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Swetha Chandrasekar

Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Student, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

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Is science just imagination in a straitjacket?

This week in my Bioelectricity class, we listened to an NPR interview with Frances Ashcroft. Ashcroft is a British scientist who made a discovery in 1984 that allows neonatal diabetes patients to take pills as insulin supplements instead of injections. In her interview, as she discussed her thoughts on the scientific process and developing her theory, she referenced a quote by Richard Feynman, is a renowned American theoretical physicist.
"Science is imagination in a straitjacket."
Many scientists would argue that science does not restrict imagination, but rather promotes it. How is it that a well renowned scientist and thinker like Feynman, could feel confined when seeking answers in science? Is science a vehicle for imagination or is it used to tie down imagination with facts? What experience could have caused him to have this opinion? Does science truly restrict the imagination as Feynman suggests, or is science a vehicle for imagination?

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    Feb 12 2013: I do agree with the fact that science places restrictions on imagination, however I would not go as far as to call it a straight jacket. Unfortunately, it is true that the human mind can fantasize about many things that are just not physically possible in this world. Science is, therefore, a damper on our imagination; however, I believe that imagination can overcome this obstacle. Imagination and science can be manipulated to work in harmony with each other, rather than against each other, as the term "straight jacket on imagination" implies.
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      Feb 12 2013: George,

      I agree with your take on science and the restriction that it places on imagination. Imagination is near limitless, as you have said. However I do believe that science is limited to the concrete evidence that is used to prove an idea or theory to be scientifically sound. In my mind, this is the straitjacket that science wears. Simply put, imagination can be anything and everything, while science uses imagination to a certain degree and real life proof to show its validity. Think about the past scientists who have stumbled upon new ideas. These ideas were initially merely the work of their imaginations.

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