Tag Archives: Harvard Law School dorms

How art and science differ

The difference between art and science was really brought home to me on a visit to a museum on our recent trip to Venice.  I’d never heard about the Memphis Group of artists before — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memphis_Group.  They mostly made wacky looking furniture, as a revolt against the austere Bauhaus style –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bauhaus.   Back in the day, people living in the Harvard Law dorms Gropius (one of the Bauhaus founders) designed hated them as unlivable.  Similarly one can regard Pop art as a revolt against abstract expressionism, impressionism as a revolt against classicism, etc. etc.   The very notion of progress and building on the past is antithetical.

Science also produces a succession of theories, but they build on previously successful theories extending and incorporating them.  Special and general relativity subsume Newtonian mechanics, Maxwell’s laws merge electricity and magnetism.  Current molecular biology extends the classic dogma of the 60s and 70s — DNA makes RNA makes protein.  None of the older theories are rejected just improved.

So progress is inherent to the scientific enterprise, and is unheard of in the arts.  In one sense the arts are closer to the creative destruction of capitalism than its practitioners would like to admit.

I’ll be back to writing more scientific posts shortly, but here’s a question to be answered in a later post.

What extremely famous artist, spent more of his life as a mechanical and military engineer than as an artist?