In the book Unscientific America by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum which I purchased the other day, they include a chapter on how science and scientists are often prtrayed by Hollywood. They discuss the mad scientist stereotype, and theme of forbidden knowlege which is very prominant in most films that deal with cloning and genetic engineering. One comment stood out here, that much of the prejudice against science is “because science means being rational, and being rational, and being rational is considered the opposite of being creative—whereas fantasy, superstition, magic…are thought to be what the creative process is all about.”
This is not so, of course. Science itself is a very creative force, expiecally when contrasted with religion. And Consider all the sceince fiction books and films that are based strictly on science. Many are what is referred to as “speculative fiction.” They all deal with “what ifs” and “what could have been”, all of which involve excercise of the imagination. And we all know that religion is often rigid, socially conformist, and stifling of the imagination and creativity. But the notion that science and the imagination are antithetical is something I’ve noticed too in a lot of Hollywood’s output. So how did this notion get started?
I think that when most laypeople think of science, they think of unchanging and unyielding formulas, constants, and rules, which it is, to some extent. But they don’t generally grasp that the insights from the Einsteins of the world were born of imagination. When most people see E=MC2, they simply see a boring equation who’s meaning eludes them. They see the results (the rules), but not the thought process that went into developing those rules.
I am not a scientist, yet I find scientific discovery as exciting as anything I can imagine.
Understanding the hard questions and explaining reality is about as exciting as life can get.
For example, I watched a show on NOVA last night about Arctic Dinosaurs, and how the Paleontologists ‘creatively’ removed the fossils from the tundra and cliffs. 70 million year old reptile bones near the North Pole. Nothing short of amazing.
Science is creative, poetic, and artistic.
‘Unweaving The Rainbow’ by Dawkins is a great book on the subject.