Response to Taney’s post On the Question of Audience

Daniel Hill/ I used to like to make a thought experiment of trying to imagine the edge of any material object as magnification is slowly and steadily increased.  Physics has shown that any solid object is mostly empty space, so at some point in magnification, the boundary between the thing and no-thing would become difficult to determine.  Since thinking about the line between art and science can feel like wading into quicksand with no possible outcome, I like to think in terms of perspective.  One thing we can be sure of is that our tenures on this planet are exceedingly brief.  The universe exists more without humanity than with us.  The vast majority of species that have existed on this planet have gone extinct.  Until the 1920’s the universe was only as big as the Milky Way Galaxy until Edwin Hubble made his breakthrough discovery.  Now with the dark matter/dark energy problem, the fact that all the matter humanity has ever studied only constitutes 4% of the known matter in the universe, we actually know less proportionally than ever before. If we look at our history we see that the models we have created to explain the universe and our place in it have very frequently been wrong, but a zeitgeist of arrogance kept us from making the realization.  Stephen Hawking talks about this Model Dependent Realism in his book The Grand Design saying it serves us well to assume that whatever models we construct are likely to be wrong and will need to be amended or scrapped altogether at some point. Paradigm shifts, if they do indeed occur, come from the places we least expect.  This does not mean that a connection between art and science will usher in a paradigm shift, only that a more collectively open mind might help us to advance a bit quicker in identifying where our models are wrong.

It is stuck in my mind how just a week ago I was in downtown Manhattan trying to excite students on the importance of art, but the students were distracted by the steady loud thrum of helicopters and the wail of sirens.  Just a few blocks away, eight people lay dead from an unimaginable act of a sick mind.  Some part of our model is definitely flawed.  There is a sense of urgency.

As someone who has devoted my life to art, I know art has the power to serve individuals and society in a way that is far from being utilized.  It would seem that to hedge our bets would be smart in hopes that something may come from an apparently barren realm. Compared with other current avenues, the pursuit of art and science seems a harmless bet.  The question remains: if some form of art and science moves forward, will it be more decorative data or the catalyst of human transformation?  In my opinion, education is absolute priority.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *