Science versus Art: The Ultimate Smackdown! (Or is it?) – Cidney Swanson

Science versus Art: The Ultimate Smackdown! (Or is it?)


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I’m so pleased to have Amber Keyser here today. In celebration of Marie Curie’s birthday, Amber agreed to say a few words about science and art. Plus, she’s giving away a hardcover copy of her newest book! Here’s Amber!

The more I look at this image, the madder I get! There’s poor old Science in monochome while Art is brilliantly colored. Art gets the word FUN in bright swirly letters. Science gets ANALYTIC. The obvious conclusion? Science = boring. And the two have nothing in common.

All my life I’ve heard this dichotomy of science versus art and left brain versus right brain. Worse are the messages that boys excel in science while girls are artistic. It’s like there is some gladiator fight to the death between science and art. Pick your side. Pick your weapon. It ends in blood.

I am both a scientist AND an artist. In my experience, the two disciplines are not separate at all. In fact, at their core, they are the SAME. Whether I am doing science or writing a book, I am striving to understand how the world works.

How the world works MATTERS!

From the beginning of human history, we have been trying to understand (and survive) the world around us. Perhaps the most uniquely human attribute is to ask questions. Who are we? Why are we here? Can I eat that plant? Does she love me? Can we live on Mars? Can we get along?

QUESTIONS are the beginning, the middle, and the end.

All good science (and all good art) begins with a question. We (meaning we scientists and artists) gather as much information as we can: What have others learned about our question? What can I observe and measure and describe? How have others written or talked or danced about this question?

We use this information (dare I say, data) to make guesses about the truth. When I’m doing evolutionary biology, that guess is an hypothesis. Such an official sounding word. When I’m writing a book, that guess is about the emotional core of the book I am writing.

The next step is for us scientists and artists to get CREATIVE. We get free-flowing and swirly and brightly-colored because problem-solving requires innovative thinking. How are we going to grow food on Mars? What is the experimental design or technical advancement that will answer our questions and meet our goals? What is the artistic medium for us to address our subject? Achievement—whether in art or in science—requires out-of-the-box thinking.

It also requires WORK—elbow-grease, dedication, stick-to-it-ness—hour after hour we painstakingly collect data or write words or go to ballet rehearsals. You can’t make art or do science without many hours of effort. We make schedules and set goals. We carve out time. Writers call it butt-in-chair. But no matter the disciple, we do the hard work, day after day.

Scientists and artists FIND THE STORY. Since we are trying to understand how the world works, we have to make sense of what we discover, and that is what we call NARRATIVE. To share our discoveries with others, we have to find the thread that links everything together and tells a compelling story.

That is science.
That is art.

Long live science and long live art!

We won’t survive without them.


Amber J. Keyser is an evolutionary biologist-turned-author and former ballerina, who writes both fiction and nonfiction. Her young adult novel The Way Back from Broken (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015) is a heart-wrenching story of loss and survival. The V-Word (Beyond Words, 2016) is an anthology of personal essays by women about first time sexual experiences. She is the co-author with Kiersi Burkhart of the middle grade series Quartz Creek Ranch (Darby Creek, 2017).

Her other books include the nonfiction title Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes (21st Century Books, 2015); a picture book, An Algonquin Heart Song: Paddle My Own Canoe (FOAP, 2007); two graphic novels about science, The Basics of Cell Life with Max Axiom (Capstone Press, 2010) and Decoding Genes with Max Axiom (Capstone Press, 2010) as well as a photo-illustrated nonfiction title, Anatomy of a Pandemic (Capstone Press, 2011).

For more information, visit Amber’s website at or on Twitter at @amberjkeyser.

Swag One lucky winner will get a signed hardcover of Amber’s book, THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN, plus this cool swag!

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4 Replies to “Science versus Art: The Ultimate Smackdown! (Or is it?)”

  1. I enjoyed reading Amber’s thoughts on Science vs Art. I agee that you can’t have one without the the other. Both sides of the brain are bright and exciting whether you are male ir female. Thanks for sharing.

    Could I live on Mars? Definitely something to think about.

  2. At 65 I just moved to Christmas Valley. It is like no where I’ve lived before. Can Mars be so different? Sure, if I had the chance, I’d do it!

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