Sunday, 5 December 2010

Fossils, Genes and Art - Atheists Talk Podcast

"Fossils, Genes and Art", the Atheists Talk podcast recorded today live on the radio, is now up!  Click here to listen, or here to go to the podcast on iTunes.

Thanks to host Mike Haubrich, to science-artist Lynn Fellman and to the Minnesota Atheists and AM 950 KTNF and its sponsors for the show. 
Okay, so:  about the parasite thing. Two years ago at ScienceOnline09, I brought up the idea that artists who are inspired by science (like moi) are somewhat parasitic on the science that inspires: we don't give a lot back, we don't direct research. (Review at Ars Technica of that session here.)

The group at scio09 resoundingly rejected this, and concede and agree:  science-artists do a lot to inspire and explore and speak to the scientifically literate and enthusiastic audience. However, the do little to lead actual research.

As soon as you couch a scientific idea in a metaphor, you remove it further from the data and evidence. This means it's not usually possible for it to stimulate a new hypothesis, and lead to new inquiry.  Science-art responds to inquiry, explores it. So in that sense science-art is parasitic.

Science-art contributes to the cloud of scientific inspiration and understanding; it doesn't coalesce into the lightning strikes of scientific research.
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This tweet...

 Glendon Mellow 
Uh-oh: I said artists are largely parasitic on science during the radio interview.

...has stimulated a bit of talk on Twitter (in typical reverse-order, newest at the top):


 Katura Reynolds 
@ So I'll claim that art (in form of illustration/drawing yr observations) can be integral to the *practice* of research.
 Katura Reynolds 
@ And many naturalists (like MS Merian) documented their sci discoveries thru art to capture data: 
 Katura Reynolds 
As illustrator, I've pointed out details that scientists missed...RT @: Very little art influences scientific research.
 Katura Reynolds 
Hm; I lack context for statement, but not sure I agree. RT @: Very little art directly influences scientific research.
 Brian George 
@ That's why I'm here. Can you link to the interview? I'd love to hear it if possible.
 Romeo Vitelli 
@ @ You can claim that you meant to say symbiotic but the liberal media misquoted you (works for Sarah Palin)
 David Dobbs 
RT @: Uh-oh: I said artists are largely parasitic on science during the radio interview. DD: That's it for you, parasite.
 Brian George 
@ How could you??!! *removes lamprey-like suckers from Neil Tyson's brainstem*

I think at #scio11 we'll be past this point - I don't think there's a lot more to say on it. Two years ago I underestimated the affect art has on science, yet I still contend it's a rare thing for a piece of visual art to lead to a new area of research.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.


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