on the other hand, is driven by a quest for knowledge, understanding, and practical applications. Scientists employ systematic methods and rigorous testing to investigate the natural world and uncover facts. The goals of science often include:

  • Exploring and explaining natural phenomena
  • Developing theories and models to explain observations
  • Testing hypotheses and conducting experiments
  • Improving technologies and finding practical solutions

Unlike art, science strives to be objective and reproducible, relying on evidence and logical reasoning. The scientific method ensures that theories and conclusions are based on data and can be independently verified.

It is important to note that while art and science have different goals and objectives, they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there are instances where art and science intersect and complement each other.

For example, scientific illustrations and medical animations use artistic techniques to communicate complex scientific concepts in a visually engaging manner.

Understanding the goals and objectives of art and science helps us appreciate the unique contributions each field makes to society. Both have the power to inspire, inform, and enrich our lives in their own ways.

Thought Processes

When comparing art and science, one of the key differences lies in their thought processes. Art is often driven by creativity, imagination, and emotions. Artists use their intuition and subjective experiences to create unique and expressive works.

They may draw inspiration from their surroundings, personal experiences, or societal issues. It’s a fluid process that allows for individual interpretation and expression.

In contrast, science is a systematic and objective approach to understanding the natural world. Scientists rely on observation, experimentation, and analysis to uncover facts and principles. They follow a structured methodology, adhere to rigorous protocols, and base their findings on evidence.

The scientific thought process aims to eliminate bias and subjectivity, focusing on logical reasoning and reproducibility.

Artistic Thought Process

Artists often start with a concept or idea and then explore different ways to bring it to life. They may experiment with various materials, techniques, and styles to achieve their desired outcome. The artistic thought process is nonlinear and intuitive, allowing for spontaneity and creative expression.

Artists may draw inspiration from their emotions, personal experiences, or the world around them, using their imagination to transform their ideas into visual, auditory, or tactile forms.

Artistic thought processes are subjective and open to interpretation. Artists encourage viewers to engage with their work and form their own opinions and meanings. The subjective nature of art allows for a wide range of perspectives and individual experiences, making it a deeply personal and emotional form of expression.

Scientific Thought Process

Scientists, on the other hand, follow a more structured and systematic thought process. They begin with a research question or hypothesis and then design experiments or studies to test their ideas. The scientific thought process involves careful observation, data collection, and analysis.

Scientists strive for objectivity and aim to eliminate biases or personal opinions from their research.

Scientific thought processes rely on evidence and reproducibility. Results are published in peer-reviewed journals, allowing other scientists to verify and build upon previous findings. Scientific knowledge is cumulative, with new discoveries and theories constantly shaping our understanding of the world.

It’s worth noting that while art and science have different thought processes, they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they often intersect and influence each other. Artists may draw inspiration from scientific discoveries, and scientists may use art as a means of communicating their research findings to the general public.

For more information on the thought processes in art and science, you can visit Smithsonian Magazine and Nature .

Values and Culture

When it comes to the values and culture surrounding art and science, there are distinct differences that shape the way these disciplines are perceived and approached.

Art is often seen as a form of self-expression and creativity. It allows individuals to explore their emotions, thoughts, and ideas through various mediums such as painting, sculpture, and music. The value placed on art lies in its ability to evoke emotions, challenge societal norms, and spark conversations.

Artists often prioritize individuality and freedom of expression, valuing the uniqueness and subjective interpretation of their work.

Artistic culture tends to embrace diversity and encourages individuals to think outside the box. It celebrates innovation and encourages artists to push boundaries and experiment with new techniques and styles.

Artistic communities are often known for their open-mindedness, welcoming different perspectives and fostering collaboration.

Science, on the other hand, is driven by the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. It aims to explain the natural world through observation, experimentation, and analysis. The value placed on science lies in its ability to provide evidence-based explanations and solutions to various problems.

Scientists prioritize objectivity, accuracy, and reproducibility, valuing the rigorous process of scientific inquiry.

Scientific culture emphasizes critical thinking and the importance of evidence. It values skepticism and encourages scientists to question existing theories and hypotheses. Scientific communities are known for their dedication to accuracy and precision, often relying on peer review and collaboration to ensure the validity of their findings.


While art and science have different values and cultures, they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they often intersect and complement each other. Many artists draw inspiration from scientific discoveries and use scientific methods to inform their creative processes.

Similarly, scientists appreciate the beauty and aesthetic aspects of nature, often finding inspiration in art.

Both art and science contribute to our understanding of the world and have the power to inspire and provoke thought. They play a crucial role in shaping our society and culture, offering different perspectives and ways of interpreting the world around us.

Ultimately, the values and culture surrounding art and science reflect the diversity of human expression and curiosity. Embracing both disciplines can lead to a richer and more holistic understanding of the world we live in.

Language and Communication

Language and communication play a vital role in both art and science. However, the way they are utilized and the purposes they serve differ in these two disciplines.

Artistic Expression

In the realm of art, language is often used as a tool for self-expression and storytelling. Artists use words, whether in the form of poetry, lyrics, or written narratives, to convey emotions, ideas, and messages in a unique and creative way.

Language in art can be seen as a companion to visual elements, enhancing and providing deeper meaning to the artwork.

For example, renowned artist Pablo Picasso once said, “Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” Through his use of language, Picasso was able to convey his philosophy and perspective on art, adding another layer of depth to his already powerful paintings.

Scientific Communication

In contrast, language in science serves a more technical and precise purpose. Scientists use language to communicate their research findings, experiments, and theories to their peers and the broader scientific community.

The language used in scientific journals and papers is often highly specialized, with specific terms and concepts that are understood by fellow scientists in the same field.

Scientific communication aims to be objective, clear, and concise, focusing on facts, evidence, and logical reasoning. It is essential for scientists to use language effectively to ensure their research is accurately understood and can be replicated or built upon by others in the scientific community.

The Intersection of Art and Science

Despite their differences, art and science often intersect when it comes to language and communication. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the field of science communication, which seeks to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public.

Artistic methods, such as visualizations, animations, and storytelling, are being used to make complex scientific concepts more accessible and engaging to a wider audience. This approach helps break down barriers and fosters a better understanding and appreciation of scientific advancements.

For instance, websites like National Geographic and NASA utilize stunning visuals and captivating language to communicate scientific discoveries and inspire awe and curiosity in people of all ages.

While language and communication serve different purposes in art and science, they both play integral roles in expressing ideas, sharing knowledge, and connecting with others. Whether it is through the emotive power of words in art or the precision of scientific terminology, language continues to be a powerful tool in human expression and understanding.

In summary, art and science offer complementary ways to understand ourselves and the world around us. Though differing in approach, they often inspire and build on each other. While science seeks factual explanations of natural phenomena, art provides an outlet for creative expression of emotions and the human experience.

By comparing key aspects like methodology, thought processes, values and communication styles, we gain appreciation for what sets these two fields apart as well as what brings them together. Neither is superior – both art and science give meaning to life in their own indispensable way.

So next time you witness the elegance of a scientific theory or find yourself moved by the passion of a striking artwork, remember – these two domains are more alike than we think.

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What's the Connection Between Art and Science?

Art and science are often thought of as separate pursuits. but should they be.

Posted December 1, 2020 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader

Art and science are often thought of as completely separate fields. However, a rich overlap exists between the two, and they share many connections that are begging for exploration. These intersections include the sub-field of art illustration, scientific communication, and visual neuro-anatomy.

Dr. Radhika Patnala of Sci-Illustrate works directly at this intersection between art and science. She has a unique perspective on these connections, as she operates at the nexus of these worlds: She is a neuroscientist , artist, and professional scientific illustrator. She stresses the importance of efficient scientific communication, how scientists can better convey these ideas, and the many ways in which art and science complement one another:

Since you’re both an artist as well as a scientist, what do you think are some of the under-appreciated connections between these two fields?

RP: Both science and art are fundamentally concerned with the exploration and discovery of the unknown. The objects of inquiry are different, but they are united in this goal. In science, you’re exploring and trying to understand something out in the external world. In art, the exploration is internal—it’s a personal journey.

What makes for successful scientific communication?

RP: Illustrations are very efficient forms of communication. You can say something with an illustration that would be almost impossible to say with words or would take you much much longer. Illustrations are incredibly efficient forms of communication.

 Bram Naus/Unsplash

Us scientists love complexity, but this can be an impediment to efficient communication. Much of this comes down to simplifying these ideas strategically. It’s a fine balance between being detailed and being accessible. It’s important to strike the right balance here.

Beyond the sheer efficiency of the communication, images can also engage the audience in a way that is much more difficult to accomplish with simple text alone.

It’s also important to use these sparingly and strategically. Images should complement text but shouldn’t completely take the place of text when the message can be simply told with words, and the written word can do the job better.

What do you think is the most interesting or surprising thing about how the human brain looks ?

RP: It’s amazing how complex the brain is. It’s also amazing how each brain is very different; each component is very different and yet supports our consciousness. All of the different components, cell types, and connections coming together to create our inner lives.

 National Cancer Institute/Unsplash

It’s also fascinating to think about this from the perspective of abnormal neurological function. For example, in the healthy brain, I worked with cells called microglia, which help protect the brain, and also the maintenance of synapses—the connections between neurons that allow the brain to communicate. In some cases, this means microglia needs to constantly trim synaptic connections that aren’t needed in order for communication and memory consolidation to be more efficient. And when the proper functioning of this one cell type is disturbed, we see it disturbing proper neuronal function, and this is seen to play a role in various neuropathologies, including ischemic stroke , schizophrenia, and depression .

How did you first become interested in scientific illustration?

RP: I began as an artist from a very early age. My mother would use design software for interior designing, which I would love to explore. Art was a very strong theme in my childhood , and I took up fine arts as a hobby.

 Alina Grubnyak/Unsplash

This was all before I began pursuing science as a profession. And for this, I took a very traditional path. I pursued a Ph.D. topic with a strong visual theme—neuroanatomy—and studied the brain visually and in-depth. I had a very artistic orientation to scientific inquiry.

Examining neuroanatomy from this artistic perspective inspired me to look at the visual aspect of science much more seriously.

I also come from a very entrepreneurial family, and so the concept of running a business wasn’t new to them.

Professionally speaking, I started out doing scientific illustrations primarily with biotech, pharmaceutical, and academic groups. Over the past few years, my company, Sci-Illustrate, has grown to encompass visual scientific communications of multiple formats.

What advice would you give to younger professionals who may be interested in the field of scientific illustration?

RP: I would say—be good at it! There is enough inefficient content out there. If you are considering a career path in scientific illustration, it’s important to push the field forward, and this means working on your craft. This means honing your visual perception and perspective and training yourself to be able to analyze and distill down complex topics.

science vs arts essay

What was your motivation behind starting these training workshops?

RP: For scientists, there’s a big unmet need in communicating their ideas efficiently, be it the research, a new finding, or convincing a grant body for funding. For most scientific education , the focus is exclusively on the science itself and not on the communication of these ideas, even amongst themselves.

Before scientists can undertake the crucial task of communicating their ideas to the general public, they first need to communicate to their own colleagues in conferences and other scientific forums.

This is a crucial skill not usually taught in graduate schools and to scientists at the moment, especially in terms of communicating to a non-specialist audience

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Open for Discussion: What’s the Difference Between Art and Science?

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By Michael Tinnesand  | April 2022

Illustration of insects on plants: Thysania agrippina par merian

To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; study the art of science. Learn how to see.  Realize that everything connects to everything else. —Leonardo da Vinci 

In high school, you have to take a lot of required courses, but you typically have some degree of choice. You can take electives in areas such as music or language, or you can take higher-level classes in academic subjects. Your choices are often put into two broad categories. You have science, technology, engineering, and mathematics coursework in one, and arts and humanities in another. If you drew the categories in a Venn diagram, you might want to place the circles side by side with little to no overlap, but are art and science really that different? 

There are certainly key differences between doing science and making art. The goal of science is to create new understanding of how the world works and develop practical solutions that ad-dress challenges, such as climate change. Artists strive to evoke a sense of beauty or an emotional reaction through their work—whether it’s in dance, music, painting, or other art form. Science is designed to be objective and guided by data; art is subjective and deeply influenced by feelings and opinions. 

While the outcomes of science and  art are quite different, the processes involved have undeniable similarities. To innovate and inspire, scientists and artists alike have to create something original that no one else has thought of or tried before. 

This doesn’t mean, however, that discovery in science and art starts from scratch. Scientists and artists both build on what is known or already exists. The key is in seeing things from a different angle, making novel connections, and forging new paths. The paths often meander, running into detours and dead-ends, but ultimately, they lead to progress.

The Artist Scientist

There are plenty of real-life examples showing that people can be interested in both art and science—you don’t have to choose one over the other. Legendary rocker Brian May, who was the lead guitarist for Queen, earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics. Actress Lisa Kudrow from the TV series Friends studied biology. Comedian Ken Jeong, who has appeared in Hollywood films and TV shows including Community, was a physician before he turned to acting. 

Perhaps the best known Western historical figure who was both artist and scientist is Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci is famous for his paintings, particularly the Mona Lisa. But he was also known in multiple science and engineering fields; he dreamed up inventions far ahead of his time, including the parachute and calculator. 

Lesser known, but also brilliant was Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th century groundbreaking naturalist and painter. In meticulous detail, she illustrated the life cycles of insects. Her careful observations helped dispel the belief that insects spontaneously arose from decaying matter, such as rotting fruit. 

Art as a Bridge to Science

Sometimes scientific discovery can best be understood by drawing artful comparisons. Since chemistry and other sciences sometimes deal with abstract concepts, scientists often use physical models to explain their ideas. For example, scientists and engineers have turned to origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, to copy natural structures—and also as a versatile tool to design new solutions. In another example, Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity is sometimes poetically explained in a way that evokes feelings: When sitting with someone you like, an hour is like a minute, but if you touch a hot stove, a minute is like an hour.

All of this leads back to you and your choices and perceptions of the arts and sciences. What connections do you see between the two? What will your path look like as you continue to study, learn, and create? The process of inventing ourselves involves complex decisions, just as creating a new theory or composing a symphony does. How you’ll apply originality to decision- making will be up to you! 


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The ‘Great Divide’: How the Arts Contribute to Science and Science Education

  • Open access
  • Published: 20 June 2019
  • Volume 19 , pages 219–236, ( 2019 )

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science vs arts essay

  • Martin Braund   ORCID: 1 &
  • Michael J. Reiss 2  

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In recent years, there has been a rapid growth in interest about the relationship between the arts and the sciences. This article explores this developing relationship and the suggestion that science and science learning are not complete without the arts. We see three levels at which the arts might improve the teaching and learning of science. The first is at a macro-level, concerned with ways in which subjects (including the arts and sciences) are structured and options for studying them provided and packaged. The second is at the meso-level, guiding approaches constructing science curricula that engage learners through using STS (Science, Technology and Society) contexts. The third is at the micro-level, of pedagogical practices in science and teaching that can be drawn from the arts. The drivers of STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering and Mathematics) add new dimensions to the nature of science in the twenty-first century and make science likely to diverge even more rapidly from school science unless new pedagogies, including those from the arts, help close the gap. The result could be a more authentic and engaging school science, one more relevant to the needs of the twenty-first century.

Les dernières années ont marqué un intérêt grandissant pour les liens entre les arts et les sciences. Cet article propose d’analyser ces liens en développement, ainsi que l’idée que les sciences et l’apprentissage scientifique ne sont pas complets sans les arts. Nous distinguons trois niveaux où les arts sont susceptibles d’améliorer l’enseignement et l’apprentissage des sciences. Le premier, le niveau macro, s’intéresse aux façons dont les sujets scolaires (y compris les arts plastiques et les sciences) sont structurés, et comment les différentes options pour les étudier sont proposées et présentées. Le deuxième niveau, intermédiaire, guide des approches visant à la construction de curriculums scientifiques qui stimulent l’intérêt des apprenants par le biais de contextes STS (sciences, technologies et société). Le troisième, soit le niveau micro, se penche sur des pratiques pédagogiques en sciences et en enseignement qui sont dérivées des arts. Les facteurs qui influencent les sciences, les technologies, les arts, l’ingénierie et les mathématiques ajoutent de nouvelles dimensions à la nature des sciences au 21 ième siècle et augmentent le risque que les sciences se démarquent encore plus rapidement des sciences en milieu scolaire, à moins que de nouvelles pédagogies, y compris celles qui proviennent des arts, ne contribuent à réduire cet écart. Le résultat de telles pédagogies pourrait déboucher sur des programmes de sciences à l’école plus authentiques et plus motivants, et aussi plus pertinents compte tenu des besoins du 21 ième siècle.

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In recent years, there has been considerable growth in the literature devoted to relationships between the arts and the sciences. A development and application of this is evidenced in the moves in several countries to consider a STEAM curriculum instead of a STEM one—in other words, adding ‘Arts’ to ‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics’ (Marshall, 2004 ; Lunn & Noble, 2008 ; Colucci-Gray, Burnard, Cooke, Davies, Gray, & Trowsdale, 2017 ; Harris & de Bruin, 2018 ; Skorton & Bear, 2018 ). This comes at a time of continuing unease about the effectiveness of science education and trends in low youth engagement with science (Archer, DeWitt, Osborne, Dillon, Willis & Wong, 2013 ; Schmidt, Burroughs & Cogan, 2013 ; Royal Society, 2014 ). This article, while not a formal review, explores the developing relationship between the arts and sciences and the suggestion that the enterprise of science and of learning it increasingly benefit from the arts and that science and science learning at all ages are consequently less complete. The questions we address are:

What might the arts provide that would make the sciences more complete?

In a world where many young people turn from learning science and involvement in it, what can we learn and take from the arts that might improve the teaching and learning of science?

As will become clear, we understand the arts as including more than the visual arts; we also refer to ‘the sciences’, to make a parallel with ‘the arts’ apparent and to acknowledge that science includes a range of disciplines. We start by providing a brief historical overview, so as to contextualise contemporary issues on which we subsequently focus. Our particular interest is in the science education provided by primary and secondary schooling and our main intention in this article is to present the argument that the current way science is perceived and adapted for science education has substantial shortcomings for contemporary science education.

Science and Art in Culture and Civilisation

Art seems to be as old as cognate human existence. It is commonly recognised that art, in expressive visual form, dates as far back as the late Palaeolithic (about 40,000 BCE). Figurines, beads and decorative art on functional objects such as handles, implements and simple vessels for food and water are evident from Mesolithic to Neolithic times and later, with the first emergence of pottery (Preziosi, 1989 ).

With refinements in hieroglyphics and the advent of written languages, art in storytelling and illustrated texts evolved, often simultaneously, alongside the extraordinary visual art of civilisations across Africa, Arabia, the Eastern Mediterranean, Central and Southern America, Australasia and Polynesia-Micronesia. With the development of language, new literary art forms of poetry, fiction and theatre became possible. It seems that humans across their diaspora simultaneously advanced their art as an essential part of progressive civilisation. Today, the arts can be considered to include the visual arts (including drawing, painting, sculpture, filmmaking, architecture, photography ceramics), literature (poetry, drama, prose fiction) and the performing arts (theatre, dance and music).

As far as the earliest manifestations of ‘science’ in culture are concerned, these are more difficult to pin down. Partly this concerns the word ‘science’, which only came into common use (at least as we now understand it) in the early nineteenth century (Heidegger & Grene, 1976 ). This is not to say that science as a distinct activity did not exist in prehistory. Observations and calculations of, for example, the Earth’s precession around its axis and the solar year and lunar month are known from Mesopotamian and Babylonian carved tablets of around 3500 years BCE (Steele, 2000 ).

In modern times, historians and philosophers have come to a consensus that sees science as a body of empirical, theoretical and practical knowledge about the natural world, produced by people (‘scientists’) who emphasise observation, explanation and prediction of real-world phenomena (Whitehead, 2011 ). As such, modern empirical science is a development of what was called ‘natural philosophy’ from the time of Aristotle through to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and nineteenth-century origins of modern science. Stemming from Baconian beliefs of inductivism and empiricism, scientific ‘methods’ were considered to be fundamental to modern (empirical) science, especially of the physical and biological kind. Thus, the enterprise of doing science (and to some extent of learning it) has often been (and still is) presented as a progressive narrative in which true theories replaced false beliefs (Bereiter, 1994 ).

Alternative, expansive interpretations of science, such as those of Thomas Kuhn, portray science in more nuanced, terms, such as that of competing paradigms or conceptual systems in a wider matrix that includes intellectual, cultural, economic and political themes, considered by traditional ‘Baconists’ to be outside science (Kuhn, 1970 ). Unfortunately, for many school students, the more restricted view of science founded on Baconian traditions has often led to perceptions of science as a fact-driven enterprise divorced from the culture in which it exists and serves. These views have prevailed in the history of education in science (Driver, Leach, Millar & Scott, 1996 ). At the same time, as we discuss below, there are, thankfully, many examples of teachers attempting to introduce students to a more creative and engaging experience of science (e.g. McGregor, Wilson, Bird & Frodsham, 2017 ). Our own view is that it remains the case that one of the great strengths of science (which we take to mean the natural sciences—principally biology, chemistry, physics and earth sciences) is that science does seek for reliable knowledge that has a substantial underpinning objectivity—so that, for example, chemical reactions undertaken in the same environmental conditions proceed independently of who is observing them. We are very well aware of arguments within science and the philosophy of science about the ways in which observers affect what is observed (Schrödinger’s cat, quantum entanglement, etc.) but our argument does not rely on any particular resolution of such issues.

The Arts and Science: How Science Might Be Made More Complete by the Arts

We use the word ‘complete’ in the phrase ‘science might be made more complete by the arts’ with two emphases. First, we make the claim for science, independently of education. Let us be clear that we do not mean there is an absolute requirement for the arts in order for science to exist or proceed. Science seems to have done quite well in recent times without much overt recourse to the arts. There are, however, subtle and more covert ways in which the arts and the sciences co-exist and are (or should be) interdependent. Some of these are seen in the personal lives of scientists. Root-Bernstein et al. ( 2008 ) showed that Nobel Prize winners and members of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society were more likely than other scientists, or even the population at large, to have hobbies or abilities in the arts. Secondly, we make the claim with reference to the successful teaching of science.

We now put forward four main premises in our argument that science is made more complete by its relationship with the arts. We use these to lead to a fifth premise, establishing a case for the arts to enhance the ways in which science courses and teaching methods might change to make science learning more authentic and engaging.

The subject boundaries premise : Divisions between curriculum areas (school subjects) run counter to the life experiences of learners of all ages.

The cognitive premise : The work of science needs creative as well as critical thinking to allow discourses that empower and fuel discovery and innovation and allow risk-taking.

The neuroscience premise : Thinking in science is stimulated by artistic activity.

The collaborative, economic premise : Collaboration between arts and sciences and vice versa is at the heart of the modern economy.

The pedagogical premise : The final justification is embedded in science education: organising curricula to accommodate science and arts and drawing on pedagogy normally associated with the arts offer fruitful ways to engage learners in school science and help them learn and to help prevent young people turning away from science.

We now consider key aspects of these five premises in more detail. Our focus is on the teaching and learning of science, so we spend less time on the aspects of these premises that are more to do with science than with science education—which is particularly the case for premise four. However, we feel that for the argument about teaching and learning to hold, and to change how science is typically taught in schools, it is important that educators believe they are still being true to science.

Cultural and Subject Boundaries

It has been suggested that the subject disciplines of the curriculum have evolved structures and characteristics that create boundaries between them and that this limits cross-disciplinary collaboration (Phelan, Davidson & Cao, 1991 ). Indeed, Goldberg ( 2008 ) argues that the panic that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 caused among US government not only, as is widely acknowledged, gave rise to a new drive to improve the teaching of science and mathematics in schools but also meant that education, instead of being seen as a way of cultivating an engaged member of society, became the vehicle for discrete subject expertise. Dillon ( 2008 ) sees disciplinary borders favouring a utilitarian view of knowledge and creativity, often under-valuing disciplines, including the creative and performing arts, not directly associated with the primary means of economic production. Subject discipline boundaries, generally strengthened by an accountability and performance culture embedded in school systems, often mitigate against a more open agenda and epistemology where collaboration and creativity contribute to investigative and problem-solving approaches (Breimer, Johnson, Harkness & Koehler, 2012 ; Colucci-Gray et al., 2017 ; Harris & de Bruin, 2018 ).

Science Relies on Creative as well as Critical Thinking

Often science is seen as concerning mainly ‘critical’ rather than ‘creative’ thinking. This is largely because critical thinking is perceived as a set of vertically operated cognitive skills used for decision-making in complex but logical situations, or for solving ‘ill-structured’ problems (Kuhn, 1999 ). Critical thinking is valued as a meta-cognitive tool to strengthen assertions and enhance domain-specific understanding in science. This particular understanding of the nature of assertions as judgements coincides with essential components of the nature of science (see, for instance, Abd-El-Khalick, Lederman, Bell & Schwartz, 2002 ) as science relies on logic in empirically testing competing claims to assess the strength of evidence-supporting claims.

This all seems very logical and appropriate for science but there are many cases where leaps in scientific discovery and innovation would not have happened using critical thinking alone. A possible example is Neils Bohr’s model for the atom that in 1913 paved the way for one of the great leaps forward in science: quantum physics. Bohr needed a new way of conceptualising the atom to allow for the erratic behaviour of electrons, stepping beyond the classic planetary model of electrons orbiting a nucleus in a planar ellipse. It has been argued that his model of atomic structure was stimulated by contemporaneous changes in literature and the arts, such as Cubism (Clarke, 2014 ). Bohr maintained that the form electron paths took depended on how you looked at them. Their very nature was a consequence of our observations. This meant that electrons were not like little planets at all. Instead, they were like one of Picasso or Braque’s deconstructed pictures, a blur of brushstrokes that only made sense once you stared at it for long enough. We are not claiming that without Cubism, Bohr’s theory would not have arisen. The important point is that the existence of new ways of looking at the world in the arts opens up spaces in which new thoughts about how the physical world works are more likely.

There are now an increasing number of initiatives that use such approaches. For example, the University of California Davis Art Fusion programme was co-founded by entomologist/artist Diane Ullman of the University of California Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the ceramicist Donna Billick back in 2006, building on an undergraduate course, ‘Art, Science and the World of Insects’, that they initiated in 1997 (Garvey, 2018 ). The programme has been described as transformational as its innovative approach has helped facilitate learning in both formal and informal settings and has helped engage members of the local community as well as students and academic staff. Similarly, the NSF Art of Science projects have funded a number of activities that intersect art and science. For example, Susan Eriksson, geologist and artist, uses metal, wood and minerals to create unique pieces that are often inspired by the geological world. Eriksson notes that scientific concepts are used when she creates her art. For instance, quantitative skills are used to divide tonal systems, while her metalwork incorporates various chemistry principles (National Science Foundation, 2009 ).

Many people think that doing science involves closely following a series of steps, with little room for creativity and inspiration. In fact, many scientists, like Bohr and in the examples above, recognise that creative thinking is one of the most important skills they have—whether that creativity is used to come up with an alternative hypothesis, to devise a new way of testing an idea, or to look at old data in a new light. Creativity is critical to science and sits alongside criticality; it does not replace it.

The Brain and ‘Scientific’ and ‘Artistic’ Thinking

The third premise in support of our argument for the arts ‘in and for’ science comes from neuroscience and some of what is known about human brain function. There have been claims for some time that the arts can contribute to the general development of cognitive abilities (Deasey, 2002 ). Early claims for brain-associated arts- and science-based thinking were based on presumptions about brain differentiation. It was suggested that the left and right hemispheres of the cerebral cortex control different physical and cognitive functions (Sperry, 1968 ; Hermann, 1990 ). Analytical and sequential reasoning (useful in mathematics and science) was said to be associated with left brain function while the right side was seen to deal with interpersonal, imaginative and emotional thinking (Herrmann, 1990 ; McGilchrist, 2010 ). This led to a simplistic view that arts learning is associated with ‘right brain’ thinking science and mathematics with ‘left brain’ thinking. Consequently, some educators such as Dorothy Heathcote advocated arts-derived pedagogy arguing right-brained activity such as drama could lead to a ‘left-handed’ way of knowing and thus benefit scientific, logical-mathematical reasoning (Wagner, 1979 ).

However, recent brain biology has challenged ideas of separated brain functions. In a review of the field, Morris ( 2010 ) points out that most cognitive scientists favour a ‘whole brain’ view, acknowledging that activities drawing on as wide a range of stimulation as possible inevitably improve brain function, especially for higher order activity and critical thinking (see also Howard-Jones, 2010 ). The point we wish to suggest here is that artistic activities may stimulate the brain in ways that might not be engaged by traditional science activities. There are now a number of initiatives that explore the implications of the arts for neuroscience, including FUSION, a group that meets every four weeks in Edinburgh (Edinburgh Neuroscience, 2018 ). For example, FUSION artist Michele Marcoux explores the fragmentary nature of identity, memory and perception, providing new insights into the work of scientists.

Before leaving this third premise in support of the arts for science, it is worth mentioning the work of the Dana Foundation in the USA. This organisation supports a number of research studies on brain functioning. Work using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has shown benefits in cognitive reasoning for those who have been involved in music training (Moreno, 2009 ), dance (Cross & Ticini, 2012 ) and drama/theatre (Hough & Hough, 2012 ).

A Collaborative and Economic Perspective

A new STEAM age driving economic development in modern science and technology is emerging making disciplinary subject boundaries of schools seem rather out of date. The ‘capital’ of art and science (i.e. the broad accumulations of knowledge and skills that contribute to and are fundamental to the enterprise of the arts and the sciences) is made greater by closer collaboration between them. In the business world, art-science collaborations have led to large-scale investment and smaller scale innovation. A country-wide approach placing the arts firmly within the STEM agenda in the USA has been stimulated in a movement championed by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), now adopted by institutions, corporations and individuals throughout the USA (RISD, 2018 ). The initiative’s key aims are to help hire artists and designers to drive technological innovation and promote possibilities for integration of arts with science and technology subjects across all phases of education. Examples of collaborations involving the RISD STEAM initiative include design students working alongside marine ecologists and oceanographers to conserve coastal sites and nature-lab interns making animated films to teach about marine ecosystems and work with universities in Germany to design and test advanced solar-powered vehicles. Other US examples include the Stanford Art + Science programme (Stanford Arts, 2019 ), the hiring of artists to solve problems in government agencies (Los Angeles County Arts Commission, 2019 ), collaborations between the worlds of fashion and science (Office of Communications, 2017 ) and Janet Echelman’s monumental, fluidly-moving sculptures that respond to environmental forces, including wind, water and sunlight (Echelman, 2011 ).

In the UK, there is a collaborative network called the ‘Knowledge Quarter’, a rapidly growing partnership of over 50 academic, cultural, research, scientific and media organisations. The hub of the network is Europe’s largest bioscience laboratory, The Crick Institute in London. This collaboration draws on unique expertise and knowledge in the arts and sciences from conservation of the world’s earliest books and manuscripts (at the British Library) to fashion and creative designs at Central St Martin’s College, all in touch with researchers at The Crick Institute (Knowledge Quarter, 2018 ).

The possibilities thrown up by art-science collaborations have resulted in new applications of science and technology in product design and use. The fashion industry has been quick to take advantage. Figure 1 shows an example of a dress devised by London-based, techno-fashion house CuteCircuit . The dress has thousands of micro LEDs sewn into the fabric, allowing a garment to change colours and patterns. These ‘smart textiles’ have the potential to evolve into even more dramatic creations, especially with advancements in nanotechnology. One already classic piece is the ‘Kinetic Dress’. This Victorian-style evening dress has sensors in the fabric which communicate to the electroluminescent embroidery when the wearer is moving. The faster the movement, the brighter the embroidery, translating kinetic movement into colour and pattern design.

figure 1

Eiza González wearing a CuteCircuit dress by Edgar Meritano © CuteCircuit, used with permission

Collaborations like this serve to increase the economic and knowledge capital of both art and science. A report on SCIART, Wellcome Trust’s 10-year scheme to stimulate art-science links in the UK, found artistic outcomes from ten case studies evidenced widespread dissemination to sizeable audiences and an unusual longevity of audience and professional interest (Glinkowski & Bamford, 2009 ). It seems that contribution to scientific capital is not so much a shift or development in scientific processes or outcomes, but rather that scientists’ involvement with artists encouraged speculative approaches to research and being more prepared to take risks.

How Science Education Benefits from the Arts and How the Arts Make a Contribution to ‘Better’ (More Authentic and Engaging) Science Education

For the hundred years or more of compulsory schooling in the developed nations, there has been an almost constant concern that students are less enthusiastic about learning science than other subjects and that decreasing numbers of young people want to pursue science into higher education or as a career. A meta-analysis of research for the Royal Society Vision Report shows these attitudes have hardly shifted over the last ten years in the UK in spite of huge investment in improving science teaching in schools, teacher training and professional development (Bennett, Braund & Sharpe, 2014 ). In the USA, similar concerns over the quality and depth of science education to interest and engage students, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, have been noted (e.g. Schmidt, Burroughs & Cogan, 2013 ). The Relevance of Science Education (ROSE) Project carried out surveys of 15-year-old students in 40 countries and found that, while students in all countries see the importance of science, in many this does not translate into liking for school science as a subject, particularly for girls (Sjøberg & Schreiner, 2010 ).

So, our questions remain what might the arts provide that would make the sciences more complete and what can we learn and take from the arts that might improve the teaching and learning of science? We can envisage consequences that the arts might have on science, for science and in science. Our interest is particularly in science education and we see three levels at which the arts might improve teaching and learning of science. The first is at a macro-level , concerned with ways in which subjects (including the arts and sciences) are structured and options for studying them provided and packaged. The second is at the meso-level , guiding approaches to the construction of science curricula and schemes of work that engage learners, for example through using STS (Science, Technology and Society) contexts. The third is at the micro-level , of pedagogical practices in science and teaching that can be drawn from the arts. These three levels are not entirely distinct—in particular, the meso-level overlaps at one pole with the macro-level and at the other with the micro-level. However, the three levels provide a useful heuristic. In the second half of this article, we consider each of these levels, paying the most attention to the third one—arts practices in and for science teaching.

The Arts and Sciences at the Macro-Level: Curriculum Provision

Countries vary greatly in the extent students specialise early or are required to learn a broad and balanced range of subjects until the end of compulsory schooling. It is not uncommon for students to be pushed towards a specialism in the arts and humanities or the sciences and mathematics, though few countries specialise to the extent that England does where most students take only three subjects from the age of 16.

In the last ten years or so, to broaden and diversify science in schools and link it to technology, engineering and mathematics, there has been a push in the UK, the US and some Asian countries towards the concept of STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. While there is some sense in taking a lead from wider communities of modern economies that link these disciplines needed for development, evidence of how STEM has impacted the occurrence and effects of collaboration and interdisciplinary work in schools is unconvincing (Archer et al., 2013 ; Colucci-Gray et al., 2017 ), despite the widely acknowledged benefits of interdisciplinary approaches (cf. the work of Leonardo da Vinci). Too often, the concept of STEM seems remote and poorly understood by teachers. For example, in the UK, the Royal Society commissioned a series of meta-analyses of research as part of its STEM Vision Report, one of which considered to what extent the STEM concept was embedded and had made differences in schools (Howes, Kaneva, Swanson & Williams, 2013 ). In one section of their report the authors cite research studies showing that:

STEM remains a misleading curriculum concept: it is not an integrated reality in high schools anywhere in the world that we know of, and STEM integration is not well understood by teachers. In many projects, the focus is on science and maths, leaving out engineering and technology. (Howes et al., 2013 : 9)

The ASPIRES (Young People’s Science and Career Aspirations 10-14) project found STEM subjects were viewed by students as lacking creativity and unrelated to images or aspirations that they had for themselves (Archer et al., 2013 ). Drawing on the arts to reinvigorate science education might provide the sorts of post-human education advocated by Quinn ( 2013 ) and alluded to by philosophers such as Biesta ( 2018 ), one where individuals play a part in knowing about themselves as part of a greater whole, rather than being seen as subservient participants in an epistemology valuing information and knowledge as superior to the individual.

An example of ‘macro’ integration can be seen in a US-originated project calling for STEM to integrate with Arts into a ‘STEAM’ curriculum (see ). This has been picked up by the South Korean government which has instituted an associated curriculum and teacher training programme (Baek et al . , 2011 ). The STEAM rationale explicitly draws on a formula of smart technology with ‘cool design’, once promoted by the late Steve Jobs. It may be that a STEAM curriculum appeals to the agenda of ‘Pacific Rim’ countries that value an innovation-based reform of education for a competitive knowledge economy. In the pyramid diagram provided by STEAM Education (Fig. 2 ), STEAM educators promote the idea of ‘life-long holistic teaching’ as a more progressive and ‘FUNctional’ alternative to conventional integration or multidisciplinary views of STEM and Arts (A). The idea is to work in a transdisciplinary way, avoiding artificial combinations (or separations) of subject disciplines.

figure 2

A framework for STEAM education © Yakman, G. ( 2010 ), used with permission

STEAM educators promote a more progressive alternative to conventional integration or multidisciplinary views of STEM and Arts (A) that retain separate identities and traditional subject disciplines with associated content-related structures (e.g. High Tech High, 2019 ). Rather than taking a problem or topic and using it to focus teaching in subject time or through a multidisciplinary approach that can produce artificial connections between subject content, a STEAM approach constantly reiterates the importance of a local, relevant problem to solve, drawing in the arts and humanities as well as STEM content as a natural consequence of researching and communicating solutions. For example, Herro and Quigley ( 2016 ) describe STEAM teaching using the context of a local housing development adjacent to a school. STEM content included sound insulation, geological and geophysical data and the mathematics of cost impact and design. The Arts (visual and communication) and Humanities (social sciences) were used to explain human dimensions of aesthetic design and in communicating students’ views of developers’ proposals. According to Howes and colleagues, such a STEAM approach for schools might have attractions for Arts-led work with learners who are not apparently predisposed towards or interested in STEM, but who might thereby maintain contact with STEM in some form:

Rather than seeing such students as having leaked from a STEM ‘pipeline’, perhaps we should see them as travelling by a different route, to a later rendezvous. (Howes et al., 2013 : 10)

Arts and Sciences at the Meso-Level: Engaging Learners Through Arts-Related STS Contexts

At the ‘meso’ level, we consider ways in which places of learning operationalise the curriculum in terms of the courses, schemes of work and textbooks used to teach science. Although institutions might espouse an educational stance valuing creativity, even one that alludes to integration between the arts and the sciences, it is often the case that aspirations are ‘thwarted by mandated, all-time consuming packaged programs’ (Manley, 2008 : 36). Craft ( 2010 ) sees a curriculum controlled by assessment regimes limiting schemes that include creative approaches because they are seen as time-consuming and less likely to ‘deliver’ against assessment targets.

In response to the perceived problems of students’ disaffection with science and claims that science teaching is boring and irrelevant, science educators and teachers have turned towards course design that sets science in contexts relevant to the real world (e.g. Gilbert, Bulte & Pilot, 2011 ). In the USA and some other countries, the term Science-Technology-Society is broadly synonymous with a context-based approach and so this definition, provided by Aikenhead, is helpful:

STS approaches… emphasise links between science, technology and society by means of … a technological artefact, process or expertise; the interactions between technology and society; a societal issue related to science or technology; social science content that sheds light on a societal issue related to science and technology; a philosophical, historical, or social issue within the scientific or technological community. (Aikenhead 1994 : 52-53)

Given the arguments made above for closer links between STEM and the Arts, and examples of how science now draws on and is complemented by arts-related activity, it seems opportune to include STEAM examples that provide the ‘technological artefacts’, ‘processes’ and ‘interactions’ of Aikenhead’s definition for STS. If STS approaches better engage students already signed up to science courses, then including arts applications of science, such as in fashion, film, music, dance and theatre, has the potential to draw in more of those who did not choose science courses in the first place, or for people to re-engage with science learning at a later date. In cultures where the contribution of indigenous knowledge systems is important to science education, recourse to the arts has currency for students’ wider involvement in science learning and for addressing curriculum development in post-colonial contexts, where the contributions of indigenous cultures are taken respectfully and equitably (e.g. Alsop & Bencze, 2014 ). Furthermore, it is increasingly appropriate to refer to arts-related STSE (science, technology, society and environment) contexts, since STSE has become more important in science education (e.g. Pedretti & Nazir, 2011 ) and as the arts have engaged more substantively with environmental issues (O’Brien, 2008 ).

Arts in Science Teaching at the Micro-Level: Pedagogical Practises Drawing on the Arts

UNESCO’s decade of educational effort (2005–2014) centred on interdisciplinary reform rather than on subject-focussed change. Central to its 2005 resolution was an emphasis on holistic teaching practices encouraging uses of multiple methods of instruction, for example, writing, art, drama and debate (UNESCO, 2005 ). There is nothing radically new in using such methods to help explain science and make it more accessible to those studying science. The methods of creative writing, poetry, physical model making and visual approaches including painting and drawing, drama and role-play have been part of a few science teachers’ repertoires for some time (e.g. Goldberg, 2016 ). We suspect, though, that as science education (and all education for that matter) has moved towards more examination-oriented and standard-driven accountability, these methods have become rarer. Those teachers who are ‘committed believers’ in these approaches might continue to use them, but even they are under continuing pressure in a time-constrained system that values evidence of achievement in a restricted core of subjects, examined for a narrow set of linguistic and mathematical skills, over outcomes concerned with holistic development of learners. This is despite the widespread acknowledgement that in the twenty-first century, a greater range of skills are necessary (Deming & Noray, 2018 ).

In primary schools, in many countries, the primary teacher has been seen as both expert and champion of subject integration. Because they typically teach all subjects, the idea of integrating science, and using contexts and methods from the arts and humanities to teach science content, seems more natural. But even these teachers can be under pressure to restrict holistic teaching and learning. In England, these pressures were manifest in critiques of integration from the so-called New Right, culminating in a report on the curriculum by Alexander, Rose and Woodhead ( 1992 ). They claimed that subject content outcomes were submerged, weak and at a low level in topic work which at the time was typically cross-curricular. Since then, the curriculum pressures on science and the arts in English primary schools have increased to the extent that these subjects, along with others, are often downgraded and squeezed into short-afternoon slots after the main business of the day (teaching of ‘literacy’ and ‘numeracy’) has occupied the morning’s work (cf. Access Art, 2019 , for a response to the pressures on curriculum time for art).

But why should we claim that methods and approaches from the arts offer possibilities for better learning in science? To begin to answer this question, it helps to look at some of the ways in which science is structured and communicated. Science uses symbolic and semiotic systems of representations and employs specific but different meanings for everyday words making it often seem like ‘learning a foreign language’ (Bleicher, Tobin & McRobbie, 2003 ). Science teachers employ mathematical, chemistry and physics symbols and these communication modes can create significant subject-specific barriers to student learning that do not occur in other school subjects (Wellington & Osborne, 2001 ). Thus, communication through a variety of visual, spoken and alternative written language modes (alternatives to written, expository texts), drawn from the arts, offers ways of breaking down the barriers that students find hard to cross.

In the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, medical students used masterpieces by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Kandinsky and Da Vinci to improve observation and pattern recognition skills in clinical situations (Shapiro, Rucker & Beck, 2006 ). An additional (and unexpected) outcome was that medical students following the fine arts programme developed better skills in emotional recognition, cultivation of empathy, identification of story and narrative and awareness of multiple perspectives.

More routinely, perhaps, there are documented examples of painting and drawing being used in expressive modes for school students to develop and communicate scientific ideas in creative ways. Figure 3 comes from a California art-chemistry project. In a workshop on ‘Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars’, students discussed the basic workings of a fuel cell and then designed their own ‘car of the future’ (Halpine, 2004 ). In a similar vein, Fig. 4 , showing an insectivorous plant with its feeding and reproductive adaptations, was drawn by a high-school student after studying original letters of Charles Darwin (Stafford, 2015 ). The picture shows evidence of integration between artistic creativity and scientific writing. In her edited work, Drawing for Science Education , Phyllis Katz brings together a large number of international examples of how drawings are being used in science education (Katz, 2017 ).

figure 3

An example of an H 2 O car designed by a third-grade student during a workshop on hydrogen fuel cells Halpine, S. M. (2004: 1432)

figure 4

An insectivorous plant drawn by a high-school student after studying original letters of Charles Darwin. Stafford, S. (2015) In C. J. Boulter, M. J. Reiss & D. L. Sanders (Eds), Darwin-Inspired Learning , 35-44, Rotterdam: Sense Publishers

Perhaps these artistic activities work because they tap into the visual thinking of learners. It is often said that today’s young people inhabit a multimodal world dominated by television, video games, computers, tablets, films and so on. It has also been claimed that visual thinking translates into problem-solving ability. Visual thinkers literally ‘see’ their answers to problems, enabling them to build entire information systems using their imaginations (Gangwer, 2009 ).

An appreciation of structures, processes and concepts can be enhanced by 3D representations. In many primary school classrooms, around the world, one sees food web mobiles and papier-mâché planets hanging from ceilings. In secondary school chemistry lessons, one might see molecular models made from plasticine and cocktail sticks, and in biology lessons, plant cells made from plastic bags and wallpaper paste.

Part of the appeal of art approaches, such as those described so far, is that they offer alternatives to the usual modes of science teaching. Begoray and Stinner ( 2005 ) argue that the science classroom is dominated by expository text, representing the dominance in science lessons of comparison, description, sequencing, listing, cause and effect and problem solution. They claim that, as narrative text is more common in the life experience of learners (from films, novels and oral story telling) and is less abstract than expository text in organising knowledge, its use in science lessons can lead to better empathy with science and more effective cognitive learning.

One method from the arts, perhaps above others, stands out in this regard of narrative alternatives providing the benefits of visualisation: drama. Forms of drama (scripted plays, role-play, movement, mime and dance) make science ideas, theories and processes, at varying degrees of complexity and abstraction, more comprehensible to students through their more active involvement in the reconstruction processes, necessary in a constructivist approach to learning (Braund, 2015 ). Additionally, drama in science models ways in which scientists develop and validate theories and provides a productive platform for debating the social, political and cultural dimensions of science, that help give science a human face, especially for students sceptical of its worth (Ødegaard, 2003 ).

Among drama strategies to enhance science learning, role-plays of the physical kind, where students portray molecules, components of biological cells or model processes such as energy or behaviour of electrons in circuits, offer particular advantage. According to Scott, Mortimer and Ametller ( 2011 ), rationalising ideas between learners’ conceptions of the world and canonical science requires differentiation between, and integration of, these two ways of explaining and seeing the world. To achieve integration of ideas requires making the less visible (molecules, electrons, cell components) and abstract ideas (energy, photosynthesis, entropy) comprehensible to students without obstructions embodied in the symbolic and sometimes obtuse language of science used to communicate these ideas that we referred to earlier. This is why science teachers often use metaphors and analogies to help students access ideas, explanations and theory (Aubusson, Harrison & Ritchie, 2006 ). For example, analogues such as the hot water system of a house or ski lift have been used to explain current, voltage and resistance in electrical circuits. A criticism of these approaches is that the analogues themselves may not be fully understood or using them could foster development of problematic alternative conceptions for the target concepts being taught (Harrison & Treagust, 2006 ). It is here that the use of physical role-plays offers an alternative, still drawing on analogues for learning, but through physical interactions that more closely involve learners with the content being taught (Braund, 2015 ). One cautionary note here is that any analogy, whether arts- or non-arts-derived, communicates only a partial reality. The skill of the teacher is required to provide cognitive space, through discussion, allowing learners to critique whatever analogous model or method is used so that its successes in promoting understanding and its limitations as a version of scientific reality are clear (Braund, 2015 : 115).

The arts pedagogies described in this section, and others, including poetry (Pollack & Korol, 2013 ), creative writing and music (Crowther, 2012 ), offer the science teacher an enhanced pedagogical toolkit to help students learn science. A tradition in science teaching has been to use practical work to help students access ideas and teach concepts, but this has been criticised for being too focussed on practising and performing rehearsed routines and procedures rather than on ensuring that students understand what is going on (Hodson 1991 ; Abrahams & Reiss, 2017 ). It is, however, possible that approaches derived from the arts have a place to play to enhance practical work. For example, Warner and Anderson ( 2004 ) studied different classes that were investigating the biology of snails, through observation and experiment, with and without a prelude of role-plays involving students as expert zoologists. They noticed better accuracy in writing and increased levels of anatomical knowledge for students who had taken part in the role-plays.

Conclusions—Towards a More Authentic and Engaging Science Education Using the Arts

We have argued that in considering the contribution that the arts might make to the sciences, particularly in terms of teaching the sciences, it is useful to envisage the contribution as potentially operating at three levels: the macro-level (the ways in which subjects, not only the arts and sciences, are structured and options for studying them provided), the meso-level (guiding the construction of science curricula and schemes of work) and the micro-level (pedagogical practices that can be drawn from the arts when teaching science). It is not, we contend, the case that all three levels must simultaneously exist for improvements to be made. For example, one can envisage a single (albeit passionate and determined) science teacher making changes to their teaching (i.e. at the micro-level) without any corresponding changes at the meso- or macro-levels. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to presume that if appropriate changes are made at two of the levels, ideally all three, the benefits are likely to be correspondingly greater.

In arguing for the contributions that the arts might make to science and science education, we are not claiming there should be full integration nor that the epistemology or ontology of the arts and sciences are the same. As literary critic George Steiner ( 2013 ) once claimed, the intentions, procedures and products of the arts and science have never been the same. Art does not proceed from a less complete and less satisfactory representation of the world to a better one; the paintings of Giotto are not less worthy than those of Degas or Pollock. Science, though (like the arts) culturally and socially bound, is different and proceeds by empiricism, testing out and establishing better representations of the world. Today’s views of the universe and its origins are more complete (though never wholly complete) than those of Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton or Einstein.

Our main intention in this article has been to show that the current way science is perceived and adapted for science education has substantial shortcomings for the science education of the twenty-first century (see California Alliance for Arts Education ( 2015 ) for examples of how many of our arguments apply to school mathematics as well as to school science). An arts-informed view is helpful here. In 1967, theatre director and theorist Peter Brook gave a series of lectures collectively entitled The Empty Space (Brook, 1968 ). Brook’s phrase ‘the empty space’ was used metaphorically to critique the state of theatre in Britain, as he saw it being staid and stuck with methods of communication and presentation that had changed little over the previous 100 years. Audiences were turning away from theatre and so Brook envisioned and pioneered more enlightened ways of presenting and communicating through drama. His ideas revolutionised theatre in Britain and beyond for generations.

Brook’s concerns for the late twentieth-century theatre echo those of science educators today in many countries who recognise the lack of enthusiasm of students for science and the reducing likelihood that they will choose further study of science or science-related careers (Millar & Osborne, 1998 ; Sjøberg & Schreiner, 2010 ). In Brook’s terms, then, the trick for science educators is to turn increasingly away from the ‘dead hand’ of traditional, non-interactive methods such as book and board work (and even some versions of practical work) to see what gains can be made from employing strategies involving more collaborative learning effort and innovation from students (Braund, 2015 : 107). It is our contention that drawing on the arts for inspiration and new approaches will help. The argument here is not only that the arts can engage and inspire students; it is that using the arts as a language to help learners understand scientific concepts can be a powerful way of enabling such learning.

In an article we wrote over ten years ago (Braund & Reiss, 2006 ), we proposed an evolutionary model for science and science education, accounting for changes in science that have broadened its scope and spheres of operation (for example, to encompass science done in other places than traditional laboratories). We argued that these changes in science were generally not paralleled by advances in science teaching methods and that greater attention needed to be paid in school science education both to changes in how science is viewed and to the potential of out-of-laboratory learning. Such attention would also help lead to a shift in school science from ‘transmission learning’ to ‘constructivist learning’. Our model thus indicated increasing divergence between science as practised in the real world and science as represented in schools, and we argued that such divergence was unhelpful for science students.

It is our contention that the model gains when extra dimensions of the contribution of the arts to science and of arts-based pedagogy to science teaching are added (see Fig. 5 ). We call the model a ‘Mark II’, the text in bold upper case italics in Fig. 5 and the dotted and hashed arrowed lines being additions to the 2006 version. The drivers of STEAM add new dimensions to the nature of science in the twenty-first century but additionally make science likely to diverge even more rapidly from school science unless new pedagogies, including those from the arts, help close the gap, drawing the nature of learning science closer to the changing nature of science in the real world (shown by the dotted and dashed arrowed lines). The result could be a more authentic and engaging school science, one more relevant to the needs of the twenty-first century.

figure 5

Towards a more authentic and engaging school science (drawing on STEAM) : an evolutionary model (Mark II)

We acknowledge that the addition of the boxes at the right-hand side of Fig. 5 , building on our five premises, places additional demands on teachers. Not all science teachers will welcome the new pedagogies for which we have argued in this article. We also acknowledge that there are some students who may not welcome these new approaches either. Nevertheless, we argue for these new approaches for two main reasons. The first is that they present students with a more authentic vision of science. In this sense, we feel that STEAM can be understood as being a contemporary enhancement of STEM. Were we historians or philosophers of science, this reason would have been the sole one on which our argument rested. However, we are both science educators and while we wish to remain true to developments in science, as indicated above, our main intention, as also indicated above, is to provide a better science education for students. This is our second reason—we contend that these new pedagogies, with associated shifts in content, can help many students to engage in science when they would otherwise have not done so and can help them to learn science better.

We need our science students not to lose their creativity. For people to be educated in the twenty-first century, they need to study both the arts and the sciences throughout their schooling. People talk about literacy as if it means only to be educated and proficient in using the language we speak, but there are other literacies especially of STEAM that are equally part of what it is to be educated. Today’s and tomorrow’s citizens need both the arts and sciences to equip them with the criticality and creativity of mind and the aesthetic and emotional capacities essential for being rounded and cognate humans.

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Braund, M., Reiss, M.J. The ‘Great Divide’: How the Arts Contribute to Science and Science Education. Can. J. Sci. Math. Techn. Educ. 19 , 219–236 (2019).

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13.7 Cosmos & Culture

The divergence of art and science.

Music style and science style diverge, says Adam Frank.

Here at 13.7 , we have have spent considerable time thinking about art and science. In particular, we've often tried to unpack the meaning of their similarities.

We've explored the way abstract sculpture embodies experimental techniques common to both scientists and artists. We've looked at Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson for clues as to how artists and scientists see the world. We've even called on Beyoncé to help us understand what determines excellence in art and science.

So, it would seem, there is much in common between art and science, and there is much to be gained in specifying that similarity.

Except when they aren't similar.

Over the past few weeks, I have been running through Nikki Lane's new album All Or Nothing once a day or more. It's that good. Lane's style lives somewhere between country, rock, rock-a-billy and maybe a few other genres. Her voice has the strong edge of someone living hard without shame. The bad-girl memes on the album range from "it's always the right time to do the wrong thing" to "tonight it's a good night to sleep with a stranger." Taken as a whole, its classic outlaw Americana from a woman's perspective.

But, what strikes me most as I listen to these songs is how clever Lane (and producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys) have been in appropriating older styles, motifs and sonic metaphors. The song "Good Man" begins with a power pulse drumbeat taken straight from Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes' " Be My Baby " (which also inspired Billy Joel's " Say Goodbye to Hollywood "). After a measure or two, Lane then takes the song in an entirely new direction.

In Lane's "I Don't Care," there are strong hints of "London Calling" by the Clash, which then morphs into a slightly Southern-fried version of April March's "Chick Habit " (from the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof ). " All Or Nothing " recalls the best of Bonnie Raitt's music in the 1980s, while " Man Up " is a hilarious take on themes (in both music and lyrics) that Dolly Parton would be proud of.

What I have loved about Lane's album is the way all these influences appear for a moment as full-fledged ghosts, only to become something entirely new and purposeful for her own writing. Her riffs and her stories are compelling enough to come back to again and again, while savoring, each time, the effect of all the distinct influences.

But that direct take on older material got me thinking about what can happen in art that doesn't happen in science.

As a theoretical physicist, I am, of course, leaning heavily on the work of those who came before me. I wouldn't get very far without Newton, Einstein or thousands of other lesser-known scientists from decades ago who worked their way to results I now use every day in my own research.

But here is the crux of the biscuit. While I do use their results, I never purposely emulate their style.

Most people don't think about scientists as having a style, but we all do. We all have our idiosyncratic ways our reasoning (mathematical or otherwise) gets carried forward. That style comes out very clearly in our papers. It may be the way I formulate an equation, playing fast and loose with detail but intuiting my way to the right result. It may be that rigor is signature, making sure that every step is mathematically clean and appropriate.

So, I can see these styles and I do appreciate some more than others. But what I don't consciously do is go back and try directly recovering these styles. In fact, progress in science is such that, over time, the understanding of a particular result usually gets better than its original presentation. That means the original paper may be the worst place to attempt to fully understand a now time-honored equation or theory.

And yet, here is Nikki Lane clearly thinking: Hey, let's start with that beat from "Be My Baby"; or picking up on a Dolly theme as a beginning for something wonderfully new. Lane, and artists in general, are used to using older styles to build new ones. Scientists, on the other hand, use old results to build new ones. Styles seem not to matter.

So, as of today, I would argue the kind of appropriation Nikki Lane is mastering works powerfully in art but is rarely seen in science. Now, I could be wrong about this point — and I would be interested to see what folks think about this distinction. But if it's true, it would be interesting to ask how this specific difference may actually illuminate the similarities between art and science we have explored so many times before.

Adam Frank is a co-founder of the 13.7 blog, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester, a book author and a self-described "evangelist of science." You can keep up with more of what Adam is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @adamfrank4 .

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Hubble telescope image of the Carina Nebula, 2010

Science is more beautiful than art

A team of scientists working on a boat off Cape Cod have just landed a huge great white shark , named it Genie, tagged it and returned it to the sea. They hope to track it and learn about the enigmatic lives of these ancient predators. Meanwhile, on Mars, Nasa's Curiosity rover has begun its mission to determine – metre by metre, rock by rock – whether the red planet was once able to support life . This new mission comes days after Curiosity captured a partial solar eclipse on Mars as its small moon Phobos crossed the face of the sun , appearing to take a tiny bite out of it.

And in the art world … well, let's see.

It has been announced that Damien Hirst got record attendances for his Tate Modern retrospective , while drawings by Andy Warhol are among works to be exhibited at the inaugural Frieze Masters art fair next month. Somehow, these bits of art news do not seem as thrilling as discovering the secrets of other planets, or the once-unfathomable oceans.

Many projects today try to bring together art and science. London's Wellcome Collection does a resourceful job of marrying medical science and art in its exhibitions, for example. And Cern, home of the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, has an arts programme that verges on the avant-garde, with dancers impersonating particles in the site's library, among physicists deep in study . The two areas are generally held to have a lot to teach one another. But there is another way of looking at their relationship. Is it possible that, in the modern world, science has simply replaced art? By that I mean, replaced its higher purpose of expanding minds and imaginations and revealing the beauty of existence.

A field of crescent-shaped dunes in the northern polar region of Mars

It is science that now provides the most beautiful and provocative images of our world – not to mention other worlds. It is hard to name an image made by an artist in the last two decades that is as fascinating or memorable as, say, the Hubble telescope's pictures of the Eagle Nebula or the Whirlpool Galaxy . A visit to the Hubble's website (, with its tours of the cosmos, its astronomy photographs (free to print) and its movie theatre chronicling the birth-throes and death-pangs of stars, is arguably as rewarding as a trip to any museum. And then there are all those images of deep-sea worlds taken by submersibles, among them National Geographic's shots of the deepest hydrothermal vents ever discovered . Emissions from these volcanic chimneys, nicknamed "black smokers" and located three miles below the surface of the Caribbean Sea, provide extraordinary images; they are also hot enough to melt lead.

Yet it is not on purely visual grounds that science seems to dwarf today's art. Proponents of contemporary art are quick to point out that it is not necessarily about the visual. Ever since the rise of conceptual art in the late 1960s , art has claimed an intellectual territory of provocation and contemplation beyond the visible. Yet it is here that science wins hands down. What notion of any current artist can compare with the sublime craziness of quantum physics (in which objects can exist in multiple states and places at the same time ), let alone the awe-inspiring prediction and apparent discovery of the Higgs boson after a 45-year search? Here is the real conceptual art, and it turns your head inside out merely trying to grasp its most basic premises – in particular, that all the matter we can see appears to comprise just 4% of the universe, the Higgs providing a possible gateway to understanding that remaining 96%.

Once, art and science truly worked as equals – in the researches of Leonardo da Vinci , for instance. In the 21st century, art rarely rivals the capacity for wonder that modern science displays in such dazzling abundance.

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Art and Science: One Culture or Two, Difference and Similarity Essay

Introduction, works cited.

Art and science are two broad concepts that reflect development of the society and its culture. There is a debate concerning the role and status of these disciplines in modern society and their impact on culture. Both disciplines are influenced by social-historical conditions and social development which has a great impact on their current state. Science and art belong to one culture representing one stage of the social, economic and cultural development of the society.

Science and art belong to one culture because they reflect discoveries and experiments of the modern era. in both of them, there is knowledge and academic disciplines. Both of them are based on scientific knowledge and principles, rules and procedures. Both science and art belong to one culture and ‘driven’ by one process, creativity. Creativity is applied to theories and knowledge, terms and concepts studies by artists and scientists. Both of them belong to one culture, because they represent practical application of knowledge and creative skills. The process of creativity can be seen as a sphere of research that investigates application of knowledge and practical application of theories (Essays of an Information (a), 4). One might attempt to distinguish as science the endeavor to prepare nitrogen mustard with superior properties as a chemotherapeutic agent and as basic science some general study of cell metabolism. Thus, art uses its own concepts and techniques which help artists to create a conceptually new approach. For instance, the works of Dali and Picasso vividly portray a new vision and representation of the world around them. Artists and scientists discover and analyze the natural world and reflect its changes. For instance, great discoveries in natural sciences during the 19th century coincided with naturalistic movement in literature and art in general, Artists and scientists believe that before any explanation is advanced, an exhaustive collection of instances of a phenomenon should be compiled, out of which axioms regarding that phenomenon will somehow emerge, their correctness being ensured by the infallibility of the data (Essays of an Information (a), 6).

Art and science belong to one culture because both of them are based on scientific discovery and desire for something new. In practice, artists and scientists must usually be satisfied if they discover just some of the sufficient and some of the necessary conditions for the effects under investigation. During every historical period, artists and scientists suppose to reveal an ideal; one, which must be approached gradually, as the conditions sufficient for the effect to be manifested are widened. The knowledge of such conditions has a practical advantage, for it “frees the direction”, that is, it opens up new means for bringing about a desired effect. Both art and science champion experiment and observation against authority and tradition, as sources of knowledge. Although not new in its general outline, the extent and detail of arguments in favor of an experimental method put art and science well ahead of most rivals for the attention and respect of those concerned with scientific method (Essays of an Information (b), 7).

The main difference between these disciplines is that in science, prediction once made, its confirmation depends often on events over which the scientist can exercise no vestige of control. The real world having been constituted a “something,” the principle of intelligibility asserts man’s capacity, perhaps even his obligation to understand that something. Non-science does not make predictions and does not test hypotheses. It does not multiply and diversifies the range of possibilities humanly attainable, among which researchers choose those they will make realities. Artists and scientists know that common sense is imperfect, and for this reason they usually permit the survival even of relations that yield frequent unaccountable failures in prediction. Science and art giving answer question “Why” and “How” which help them to create a new knowledge and methods.

Both art and science are based on evidence and explanations, testing and improvements, evaluation and replication. Scientists and artists work with theoretical norms which are not necessarily self-evident, and so gain power to work with a far greater range of possibilities than before. Both art and science belong to one culture because they deal primarily with what is experienced by all mankind; science encompasses, in addition, what is experienced, in the laboratory, by but a few. This distinction seems unimportant: the special experience of scientists is potentially available to all willing to enter the laboratory. As it begins science judges the acceptability of subject matter much as common sense does. As science and art develop, as their view of the world becomes more highly elaborated, they make these judgments differently (Essays of an Information (a), 5).

In sum, art and science represent and belong to one culture based on creativity, historical development of society, research and scientific methods of discoveries. The main characteristic of science and art is new knowledge creation, new application of existing knowledge while other academic disciplines use this ready-made knowledge for their purposes.

  • Essays of an Information Scientist: Creativity, Delayed Recognition, and other Essays, 12 (1989a), 54. Current Contents , #43, p.3-7, 1989.
  • Essays of an Information Scientist: Crea tivity, Delayed Recognition, and other Essays, 12 (1989b), 296. Current Contents , #8, p.1-10, 1989.
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Essays on Art and Science

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Anything Eric R. Kandel says about neuroscience or the relationship between art and neuroscience is noteworthy. He is not only brilliant at explaining difficult and complex scientific ideas and data in simple language but also well-informed about—and sympathetic to—twentieth-century art, and avails himself of an impressive range of art-historical literature. Nancy Princenthal, author of Unspeakable Acts: Women, Art, and Sexual Violence in the 1970s, and Joseph E. LeDoux, Henry And Lucy Moses Professor of Science, New York University
A lively, erudite inquiry into the experience of art. Kirkus Reviews
Eric R. Kandel’s ‘Essays on Art and Science’ is a fascinating, thought-provoking read that beautifully articulates the complex interplay between our brain’s inner workings and our emotional responses to art. It’s a testament to Kandel’s expertise and ability to make science approachable and relevant to our everyday experiences with art. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the profound ways in which art and science intersect to define our perception of the world. Mental Health Affairs
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Arts vs science Essay (526 words)

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Science vs. arts I consider that Science and Arts are strongly bonded as, though they are two totally opposite areas of knowing, they manage to create a balance that holds tightly the emotions and the reasoning of human mankind. Art is the expression Of human creativity, Of human skill and imagination. It is usually represented through paintings, music, sculpture etc. Art is created to be appreciated or criticized. The Art creates beauty, and it gives the audience the opportunity to choose whether the beauty is indeed gorgeous or hideous. Hint that the beauty off work of art is not measurable. For me, beauty represents the ability to convey strong emotions and powerful feelings through the actual displayed work of art. For me, an inspirational painting like an old American Apache that rides his horse into the sunset is much more beautiful than a portrait off beautiful girl. But tastes cannot be discussed, as there is no standard of taste among human beings. This is why art is so controversial.

Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiments. Science is the area to knowing that explains every honeymoon so people would understand it. It needs precision and accuracy in data collecting as Science is all about exact measurements. Science helps the world develop thoroughly as it is the only way we can know the truth, A thorough evolution is an evolution that comes as closely as possible to reality.

On one hand, I think one completes each other as Art is the perfection of emotion and Science is the art of numbers. Taking into consideration the fact that the world has evolved through science, it can be said that Art has changed because of Science. But art itself is a science that needs exact measurements and accurate calculus. Work is recognized as a work Of art through reasoning the feelings and the emotions one gets while observing the piece of art.

Observing, as said in the definition Of Science, is an action done in order to get the closest answer to reality. Reality is given by Science, which means that, basically, Art is Science [I. On the other hand, it can be said that Science is an Art too, as the biggest discoveries were made by passionate scientist that wanted to prove the world that the things known so far were wrong. This means that they were put into a situation in which they, through imagination, reasoning and emotion, realized hey were given false or erroneous information.

Probably, their frustration and their ambition showed the world that through creative thinking and imaginative reasoning things that are unknown to mankind could be explained, It is extremely difficult to have a concept to knowledge upon a thing that does not exist, This inquires imagination and creativity, two vital features that create art. In conclusion, Science and Arts share mutual importance to humankind, tough they study totally different subjects. Their huge discrepancy is the one that makes them complement each other, thus, forming a couple without which the world could not exist.

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March 6, 2012, by Stephen Mumford

Art versus Science?

My previous post set me to thinking more about the differences between the arts and the sciences. Are they really as distinct as we seem to assume? And if they are, what is the distinction? Do we have a clear definition of each that allows us to see their separation?

There is no universal agreement on these questions. It was Aristotle who first divided up the subject areas and our modern universities tend to protect those boundaries that he created. Most universities will have distinct faculties of arts and sciences, for instance. But the division clearly has some artificiality. Suppose one assumed, for example, that the arts were about creativity while the sciences were about a rigorous application of technique and methods.This would be an oversimplification because all disciplines need both.

The best science requires creative thinking. Someone has to see a problem, form a hypothesis about a solution, and then figure out how to test that hypothesis and implement its findings. That all requires creative thinking, which is often called innovation. The very best scientists display creative genius equal to any artist. Consider Einstein’s innovations, for instance, or those of Niels Bohr, who realised that he was often entering into philosophical speculation.

And let us also consider our artists. Creativity alone fails to deliver us anything of worth. A musician or painter must also learn a technique, sometimes as rigorous and precise as found in any science, in order that they can turn their thoughts into a work. They must attain mastery over their medium. Even a writer works within the rules of grammar to produce beauty. One of my favourite song lyrics is so precisely because it works so well within the constraints: “You came at a time / when the pursuit of one true love in which to fall / was the be all and end all.”

Philosophers in the Twentieth Century thought hard about the demarcation of science from non-science but with limited success. The logical positivists, who were reconstructing David Hume’s general approach, looked at verifiability as the mark of science. But most of science cannot be verified. It mainly consists of theories that we retain as long as they work but which are often rejected. Science is theoretical rather than proven. Having seen this, Karl Popper proposed falsifiability as the criterion of science. While we cannot prove theories true, he argued, we can at least prove that some are false and this is what demonstrates the superiority of science. The rest is nonsense on his account. The same problems afflict Popper’s account, however. It is just as hard to prove a theory false as it is to prove one true. I am also in sympathy with the early Wittgenstein of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus who says that far from being nonsense, the non-sciences are often the most meaningful things in our lives.

I am not sure the relationship to truth is really what divides the arts and sciences. But there nevertheless does seem to be some kind of division, although only a vague one. The sciences get us what we want. They have plenty of extrinsic value. Medicine enables us to cure illness, for instance, and physics enables us to develop technology. I do not think, in contrast, that we pursue the arts for what they get us. They are usually ends in themselves. But I said this was only a vague distinction. Our greatest scientists are not merely looking to fix practical problems. Newton, Einstein and Darwin seemed primarily to be seeking understanding of the world for its own sake, motivated primarily by a sense of wonder. I would take this again as indicative of the arts and sciences not being as far apart as they are usually depicted. And nor do I see them as being opposed. The best in any field will have a mixture of creativity and discipline and to that extent the arts and sciences are complimentary. A broad-based university with a comprehensive range of subjects, and in which artists and scientists can interact and cross-fertilise, is thus rightly the ideal.

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And as you are no doubt aware, Stephen, there are other ways in which the commonalities betwixt science and art are a fruitful place to linger. Consider Van Fraassen’s work on representation in art and science. Or, to return to the Tractatus, the picture theory of meaning. And both of these references merely point out a link between straight forward representation in representational art and scientific models qua ‘pictures’. (No doubt only a tiny subset of such commonalities)

Your point about extrinsic benefit is interesting, however consider that creation of cultural objects also has a lot of extrinsic benefit – ranging from the economic to the pedagogical. Similarly, a recent Scientific American article (sorry, can’t find the link) summarised contemporary cross-fertilisation between the fields of evolutionary psychology and cultural studies., whereby the vehicles of reproduction acted upon by environmental stress might be whole cultures (attempting some respectability for group selection). Also of note in this regard is Pagel’s latest book (‘Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind’).*

In my view, none of this should seem surprising. We live in one World, that is not divided up by disciplines. Rather, disciplines represent a computational limit on individuals. Perhaps.

* Please note I don’t think this book is actually any good though!

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Really interesting thoughts, Simon. Thanks.

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the way humans categorise information, trying to understand new modes of creation (in this case artistic practices) in relation to previous knowledge about the world. This partially stems from re-reading Rosalind Krauss’ famous essay Sculpture in the Expanded Field*, in which she discusses, amongst other things, the reliance critics place on historicity to verify disciplinary border crossings (sculpture/architecture/landscape/Minimalist practices); the products of which were/are strange and needed/need explaining – or placing. Similar things happen within the Art Vs. Science debates, as you say, when more-often-than-not things are placed in the either/or category, and usefulness is judged on verifiability and truth. The parameters separating one from the other have always been permeable, but their categorisation and assumed differences allow individuals to create a safety net for their evolution of thought.

Of course, as both you and Simon suggest, there is another side to this argument, too – the application of science and the application of arts in everyday life. In avoiding discussing the individual creator as genius, we could also think about the benefits or uses of science and art in general society (advertising is a good, if not predictable example). Here, I feel, is where the line is definitively blurred and put into question.

I think the development of, and discussion surrounding, digital humanities will openly question these issues, and will hopefully show that the lines between disciplines are always speculative and not conclusive.


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Trouble reigns when boiling anything down to single words such as science and art, and then opening them up to definition and/or comparison. The final sentence in your post highlights that, where you suggest ‘broad-based’ and ‘comprehensive’ work. As you mention, over-simplification isn’t useful.

Just consider the suggestion of the student as ‘consumer’ and the fuss that brings with it. For that matter, consider a single definition for the ‘student’. So much trouble and you’re not even comparing the term with another term.

You’re right, much of the art/science division is artificial. But instead of using that for the sake of ease or to highlight a general concern, the over-simplification brings a sense of opposition or a platform for necessary debate. I once said that we should stop fussing and let art and science live together. Maybe I should have said that the fuss should stop because art and science cannot live apart from each other.

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Thank you for presenting your ideas so they can be understood by those of us who are philosophically challenged. I find it is difficult to embrace the idea that “A musician or painter must also learn a technique”. Technique is not essential. Technique is found in convention, which is a collection of preferred suggestions wrought from experience. Which came first; artistry or convention? Likewise, “…that we [do not] pursue the arts for what they get us. They are usually ends in themselves,” doesn’t account for the healing properties of music. When I play piano, there is no end achieved by finishing a piece. It is all process; all means. Visual arts would offer an actual product, but I think the process is the expression of artistry.

Given two words, arts and science, with no clear definition of either, I think they are both words which seek to express a general understanding of something artish and something sceinceish, but which both belong to what I call the Irrational, which is the collection of all the stuff we think we know (but don’t) — which is most everything. You may have said as much. But as to where they are divided, that definition is left to us, as words will permit us to convey, and only to the degree that we are interesting in doing so. When we ask too many questions, we get lost in the Irrational. It remains beneficial to get stuck in the muck for the clarity it provides to those who do not get stuck. I know not to bring a paint brush to a chemistry class, or a test tube to a piano lesson. I can live with that division. 🙂

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Science is constantly referred to having distinction and technique, with it being drilled into peoples head from a secondary school learning angle of methods and conclusions, however, a vast majority of scientific studies are based on creative thinkings patterns, and a even vaster majority of today’s products and services are derived from scientific experimentation, which in itself requires a great deal of creativity, so if you ask me, the two subjects are not simply split down the middle.

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Hi I was thinking a bit scientifically and artistic this morning and cam up with this one

Scientifically art is self expression, but that leaves a rather cold dead feeling as to what art is as if there is something more? That is because Art is self expression, of spiritual beings living in human body’s. Everyone is an artist creating art all the time whether they know it or not as they are spiritual beings whether they know it or not.

Science tells us about the principles of natural nature, we must follow while we are living in human body’s.

A natural principle of nature is be good to natural nature or naturally by nature it will not be good to you, so follow natural principles of natural nature so naturally by nature it will be good to you in a spiritual artistic way.

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Science vs Arts

Naief Khatri

Naief Khatri


The debate of Science Vs Arts and which one outwits the other is an eternal one. If science is about fact, art is about fiction and debates. If Science delves into the world and beyond, Arts is about searching within. Well does this debate sound an interesting one! However, for many reading the article, this debate will hardly make any sense and instead I would be asked to not even probe it further. Why? For a few ‘ignorant’ ones the debate hardly makes any sense in India.

Most of the students either have aspirations of becoming an engineer, scientist or a doctor and therefore have no choice but to opt for science stream at the 10+2 level. Some opt for science voluntarily, others have it thrust upon them while still others choose it since it’s the happening stream in India and friends have opted for it.

Also read: Science vs. Commerce

Benefits of Studying Science

  • Studying science equips a student with essential skills that make them employable
  • Students can opt for professional streams like engineering and medicine after the +2 level
  • A sound foundation in science at this level can help a student crack competitive exams like banking, civil services, MBA entrance exams
  • A student will be at an advantage to discover and invent things that would be beneficial to the society at large
  • Science subjects like Biology teaches us how living things work, Physics enlightens us with the working of the universe and Chemistry helps us with the knowledge of various chemical processes and how they can be utilized.

On the other hand, Humanities or Arts is a lesser known cousin of Science. There are very few students who voluntarily opt of Humanities as a stream after Class 12. Most of them are discouraged by their parents and their peers. Out of the remaining who still opt for Humanities or Arts as a stream after Class 12, do so because of they have not been able to mange a seat in either the Science or Arts stream.

Read: Vocational courses after class 10

Benefits of Studying Arts

  • Studying Arts or Humanities help a student develop powers of analysis and expression.
  • Though the study of arts may not make you directly employable, it prepares you for future jobs that require good communication skills, logical reasoning and analytical ability.
  • Many employers prefer people from Humanities background because not only do they have the ability to work independently and analytically but they are also experts in collecting information and writing clearly and coherently.
  • The plethora of subjects that a student gets to study under Humanities stream is huge. Subjects like Geography, Philosophy, History, Sociology, and Political Science open a wide variety of career options.

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science vs arts essay

Essay of the Week: Should students study science or the arts?

Our band nine sample essays give you the opportunity to learn from successful essays that show off the best structure, vocabulary and grammar. This two part-question essay is about the shift towards studying science from art and literature.

Students are increasingly interested in learning practical subjects like maths, computing and engineering rather than learning about art and literature. Why is this change happening? What are some benefits of learning about art and literature?

In recent years, there has been a shift in interest towards STEM subjects and away from liberal arts. In this essay, I will argue first, that this change is caused by a lack of job security, and second, that art and literature are important to guide scientific endeavours.

One reason for the rising interest in practical subjects is that young people are worried about finding a job after graduation. Because of the number of economic crises in recent years, young adults are looking to study a subject that can land them a stable job. Although many people already work in fields like maths, computing and engineering, the constant growth of these fields means a steady flow of graduate jobs. In addition, new developments, such as artificial intelligence, means that these are areas where new graduates will feel less encumbered by a lack of experience, thus increasing their chances of finding employment.

However, having fewer liberal arts students means may mean we have less of an idea of which direction science should go in. Artistic subjects are important because they help dictate the design of scientific projects. For example, Apple’s most successful products, such as the iPhone and Apple Watch, were successful because of their beautiful and practical designs as well as their engineering. Furthermore, works of literature, like Blade Runner, can help us imagine the consequences of scientific projects and help us steer them in a positive direction. 

To conclude, young people have recently become more and more interested in practical subjects. However, this has a disadvantage as a lack of students in the arts may result in scientific knowledge being misapplied.

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PTE King

PTE You will have 20 minutes to plan, write and revise an essay about the topic below. Your response will be judged on how well you develop a position, organize your ideas, present supporting details, and control the elements of standard written English. You should write 200-300 words.

With the development of technology and science, some people believe that there is no great value of artists such as musicians and painters. What are the things artists can do but the scientist cannot? Why should we encourage studying in art area?

PTE #9 - Science v.s. Arts

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Northeastern dean and distinguished professor join latest cohort of American Academy of Arts and Sciences

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Northeastern dean Elizabeth Mynatt and distinguished professor Eduardo Sontag have been elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences for interdisciplinary careers focused on the human within science.

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Headshot of Elizabeth Mynatt (left) and Eduardo Sontag (right).

“I’m still pinching myself,” Elizabeth Mynatt says of learning she’s been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. “It’s just exhilarating.”

Mynatt, who is dean of the Khoury College of Computer Sciences, studies how humans and computers interact. 

The “longest thread of my work has focused on human-centered AI for aging in place — so, how to support older adults,” she says. “To support their independence and quality of life. But by focusing on older adults, I have also worked in areas such as breast cancer and diabetes.”

Eduardo Sontag , university distinguished professor in bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering, also joins the Academy, but for a career that has made breakthroughs in biomedicine, systems biology and the fight against cancer.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences — often simply called “the Academy” — stands as one of the most prestigious organizations a scholar can be invited into. Founded in 1780 by the Massachusetts legislature, the Academy seeks “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people,” according to its original charter .

A truly interdisciplinary organization, the Academy “convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor” to address the issues facing the world and to tackle new ideas, reads its mission statement .

While she is a computer scientist, Mynatt’s own work has been deeply interdisciplinary. In fact, she says that she feels like her “work has always been on the edges of computer science by including elements from psychology and from design, from social sciences.

“It’s an affirmation for that work to be recognized,” she continues. Sontag’s career has also crossed disciplines. He earned his Ph.D. in mathematics, work that extended into quantitative biomedicine and biomathematics over the next 40 years. Sontag has appeared as an author on “over 500 research papers and monographs and book chapters” and serves on the editorial board of multiple journals within his fields, according to the Sontag Lab .

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Mynatt says, “I’m a member of the SIGCHI Academy ,” the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction, “which means I’ve been recognized by my peers. I’m a fellow of ACM , which means I’ve been recognized by my field. And then to be part of the Academy of Arts and Sciences means to be recognized by the nation and alongside fellow scientists.”

ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery, one of the major societies within computer science.

“In a field as dynamic as computer science, it is incredibly important to have individuals that can step out of their day to day,” Mynatt continues, “and ask really challenging questions about the future of the field.”

What are those challenging questions? Mynatt says that it’s not only to make “computer science accessible, but [ensure] that its impact in the world is equitable.” 

As the first computer scientist from Northeastern to become a member, Mynatt notes that she is also “thrilled to represent the growing number of women in STEM as a whole.”

“What am I looking forward to now that I’m a member?” Mynatt asks, “I hope this gives me [an] even greater opportunity to speak to the mission that we have at Northeastern.”

Mynatt and Sontag join four other Academy members currently at Northeastern: Lisa Feldman Barrett , Herbert Levine , Judith Tick and President Joseph E. Aoun .

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Guest Essay

Why Biden Has a Narrower Path to the Presidency Than Trump, in 11 Maps

science vs arts essay

Illustration by Akshita Chandra/The New York Times; Images by, Yuji Sakai, and THEPALMER/Getty Images

By Doug Sosnik Graphics by Quoctrung Bui

Mr. Sosnik was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 2000 and has advised over 50 governors and U.S. senators.

While polls show the race for president is tightening, Joe Biden still has a narrower and more challenging path to winning the election than Donald Trump. The reason is the Electoral College: My analysis of voter history and polling shows a map that currently favors Mr. Trump, even though recent developments in Arizona improve Mr. Biden’s chances. The Biden campaign will need to decide this summer which states to contest hardest. Our Electoral College maps below lay out the best scenarios for him and Mr. Trump.

Seven states with close results determined who won both the 2020 and the 2016 presidential elections, and those same seven states will most likely play the same battleground role this fall: three industrial states – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – and four Sun Belt states – Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina.

The seven states that will most likely decide the 2024 presidential election

Mr. Biden’s declining popularity in the Sun Belt states is the main reason Mr. Trump has an edge right now. He is especially struggling with young and nonwhite voters there. Let’s take a closer look:

According to 2020 exit polls , Mr. Biden won 65 percent of Latino voters, who comprised roughly a fifth of voters in Arizona and Nevada. And Mr. Biden won 87 percent of Black voters, who made up 29 percent of the Georgia vote and 23 percent of the North Carolina vote. He also won 60 percent of voters aged 18 to 29. Now look at this year: A New York Times/Siena College poll released last weekend showed support for Mr. Biden had dropped 18 points with Black voters, 15 points with Latinos and 14 points with younger voters nationally.

Abortion could be a decisive issue in Mr. Biden stemming this erosion of support in Arizona and Nevada. The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling last week that largely bans abortions raises the stakes of a likely ballot initiative on the issue there in November. It also appears likely that there will be a similar ballot measure in Nevada.

Nevertheless, the key to Mr. Biden’s victory is to perform well in the three industrial states. If Mr. Trump is able to win one or more of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Mr. Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes becomes even narrower.

If Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump remain ahead in the states where they are currently running strongest, the outcome of the election could come down to who wins Michigan and the two Sun Belt states where abortion will very likely be on the ballot, Arizona and Nevada.

Based on past voting, Mr. Trump will start out the general election with 219 electoral votes, compared to 226 votes for Mr. Biden, with 93 votes up for grabs.

Voter history and recent polling suggest that Mr. Trump is in a strong position to win North Carolina . Republicans have carried the state in every presidential election since 1976 except in 2008. In a Wall Street Journal battleground poll taken in March, Mr. Biden had only 37 percent job approval in the state. By winning North Carolina , Mr. Trump would have 235 electoral votes and two strong paths to 270.

The first path involves carrying Georgia , a state he lost by fewer than 12,000 votes in 2020. Before then, Republicans won Georgia in every election since 1992. If Mr. Trump carries North Carolina and Georgia , he would have a base of 251 electoral votes with four scenarios that get him to 270.

Scenario 1 Then all Mr. Trump needs is Pennsylvania …

Scenario 2 … or Michigan and Nevada …

Scenario 3 … or Michigan and Arizona …

Scenario 4 … or Arizona and Wisconsin.

The second and harder path for Mr. Trump would be if he carried only one Southern swing state – most likely North Carolina . He would have only 235 electoral votes and would need to win three of the six remaining battleground states.

Scenario 5 Then he would need to win Arizona , Michigan and Wisconsin …

Scenario 6 … or Arizona , Nevada and Pennsylvania .

How Biden Can Win

It is difficult to see how Mr. Biden gets re-elected without doing well in the industrial battleground states – the so-called “ Blue Wall ” for Democrats. This is particularly true of Pennsylvania, given the state’s 19 electoral votes and Mr. Biden’s ties there and appeal to middle-class and blue-collar voters. That’s why he’s spending three days in Pennsylvania this week.

Mr. Biden will most likely need to win at least one other industrial battleground – with Wisconsin the most probable, since his polling numbers there are stronger than in the other battleground states.

A combination of factors have made winning Michigan much more challenging for Mr. Biden. Hamas’s attack on Israel and the war in Gaza have ripped apart the coalitions that enabled Democrats to do so well in the state since 2018. There are over 300,000 Arab Americans there, as well as a large Jewish population. Both groups were crucial to Mr. Biden’s success there in 2020.

In addition, Michigan voters’ perception of the economy is more negative compared with the other battleground states. In the Journal battleground poll , two-thirds of Michigan voters described the national economy negatively; more than half had a negative opinion of the state’s economy.

Now let’s look at Mr. Biden’s map.

Mr. Biden’s best strategy is based on winning Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which would give him 255 electoral votes (assuming that he carries the 2nd Congressional District in Nebraska). By carrying these states, Mr. Biden has several paths to 270, but the first three scenarios are his most viable.

Scenario 1 He just needs to win Michigan …

Scenario 2 … or Arizona and Nevada …

Scenario 3 ... or Georgia .

There are two other scenarios where Mr. Biden loses Wisconsin and keeps Pennsylvania . But that would mean winning states where Mr. Biden is polling much worse.

Scenario 4 They involve Mr. Biden winning Georgia and Arizona …

Scenario 5 … or Michigan and Georgia .

A Look Ahead

With over six months to go until Election Day, given the volatility in the world and the weaknesses of Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, it would be foolish to make firm predictions about specific results. And other electoral map scenarios are possible: Recent polling shows Mr. Biden with a narrow lead in Minnesota, a state that usually votes for Democrats for president. While it is mathematically possible for Mr. Biden to win without carrying Minnesota, it is unlikely he will be elected if he cannot carry this traditionally Democratic state.

For the third election cycle in a row, a small number of voters in a handful of states could determine the next president of the United States.

If the election remains close but Mr. Biden is unable to regain support from the core group of voters who propelled him to victory in 2020 — young and nonwhite voters — then we could be headed to a repeat of the 2016 election. The outcome of that election was decided by fewer than 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Last week’s abortion ruling in Arizona, and the likely abortion ballot initiatives in that state and Nevada, give Mr. Biden the possibility of being re-elected even if he loses Michigan. That’s why, if we have another close presidential election, I think Arizona, Michigan and Nevada will likely determine the outcome for Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump.

Based on my experience as Bill Clinton’s White House political director in his 1996 re-election campaign, I would take immediate advantage of Mr. Biden’s significant fund-raising advantage over Mr. Trump to focus on shoring up the president’s chances in Michigan and the must-win states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while at the same time trying to keep Georgia and North Carolina in play. Mr. Biden does not need to win either of those Sun Belt states to get re-elected, but draining Mr. Trump’s resources there could help him in other battleground states.

More on the 2024 presidential election

science vs arts essay

Democrats Need to Stop Playing Nice

Too often, Democrats litigate; Republicans fight.

By Joe Klein

science vs arts essay

One Purple State Is ‘Testing the Outer Limits of MAGAism’

North Carolina Republicans are “in the running for the most MAGA party in the nation.”

By Thomas B. Edsall

science vs arts essay

2024, Meet 1892, Your Doppelgänger

Great political change can unfold when the political system seems woefully stalled.

By Jon Grinspan

Doug Sosnik was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 2000 and has advised over 50 governors and U.S. senators.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .

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How Pew Research Center will report on generations moving forward

Journalists, researchers and the public often look at society through the lens of generation, using terms like Millennial or Gen Z to describe groups of similarly aged people. This approach can help readers see themselves in the data and assess where we are and where we’re headed as a country.

Pew Research Center has been at the forefront of generational research over the years, telling the story of Millennials as they came of age politically and as they moved more firmly into adult life . In recent years, we’ve also been eager to learn about Gen Z as the leading edge of this generation moves into adulthood.

But generational research has become a crowded arena. The field has been flooded with content that’s often sold as research but is more like clickbait or marketing mythology. There’s also been a growing chorus of criticism about generational research and generational labels in particular.

Recently, as we were preparing to embark on a major research project related to Gen Z, we decided to take a step back and consider how we can study generations in a way that aligns with our values of accuracy, rigor and providing a foundation of facts that enriches the public dialogue.

A typical generation spans 15 to 18 years. As many critics of generational research point out, there is great diversity of thought, experience and behavior within generations.

We set out on a yearlong process of assessing the landscape of generational research. We spoke with experts from outside Pew Research Center, including those who have been publicly critical of our generational analysis, to get their take on the pros and cons of this type of work. We invested in methodological testing to determine whether we could compare findings from our earlier telephone surveys to the online ones we’re conducting now. And we experimented with higher-level statistical analyses that would allow us to isolate the effect of generation.

What emerged from this process was a set of clear guidelines that will help frame our approach going forward. Many of these are principles we’ve always adhered to , but others will require us to change the way we’ve been doing things in recent years.

Here’s a short overview of how we’ll approach generational research in the future:

We’ll only do generational analysis when we have historical data that allows us to compare generations at similar stages of life. When comparing generations, it’s crucial to control for age. In other words, researchers need to look at each generation or age cohort at a similar point in the life cycle. (“Age cohort” is a fancy way of referring to a group of people who were born around the same time.)

When doing this kind of research, the question isn’t whether young adults today are different from middle-aged or older adults today. The question is whether young adults today are different from young adults at some specific point in the past.

To answer this question, it’s necessary to have data that’s been collected over a considerable amount of time – think decades. Standard surveys don’t allow for this type of analysis. We can look at differences across age groups, but we can’t compare age groups over time.

Another complication is that the surveys we conducted 20 or 30 years ago aren’t usually comparable enough to the surveys we’re doing today. Our earlier surveys were done over the phone, and we’ve since transitioned to our nationally representative online survey panel , the American Trends Panel . Our internal testing showed that on many topics, respondents answer questions differently depending on the way they’re being interviewed. So we can’t use most of our surveys from the late 1980s and early 2000s to compare Gen Z with Millennials and Gen Xers at a similar stage of life.

This means that most generational analysis we do will use datasets that have employed similar methodologies over a long period of time, such as surveys from the U.S. Census Bureau. A good example is our 2020 report on Millennial families , which used census data going back to the late 1960s. The report showed that Millennials are marrying and forming families at a much different pace than the generations that came before them.

Even when we have historical data, we will attempt to control for other factors beyond age in making generational comparisons. If we accept that there are real differences across generations, we’re basically saying that people who were born around the same time share certain attitudes or beliefs – and that their views have been influenced by external forces that uniquely shaped them during their formative years. Those forces may have been social changes, economic circumstances, technological advances or political movements.

When we see that younger adults have different views than their older counterparts, it may be driven by their demographic traits rather than the fact that they belong to a particular generation.

The tricky part is isolating those forces from events or circumstances that have affected all age groups, not just one generation. These are often called “period effects.” An example of a period effect is the Watergate scandal, which drove down trust in government among all age groups. Differences in trust across age groups in the wake of Watergate shouldn’t be attributed to the outsize impact that event had on one age group or another, because the change occurred across the board.

Changing demographics also may play a role in patterns that might at first seem like generational differences. We know that the United States has become more racially and ethnically diverse in recent decades, and that race and ethnicity are linked with certain key social and political views. When we see that younger adults have different views than their older counterparts, it may be driven by their demographic traits rather than the fact that they belong to a particular generation.

Controlling for these factors can involve complicated statistical analysis that helps determine whether the differences we see across age groups are indeed due to generation or not. This additional step adds rigor to the process. Unfortunately, it’s often absent from current discussions about Gen Z, Millennials and other generations.

When we can’t do generational analysis, we still see value in looking at differences by age and will do so where it makes sense. Age is one of the most common predictors of differences in attitudes and behaviors. And even if age gaps aren’t rooted in generational differences, they can still be illuminating. They help us understand how people across the age spectrum are responding to key trends, technological breakthroughs and historical events.

Each stage of life comes with a unique set of experiences. Young adults are often at the leading edge of changing attitudes on emerging social trends. Take views on same-sex marriage , for example, or attitudes about gender identity .

Many middle-aged adults, in turn, face the challenge of raising children while also providing care and support to their aging parents. And older adults have their own obstacles and opportunities. All of these stories – rooted in the life cycle, not in generations – are important and compelling, and we can tell them by analyzing our surveys at any given point in time.

When we do have the data to study groups of similarly aged people over time, we won’t always default to using the standard generational definitions and labels. While generational labels are simple and catchy, there are other ways to analyze age cohorts. For example, some observers have suggested grouping people by the decade in which they were born. This would create narrower cohorts in which the members may share more in common. People could also be grouped relative to their age during key historical events (such as the Great Recession or the COVID-19 pandemic) or technological innovations (like the invention of the iPhone).

By choosing not to use the standard generational labels when they’re not appropriate, we can avoid reinforcing harmful stereotypes or oversimplifying people’s complex lived experiences.

Existing generational definitions also may be too broad and arbitrary to capture differences that exist among narrower cohorts. A typical generation spans 15 to 18 years. As many critics of generational research point out, there is great diversity of thought, experience and behavior within generations. The key is to pick a lens that’s most appropriate for the research question that’s being studied. If we’re looking at political views and how they’ve shifted over time, for example, we might group people together according to the first presidential election in which they were eligible to vote.

With these considerations in mind, our audiences should not expect to see a lot of new research coming out of Pew Research Center that uses the generational lens. We’ll only talk about generations when it adds value, advances important national debates and highlights meaningful societal trends.

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Kim Parker is director of social trends research at Pew Research Center

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Who are you the art and science of measuring identity, u.s. centenarian population is projected to quadruple over the next 30 years, older workers are growing in number and earning higher wages, teens, social media and technology 2023, most popular.

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