Werner Herzog and Lawrence Krauss on Connecting Science and Art
Science and art often seem to develop in separate silos, but many thinkers are inspired by both. Novelist Cormac McCarthy, filmmaker Werner Herzog and physicist Lawrence Krauss discuss science as inspiration for art.
Q: “Where do you see the connection between science and art?
LK: “Science addresses - really what it does at its best is force us to reassess our place in the cosmos. Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?
And those are the very same questions that you get in art, literature, music. Every time you read a wonderful book or see a wonderful film, you come out of it with a different perspective of yourself, and too often, it seems to me, we forget that cultural aspect of science, and that’s the reason we’re celebrating it here.
And they come together in some sense in the notion of origins. Origins really is one place where, it seems to me, those two worlds connect the closest, because we all wonder about our origins in different ways.
And it’s the forefront of science in almost every field and yet, of course, it’s really what we’re asking ourselves when we think about literature and art. (…)
One of the - you know, we - all of what we’re talking about is human imagination, in a way. And in fact, to bring Feynman up, I guess, he said science is imagination in a straightjacket.
And I think - and we have to recognize that we, as humans, I guess, want to and love to imagine not only the world the way it is but the world as it might be. And many of us want the - hope that there are worlds that are better.
And that’s great. I think that’s really important. But there are two aspects to it. One is we have to accept that the world we live in is what it is. And if people would just recognize that the world is the way it is whether we like it or not, I think it would change a lot the way people behave.
But at the same time, I think we should - we need to recognize also that sometimes the actual universe is more fascinating than even our imagination, and it can spur - it can spur our imagination not just as scientists, but I also, I suspect, as - for artists. And that’s why I think it’s another good reason to sort of keep up with some of the fantastic things that are happening in the world.
Because I think if all three of us were locked in a room without any access to information about how the world behaved, that none of our work would be as -hopefully, well, I suspect as creative or interesting as it might be. (…)
Sometimes, when you try and confront the real world, as a scientist, it’s terrifying because it forces you to throw away a lot of things you believe. And sometimes, you have to go away from it. And I think - that’s what I mean. I think the convergence of science and art in the sense that if -that what that science was saying is confronted with the reality of those caves (unintelligible). It was difficult for him to deal with.
And I - and even as a theoretical physicist, sometimes just alone at night, confronted with the possibility that the real universe might actually correspond to something you’re thinking about is terrifying. (…)
And in some ways, we have to realize that, yet, once again, we have to confront our own, in some sense, an unfriendly universe potentially, but also our own insignificance in a cosmic sense, and what significance we make of ourselves. To me, part of it is our ability to - this amazing gift we have to appreciate the universe and imagine it not just as it is but as it might be in order to understand ourselves better. That’s why I find this connection.”