Science And The Arts….Never The Twain Shall Meet.

I hate Science. I wish I had a good reason to hate Science. But the best reason that I can come up with is……..that I dont understand Science. Surely not understanding something is good enough reason to hate it……like modern art, opera, ballet and rap music.

At Primary School (ie from 5 years old to 11 years old), nobody ever mentioned Science. It was a grown up subject for 11 year olds at Grammar School. That first year was I suppose Botany and Chemistry….although it was just called Science. We seemed to draw a lot of diagrams about the parts of a plant………Petal, Stem and er……….whatever. And we also did a thing with Litmus Paper and all I remember is sometimes it turned Red. Or was it Blue. And we did stuff with beakers and Crystals and made Distilled Water. Mostly I remember the smell of the Science Lab……that gassy leaky Bunsen (sp) Burner thing and cabinets full of large jars with powder and crystals.

In second year, I think we moved on to Physics. All I recall is hanging little pieces of metal on a kind of scale. No, I have no idea what that was all about either. The whole point of Grammar School was to teach us more  and more about less and less. At the end of Second Year, we had to drop either Science or Art. I was marginally better at Science and would have preferred to do it at Third Year. But as I did not actually excel at Science or Art, the decision was made for me by the School….probably because the Art Class was under-subscribed. So at age 13 my relationship with Science ended.

Actually Art was much worse. I dont think anybody can really be “taught” Art. I have difficulty drawing breath so drawing a straight line was kinda beyond me. Yet at the end of that Third Year, I had another choice made for me…Latin or Art. And somehow in Fourth and Fifth Year, I had to endure even more Art. Actually I quite liked Latin.

But that end of Third Year was the big decision. There were eight classes (forms) in Fourth Year……4LA, 4LB, 4LC, 4LD…….4SA, 4SB, 4SC, 4SD…….with about 23 people in each class. That “L” and “S” is significant…..”L” for (I suppose) Languages and S for (certainly) Science. Hurrah for 4LC (and 5LC and 6LC and 7LC of course).

Seven O Level subjects to be taken in that big exam in 1968 (History, Geography, Maths, English Language, English Literature, French and Irish). Three subjects to be taken for the even bigger A levels in 1970 (History, Politics and Literature).

But the thing is that by age 14, the School was effectively divided along “Arts” and “Science” lines. Old friendships ended. New ones began of course but it meant we were only really connecting with our Arts or Science “peers”. Of course this was the 1960s. We did not know “American” words like “nerd” or “geek” but in retrospect the Science guys were not “Fun”. They watched the Arts guys play football. They wore glasses. They still wore the school uniform and had short hair. We wore psychadelic shirts (well we started that in 1967 when the School went all “liberal”) and we had long hair. And we had different musical tastes. And we were rebels and the Science boys were focussed.

As a result, Ive never really “got” Science. And in 1969, I was probably more interested in the dawning of the age of Aquarius than I was bothered about Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon. To be honest……..what was all that about? Nobody in my lifetime will ever go there again. Science for the sake of Science? Should Science not find a way to deal with Famine before taking to the Final Frontier.

Anyway thru Star Trek, we can claerly see that the world created by people writing about Life in other galaxies is actually way better than anything that the Scientists have created. Science seems……amoral. Even IMMORAL if we think that spending billions on space exploration is a crime against Humanity. But lets stay with AMORAL…dissecting frogs, animal experimentation (necessary in a limited way for genuine medicine) and of course nuclear bombs.

But I think my animosity to Science is as much as my distance from it, my lack of understanding than it is to do with a moral stance. I use all to “justify” the antagonism.

Nearly everyone….including children know more about Science than I do.  Scientists deal in a world which is about experimentation and……..Certainty….proven facts. My world is a world of competing ideas…..philosophy, politics etc.

Yet recently I have been watching “The Big Bang Theory”. An enjoyable if unsatisfactory American comedy about Physicists, their alleged lack of social skills, their detachment. We should draw no lessons from a comedy except perhaps that some of the humour (specifically relating to “science”) is over my head.

Maybe thats the irritating thing. Im not used to ideas being “over my head”. I am not comfortable with Science. If you want a 2,000 word essay or power point presentation on 18th Century Cavalry tactics……I would not find it a problem………but the litmus test (to coin a phrase) is that I have no idea why the paper goes red or blue….and no idea why it is important.

The lighthearted Stephen Fry Quiz “QI” had Professor Brian Cox  (TVs favourite and most photogenic scientist) as a guest. And as a tribute, the programme….the quite interesting (QI) facts were all about Science. Yet it was way over my head. I have no idea about the theories on the rings and moons of Jupiter…..yet the comedians on the show were able to demonstrate a little knowledge. Their experience of Science went beyond 14 years of age. Or 16. maybe even 18. The point is that they knew SOMETHING and I know NOTHING and that is a matter of regret which no amount of my hostility to Science can disguise.

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2 Responses to Science And The Arts….Never The Twain Shall Meet.

  1. 'nerd' girl :) says:

    Firstly I would like to say at least you can admit that the reason you dislike science is that you don’t understand it, and from reading your post you clearly don’t. I am the opposite to yourself, I have to question the point and relevance of people writing about something that happened in the 18th Century. What relevance does that have on your life now, at least with science it has a purpose.

    You say ” dissecting frogs, animal experimentation (necessary in a limited way for genuine medicine) and of course nuclear bombs.” That is fair enough if that is your opinion but if you were in hospital and required blood tests or a cancer treatment you would soon turn to science for your answer.

    “Science for the sake of Science?” All you have to do is think over the past years all the things that have progressed because of science. What are those boys who were in the science classes doing now…..treating people in hospitals, cancer research? What about those doing arts, how many of those are impacting peoples lives in such a way?

    Hope this helps your understanding of science, if not watch a bit more QI.

  2. Thank you “Nerd Girl”. I think the benefit of History….as well as being fun…is that we learn from the Past. If we dont know where we have been, then we dont know where we are or where we are going. Of course youre right about medical experiments but my point was basically about unnecessary science…vanity projects like Space Exploration. So much spent for so little benefit.

    As for the boys in my school…..the “L” classes AND the “S” classes…….most ended up in jail in Turkey. It was a very odd school.
    Thank God I didnt send my sons there.
    But really the point of the post was to point my finger at myself………as a person who knows nothing of science and stupidly enjoys my own ignorance. Thats not a good way for me to be.

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