Science and Poetry: Who is to say that they are not both an art form?

In his novel Saturday, Ian McEwan explores the complexities of neurosurgery through the eyes (and capable hands) of Dr. Henry Perowne. Dr. Perowne’s inability to maintain his interest in poetry and his misunderstanding of its immediate relevance to modern life furthers the growing distance between those “learned” in science and “learned” in the art of writing. Charles Darwin embodied the typical Victorian ideal that a good scientist — or naturalist, because the word “scientist” was not commonplace yet — must know how to write. His published books and journal entries showed an interest not only in scientific facts in figures, but displayed a strong command of the English language, and showed his adeptness at expressing his thoughts and feelings.

More modern times have facilitated a large gap between the two as science becomes more specialized, and finding scientists well-versed in Matthew Arnold’s poetry is becoming more and more rare. Additionally, the complexities of science have made it difficult for those not science-oriented to follow as it shifts and changes daily.

While science and poetry continue to move toward opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum, I find it necessary to stress the importance of art in each. Poetry is a form of written artwork. It flows, blends, shapes, paints mental images, and expresses one’s inner feelings in a raw and exposed way. Specific words chosen lead to fluidity and perfect expression of thought. Surgery, while expressed differently, is another form of art. This form is more detailed — relying on specific tools, methods, and experiments to make the human body work the way that it should. Science facilitates surgery, and surgery’s precision and call for perfection make it an essential contribution to the whole definition of what art is.

Art can come in many different forms, and while the most obvious are easy to find, it is important to remember how it can bring science and poetry together.

-Elizabeth S.

~ by elizabethstinson on April 2, 2010.

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