The great symphonies of the 19th century were not inspired by science, even though they were composed in a scientific age. The secular artists of the contemporary Western world seem, likewise, to find little inspiration from science. Only but rarely do these individuals create art in homage to science. Even less frequently do they create their work out of an inspiration derived from scientific method. Perhaps this is because the mood of objectivity and distance required for scientific analysis is incompatible with the expressionistic mood necessary to create art.It would be absurd, of course, to claim that an artist must have religious faith in order to make art. But the two states of being are fully compatible. For much of human history, the religious impulse and the art-making impulse were deeply tied together. Most of the great works of art from every civilization are testimony to this basic fact. The same cannot be said of science and no amount of fine rhetoric from Richard Dawkins or anyone else will prove otherwise. It is a thing to consider, that science does not seem to go together with the kind of wonder that moves the artists. It is an incompatibility that seems to go deeper than any question of funding or who pays for the art. Is it, actually, something deeper?…The men who carved those statues attained an extraordinary state of religious and aesthetic contemplation. It was not science that had inspired them to get there. Take that fact as you will.
While you’re considering that, perhaps consider these aphorisms from Nietzsche as well:
It is not without deep pain that we acknowledge the fact that in their loftiest soarings, artists of all ages have exalted and divinely transfigured precisely those ideas which we now recognize as false; they are the glorifiers of humanity’s religious and philosophical errors, and they could not have been this without belief in the absolute truth of these errors. But if the belief in such truth diminishes at all, if the rainbow colors at the farthest ends of human knowledge and imagination fade, then this kind of art can never re-flourish, for, like the Divina Commedia, Raphael’s paintings, Michelangelo’s frescoes, and Gothic cathedrals, they indicate not only a cosmic but also a metaphysical meaning in the work of art. Out of all this will grow a touching legend that such an art and such an artistic faith once existed.It is true that with certain metaphysical assumptions, art has a much greater value—if it is believed, for example, that one’s character is unchangeable and that the essence of the world is continually expressed in all characters and actions. Then the artist’s work becomes the image of what endures eternally. In our way of thinking, however, the artist can give his image validity only for a time, because man as a whole has evolved and is changeable, and not even an individual is fixed or enduring. The same is true of another metaphysical assumption: were our visible world only appearance, as metaphysicians assume, then art would come rather close to the real world; for there would be much similarity between the world of appearance and the artist’s world of dream images; the remaining difference would actually enhance the meaning of art rather than the meaning of nature, because art would portray the symmetry, the types and models of nature. But such assumptions are wrong: what place remains for art, then, after this knowledge? Above all, for thousands of years, it has taught us to see every form of life with interest and joy, and to develop our sensibility so that we finally call out, “However it may be, life is good”. This teaching of art—to have joy in existence and to regard human life as a part of nature, without being moved too violently, as something that developed through laws—this teaching has taken root in us; it now comes to light again as an all-powerful need for knowledge. We could give art up, but in doing so we would not forfeit what it has taught us to do. Similarly, we have given up religion, but not the emotional intensification and exaltation it led to. As plastic art and music are the standard for the wealth of feeling really earned and won through religion, so the intense and manifold joy in life, which art implants in us, would still demand satisfaction were art to disappear. The scientific man is a further development of the artistic man.…Soon the artist will be regarded as a wondrous relic, on whose strength and beauty the happiness of earlier times depended; honors will be shown him, such as we cannot grant to our own equals. The best in us has perhaps been inherited from the feelings of former times, feelings which today can hardly be approached on direct paths; the sun has already set, but our life’s sky glows and shines with it still, although we no longer see it.