When considering the natural sciences, it is evident that the interaction of critical and creative thinking are important for generating knowledge, whilst in the arts it is less necessary for increasing understanding. The natural sciences involves the generation of knowledge through a combination of creative invention and the ability to critically evaluate findings. Critical thinking involves deciding whether a claim is true or false, which comes from the combination of data collection, observation and logic in the natural sciences. In the arts, the generation of knowledge stems more from the creation of new ideas that allow people new insights or knowledge into a topic. The arts relies less on deciding the truth of claims using critical thinking and logic and more on the invention of new thoughts and belief systems. The purpose of this essay is to explore the extent in which knowledge is generated through the interaction of critical and creative thinking in the two areas of knowledge – the arts and the natural sciences – to provide insight into knowledge generation in general.
Natural science is an area of knowledge that relies on the creation of new ideas and systems of thinking and the use of critical evaluation and observation. Without the creation of new ideas, the natural sciences could not advance, but without the use of critical thinking these new ideas cannot be verified or examined clearly. Natural science relies on the interaction between these two ways of thinking to develop new processes and ensure their validity, thus creating knowledge. In biology, for example, the understanding of the structure of DNA has been one of the most important pieces of knowledge ever generation. The generation of this information came from a group of individuals who thought creatively, using x-rays and other technology that had not been tried before in this area. However, this creative thinking interacted with critical thinking because the information generated from this creativity had to be evaluated critically. It was evaluated using logic – how the two strands of the double helix may be formed and function in the biological cell, and the claims made by Watson, Crick and others were critically examined by members of the scientific community. It has only been since then that natural science has been able to incorporate these discoveries into generally accepted knowledge.
However, it is possible to further knowledge in natural sciences using critical thought alone. Some areas of the natural sciences rely only on evaluation of data and information to add to the knowledge base. For example, many new drugs are tested which are based on existing compounds, which does not necessarily require any creative thought. To generate knowledge in this area, some pharmaceutical companies simply rehash old ideas about medication and test them using critical evaluation and thought before putting them on the market. However, this can only be applied to some small areas of the natural sciences – the majority of new drugs will require some creative thought about how they can be adapted from previous, less-effective medications to work better on the population. It is therefore clear that the majority of scientific thought is generated from the important interactions between creative and critical thinking, although there may be some exceptions to this rule. Arguably, creativity in the natural sciences is in some way removed from creative thought in the arts, which is a more obviously creative area of knowledge.
In contrast to the natural sciences, the arts relies almost solely on the creative thinking process. The invention of knowledge in this area comes from the development of music, literature, dance, artwork and sculpture by individuals or groups of individuals, and the knowledge that this provides very rarely needs to be critically thought out. For example, the Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous pieces of artwork in the world. The knowledge that it creates is different to that in the natural sciences – it focuses more on the generation of knowledge about the human condition, history and emotion than on pure fact. It was creatively thought out, and did not need critical thinking to evaluate the truth of the knowledge generated. Indeed, knowledge that comes from observing, creating or analyzing a piece such as the Sistine Chapel may not necessarily be the same for everyone. It is a more philosophical form of knowledge than anything that comes from the natural sciences, and this is why the arts rely less on the interaction of critical and creative thinking.
It can be argued that literature is the one area of the arts that does rely on some interaction between the critical and creative thought processes. Knowledge in literature comes from understanding the words on the page, how they make the individual feel and what information is processed. Some works of literature can be critically analyzed and this makes for the generation of more knowledge about what the writer is exploring in their work. In this sense, critical evaluation of how their work will be perceived is required on the part of the writer, and critical evaluation of the work itself is required by the audience to create knowledge. This suggests that the interaction of critical and creative thinking may have a small part to play in knowledge generation in the arts.
In conclusion, critical and creative thinking are both important in the creation of knowledge, although to different extents in different fields. In science, there is more of a focus on the creation of new ideas and then critical evaluation of these ideas in the generation of knowledge. It takes creativity to see how the field can move forward, but critical thinking to make it into knowledge. The arts relies more on critical thinking to generate knowledge, with a focus on new ideas, interesting ideas and challenging existing perceptions. This suggests that there is an interaction between critical and creative thought but the extent to which it is important differs between the arts and the natural sciences.