I spend 6 weeks to date as an artist in resident at Khoj in Delhi and the most frequent question that was asked was if there was a difference between a scientist and an artist.
Both the scientist and the artist start with hypothesis, the scientists hypothesis originates from a white paper/s and a hunch whereas the artist's starts from a hunch with no supporting white paper. Once the commitment is made both the scientist and artist get down to rigour and practice. The Scientist goes to a lab and conducts research and the artist traverses his mind and conducts thought related research throwing in materials in the mix. The limiting factor of the artist gets exposed here, since the artist relies on thought and since thought arrives out of knowledge, if the artist has limited knowledge or worse if the knowledge is tinted by his experiences and opinions that he could not overcome then the result from the artist will be as limited as his experience. The limitation of the scientist on the other hand is that she is expected to place the finding within a transitory boundary in the ever changing and expanding field of science.
The process or the path to discovery involved with both these disciplines is rigour, continuous filing of ideas, testing them and filing the results. Both are open to change, In fact, in both cases the origin of the idea and the stated process changes drastically along the path to discovery. The attitude involved with the process is ridden with a few differences. The artist takes it his right to blank unproductive phases as part of the process to discovery, whereas the scientist driven simply by the rigour and training looks at these phases as mere obstacles to urgently and routinely overcome.
The scientist looks to find and contribute to solutions for any and certain human condition. The boundaries that the scientist defines and works from within limits creativity, creativity as popularly understood. I am in no way suggesting that creativity must be a universal pursuit too. Creativity like perfection is a relative, elitist and useless concept . Since the scientist works within stated and accepted boundaries somehow we are to believe that there is no scope for creativity when creativity exists in every field not matter how narrow nor wide.
Human condition to highlight vs human condition to solve:
The scientists defined goal is to apply and alleviate human suffering or any other human pursuit that will eventually lead to directly addressing the human condition. The artist has no immediate need nor immediate goal but that does not mean that art has nothing to do with human condition. In the case of science the goal is implicit and immediate and in the case of art, stating a goal will result in distancing from the goal itself.
My conclusion post thinking through for this blog is that there is no difference and in fact those who see a difference are victims of indoctrination that our education system inflicted. Both the artist and scientist need to pull teeth and separate thin air in order find breakthroughs.