The Mona Lisa.

Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Image via Wikipedia

As all scientists know that any scientific work starts with a study of the “state of the art”, it is easy to think that scientists do not consider themselves very different from artists. However, it seems that there is some kind of interest in order to make a strong difference between them, and this interest does not proceed from science.

In an old post, Back to Da Vinci, I did a reference to Da Vinci’s time. There was not a distinction among scientists, engineers and artists before the scientific method and specialism arose. Recently, it have been discovered a new Spanish Mona Lisa (at El Prado Museum in Madrid) painted by a Da Vinci’s disciple at the same time. This fact is showing that Da Vinci’s art, as any other of his activities, had a technique that can become learnt.

A difference among art, science and engineering is that science and engineering have actually a high degree of professionalization. Everybody thinks that the knowledge needed to get the state of the art of any scientific problem would need a long time for an autodidact, but I suppose that nobody thinks that children at a nursery playing with crayons can paint a masterpiece.

Of course, to dominate a painting technique (to get that state of the art) neither is easy. The difference between good and bad artists, or between professional and amateurs artists, can be stronger than the difference between artists and scientists. Arts, industrial development and scientific knowledge define the culture of a people.

Probably, the distinction interest is related to the market. It is an economic one. Engineering (from applied science) found fast a vast market for its result but basic science and some arts has been many years depending on patronage, namely, large fortunes. This interest of monopolizing an elitist image that compete for a very specific funding source with some research areas (many fortunes are funding basic research in certain fields) can be the reason because some people forget science and technological development as a part of the culture of a people.

Someday, with the need of liquidity that many organizations have, we will find managers of non-cultural activities comparing themselves with artists in order to acquire funds that some fortunes or the Government could apply, for instance, to a research about a cure of the cancer. I hope that nobody makes the mistake of trusting in them.