Immanuel Kant didn’t like metaphorical thinking in science — and his rebuke of this ambiguous way of investigating the natural world is one of the pillars for the modern separation of art and science.
However, in a statement article published yesterday in an issue about art and science in the German journal Gegenworte (#23, 2010), art historian Ingeborg Reichle and cell biologist Frank Rösl suggest that the arts and humanities can inform a new approach to, for example, cancer research, “because not only artists but also scientists work with images, symbols and metaphors, draw on their intuition and make use of coincidence”:
System theory, non-linearity, dissipation and emergence are today research concepts with which one attempts to understand living cells as multi-layered adaptive networks as well as dynamically oscillating systems. The exceptionally varied nature of networks obliges us to think about how the world and nature shape themselves and which laws can be deduced from this. […] It is possible to imagine the generation of new approaches to animated micro-biological processes through the construction of alternative scientific models, and also through the creation of new art forms. Because not only artists but also scientists work with images, symbols and metaphors, draw on their intuition and make use of coincidence.
(translation by Eurozine Review)