Science, of course, investigates and knows about many things but let’s just take one category, astronomy. It’s likely that most of the planet’s current human population knows through education or at least general cultural awareness that the Earth orbits the Sun and the Moon goes around the Earth. And my guess is that (just speculation here, and despite sporadic droplets of broader knowledge many now encounter through contemporary sources like Discovery or Science channels, Facebook posts, CNN headlines, or fading Sagan-Cosmos memories), . . . that this simple Copernican Sun/Moon/Earth relationship is about the extent to which a majority of modern humans care or incorporate knowledge of astronomy or astrophysics into their personal existential identities. It seems remarkable to me that an earlier Earth and mythology-centered ontological framework inherited from a multi-millennial past has been so minimally disturbed by the thorough and revolutionary debunking it has experienced during the past one hundred-plus years of astronomical and astrophysical discovery. Throw in Darwinian biology and that’s easily six generations of exposure to radical new knowledge that fatally punctures history’s persistent and errant memes — yet still they linger and even dominate to cause untold confusion and its consequences.
In the discussion of how knowledge is embodied and communicated differently via science vs. art, I think it is worth recognizing that intellectual pedagogy does not seem to have been very effective when it comes to the task of prying people away from their inherited beliefs and enabling them to change paradigms and perspectives. For that challenge, I think emotion rather than intellect prevails — an emotional epiphany being a more likely successful agent of change than an intellectual disclosure, even when the latter possesses strong supportive evidence. People hang on to their stubborn attachments tenaciously in spite of well-articulated arguments to the contrary, but will relinquish them to emotional enlightenment and declare the experience to have been “profound.” So art has a significant potential role to play in exposing the poetic dimensions of science (which science itself is abysmal at accomplishing) — and which, it is important to emphasize, is not a practice of so-called Scientism or propagandistic marketing, or NewAge fuzzies, but simply recognition that in the scientific rational pursuit and puzzlement over how Nature works, there are deep untapped sensations of transcendent emotion to be found, pondered, and exposed. We, the lucky finders of beauty where it wasn’t meant to be.