Scientific Creativity Is Not Selfish

Creativity in science is interesting to perceive through the paintbrush hairs of a fine artist. The relationship between these perceptions vary throughout historical accounts and research papers aimed at deciphering the nature behind the creative makeup.

The Nature of Science Compendium is a collection of perspectives from several major scientific discoveries. Throughout this reading, I observed a pattern of overlapping creative components within various facets of discovery. Many of the definitions within these excerpts defined a basis of creativity as a novel organization of familiar parts. So the ability to make “new” associations was often the end goal for researchers.

 In order to obtain this type of thinking, Robert L. DeHaan in Teaching Creative Science, recommends collaboration between individuals of various backgrounds in scientific knowledge. The different methodologies are aimed to increase one’s scientific reasoning skills when face with an “ill-structured” problem, which means the author is assuming important questions in science are non-linear and basically require a multi-angled approach from two or more people. 

This idea is fascinating when comparing the methodology of similar objectives within the Fine Arts.

Skeleton Woman
– pencil on paper –

Many consider this pursuit to be an independent journey. The artist takes inspiration from their own experiences, again, a defining difference between art and design. The pursuit is often considered selfish and the intent is based on a solo endeavor to express internal conflict. Precedents are studied for technique and form, but students are urged to find their own style of expression. Famous artists are praised for initiating new trends in art that often ridicule the pre-existing techniques. Sometimes it seems that artists are even encouraged to be loners and resist inspiration from their precedents. A work of art that incorporates previous ideas or styles are less valued than the “originals”; to copy a painting is to “steal” an idea.

All artwork is biased and saturated in subjectivity. This is not the case in science.

In the sciences, collaboration is a necessity. To contribute to the world of research, scientists are encouraged to integrate previous discoveries into their endeavors. If a new truth is discovered, they are encouraged to share their findings immediately. Science is not selfish and runs a set of ethics related to the bettering of the human race.

“Community offers continuity with the past and interconnectedness with the present ” (Grinnell, 2009).

To grow, one must allow themselves to explore and connect with others. Creativity in science leads to discovery and this stems from the collaboration of  diverse thought. Although bias opinions in science is not desired, it is however necessary in order to produce variation. 

Many artists strive to arouse emotion in others. The goal can be founded on an intent ranging between positive and negative emotions. It does not always have the sole purpose of benefitting the viewer. 

Much of the creative pursuit in the sciences relies on the credibility of ideas (Calder, 1989). This is accomplished through evidence and logical reasoning. The evidence is a mostly straight-forward process. The search for proof and the presentation of evidence is where creativity plays a large role. 

There are many means in which creativity has allotted the space for discovery (Derry, 1999). It can come about in mysterious ways, but it is only beneficial to the prepared mind. A mind that is ready to snatch opportunities from the sky at any given moment. This readiness is a skill that can be taught through associative learning and peer-peer learning. Its effectiveness is seen clearly through the examples in  Bird’s Eye View: Routes to Discovery excerpt.

Aramide Gbadamosi

Presenting research is an entire segment of creativity in science.

The presentation relies on objectivity and one’s ability to properly communicate ideas and process. This is another point of divergence with the philosophy of many artists who believe their work can be interpreted in various ways. Communication is the goal in scientific fields and often times can serve as the determinant of an idea’s success. This communication takes many forms and has many functions, just like creativity. In science, it applies not just to the world, but to other researchers as well (Grinnell, 2009). It is not just the discovery, but also the methodology used to arrive at the discovery. 

Another important component of creative success in science is passion.

Wild Roots
– digital photography –

It is important to carry a drive for discovery. Passion is another form of motivation and it steered Alexander von Humboldt’s pursuits up the Andes Mountains where he founded the theory of biogeography. His passion for exploration encouraged him to collect precise measurements and observations from the world around him. This curiosity and ability to note relationships between his areas of interest enabled him to formulate a seemingly obvious concept. 

Scientific creativity does not aspire to obtain clarity, but rather it aspires to produce more questions.

It is a world of ideas in motion.  “To write an account of research is to immobilize these ideas” (F. Jacob, 1999). It is similar to the arts in this way.  From this compendium of works, it is evident that creativity is not only prolific throughout the sciences, but also a necessity to success in the field. It thrives on a similar energy as “artistic” creativity, but the intents often differ on the argument of objectivity versus subjectivity. 

It is also important to note the essence of “play” in all of these excerpts. Combinatory play is the recipe for productive thought (Einstein, 1982). I cherish this idea in hopes that teaching styles will begin to incorporate more of this in the format of their class. Play is a crucial proponent for the generation of creative thinking.

Wild Roots
– digital photography –


DERRY, G. (1999). What Science Is and How It Works. Princeton University Press. Retrieved from

HARKER, J. (1905). A Compendium of Natural Knowledge. Nature. 73. 10.1038/0730via0. 

L DeHaan, Robert. (2011). Teaching Creative Science Thinking. Science (New York, N.Y.). 334. 1499-500. 10.1126/science.1207918. 

Pena, D. S. (2014). The Six Essential Components of Sustainable Socialism: From Building the Productive Forces to Combating Bourgeois Liberalization. International Critical Thought, 4(3), 267-288. doi:10.1080/21598282.2014.930987

Plemmons, Dena. (2011). A Broader Discussion of Authorship. Science and engineering ethics. 17. 389-98. 10.1007/s11948-011-9271-5. 

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