The Utility of Art vs. STEM

I was recently asked an interesting question in an interview:

You stated in a previous article that you believe math and science are “toolkits” to solving problems in ways that writing and the arts cannot. Can you elaborate on that? 

I think science and art are two sides of the same coin. The distinction is quite fuzzy for the fields overlap in a variety of ways that depend on the perception of the viewer.  For example, mathematicians find aesthetic beauty in eloquent proofs and concise equations. The main difference between the terms lies in what they contribute to the to the world.

Art provides inspiration and science provides understanding and explicit utility. I specify “explicit utility” for implicitly, inspiration provides the driving force for scientific advancement.

Art enables us to describe every emotion and experience known to man, but mathematics enables us to understand the laws that govern everything. Art cannot show us something that is not a human experience, for it is limited by the person who uses it. Mathematics, on the other hand, can show as absolute truth realities too grand to be fully understood by the human mind while science allows us to precisely and repeatedly implement these truths in the physical world.


Betrand Russell::> Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry. 

3 thoughts on “The Utility of Art vs. STEM”

  1. I face this question myself everyday working in a space with artists and scientists. Sometimes I want our scientists to be artistic, and often times I want artists to see the world in a scientific way. I think Science is how we understand the universe, math is a tool and possibly an explanation and art fills those gaps that makes being human so exciting. Ed Frenkel and I discuss it here, where we touch on mathematical beauty, physical reality and art. http://math.berkeley.edu/~frenkel/intercourse-mag.pdf

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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