Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Creativity in Science

I've been thinking recently about the role of creativity in scientific research. Is it necessary? What is it, exactly? At first glance, one might attempt to cash it out in Kuhnian terms as paradigm-breaking hypotheses unprompted by previous experiment รข€” in other words as original "insights" that begin to define novel paradigms. The history of science would seem to lend some support for this interpretation (ask yourself: who are the creative scientists?). But it also seems that one could find scientific creativity in "normal science". Finding the right deferents and epicycles to approximately cohere with observations or developing the right experiments (e.g., Ray Davis' neutrino detector) are difficult. Moreover, simply being "original" doesn't seem to exhaust what we have in mind — one could be stupidly or mechanically original. If 'creative' only describes the source of an idea, does it turn it into a black box? On this count, there has been a good deal of work in neuroscience about where insight comes from. I'm not sure what light any of that would shed on the questions above.

So in short, I'm still casting about for ideas. Comments and references welcome. . . .

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