Is There an Art in Science?
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We know there is science in art. Musical scales. Perspective and the golden ratio. The ordered sequence of a good novel. It’s difficult to be a good artist without knowing, or at least intuitively applying the truths found in the logic.
Both science and art reflect our search for the truth. Our primal human nature is to resist the truth, even as it hits us in the groin. Resist the change. Fear. Give up something that has protected you. Something that gives you a place. A belonging. A prestige. An ego. A place where you are respected.
Then someone or something comes along and says there is a better way. I resist. The old way is good. It is proven. My peers do it. My teachers still do it. My tribe still teaches it. It cannot be wrong. How can it be wrong?
Dissonance. What we have is a conflict between our basic needs and higher needs of self-actualization. One side demands safety, food, physical needs, and perhaps our need to belong and feel loved and be esteemed by ourselves and others. The other side pushes us on to what Maslow called self-actualization self-fulfillment—achieving full potential, including things of a creative nature.
One side of us argues that we know the truth, our path, our righteousness. The other side bothers us with irritating new questions, new truths. Worst of all, some of those new truths are of science. Data. Computation. Programs. Algorithms. Software. Dashboards.
Yet we see some ‘science’ as lies. Magical software promising to ‘prove’ adjustments. “We are a technology-based company.” We have ‘proven’ with a nationwide “statistically significant” research which shows that homes with high-pitched roofs sell for less than homes with flattish roofs. In fact, the steeper the roof, the lower the price! Proven. Scientific. See how smart we are.
What’s wrong with this picture? How can this be? Steep roofs cost more, take more lumber, and more nails. This is scientific fact! How can this be?
This can be because of one fact. Science takes art.
The art of science is the question. The art of science is the model. The art of science is recognized in science. It has a name. It’s a form of reasoning.
There are three types of scientific reasoning: deductive, inductive, and abductive.
- Deductive reasoning is the simplest. If ‘A’ is true, then ‘B’ must be true.
- Inductive reasoning is less comfortable: If ‘A’ is true, then ‘B’ is likely to be true. Probably true. Now the new question is: “And how probable is it that it’s true?” In fact, the probability is all that is important. The truth becomes an assumption, a hypothesis, a belief I would like to convince you of. But all I have is a probability.
- Abductive reasoning is even better. It is the essence of the art of science. It’s the expert’s or the amateur’s reasoned assurance that a question is worth asking.
When I was a brand-new appraiser trainee, I was assigned a house appraisal. I was slow. I wanted to be diligent. I spent a day poring through MLS books. Photocopying. Underlining. Guessing key features for “similarity.” It was a house.
Then I went out in the field, clutching my bank of ‘comps.” I looked at the subject. It was a house. But it was not a house. It looked like a house. But the yard was paved over. It had parking stripes. And over the door—a sign. An ominous sign. A sign from the universe: “Fortune Teller Tells All.”
The sign told me was my hypothesis was wrong. It wasn’t a house. It was a retail property. My abductive reasoning worked a hundred times. But not this time.
Abductive reasoning was my ‘best guess’ given what I knew before I started actual research. My hypothesis was false.
But I came closer to the truth. True science is joy in finding an untruth.
And accepting an untruth about my prior comfort zone is called “growing up.” Things change. Technology intrudes. Discomfort ensues. We can only find comfort and safety and belonging and art by asking the right question. Grow up.
What can I do? What can my profession do? Change happened. Have I? Have we?