I believe the best understanding of the difference between science and art in the nineteenth century is to be found in a man who was not an artist but a rationalist. Scientist and writer Thomas Henry Huxley argued that the intellectual content of art is altogether different from the intellectual content of science. In art it is truth to nature. But this truth is relative for it depends entirely upon the intellectual culture of the person to whom art is addressed. No man ever understands Shakespeare until he is old, though the youngest may admire him, the reason being that he satisfies the artistic instinct of the youngest and harmonizes with the ripest and richest experiences of the oldest. In science, intellectual content is truth to fact and the deductions and generalizations which can be made from facts.
The pleasures, however, that one receives from either art or science, Huxley said, have a common source. These pleasures arise from the satisfaction one receives in tracing the central theme of whatever he is interested in at the moment in all its endless variations as it appears and reappears to demonstrate the truth of unity in variety. Whether it be a problem in mathematics, an experiment in morphology, a chess game, a primitive drawing, a sophisticated painting, a simple ballad, a complex poem, a homely refrain, or a fugue by Bach, the process of comprehending the symbols used to express the idea is both intellectual and esthetic. The process is intellectual because it is the intellect which comprehends the laws governing any particular science or art; and it is esthetic because it is the feelings which determine the amount of emotional pleasure one can derive from them. But the ends of the two are different. Science has as its end the attainment of truth. Art has for its end the attainment of pleasure. “The subjects of all knowledge are divisible into the two groups,” said Huxley, “matters of science and matters of art; for all things with which the reasoning faculty alone is occupied, come under the province of science. And in the broadest sense, and not in the narrow and technical sense in which we are now accustomed to use the word art, all things feelable, all things which stir our emotions, come under the term of art.”
I believe science is slowly destroying art. It can be said that science has created a hard, materialistic philosophy of life. If it destroyed art only, that would not be so bad; but science also destroys the highest aspirations of the human soul. Love is reduced to a biologic law; family relationships are explained by psychology; ideals are resolved into the yearnings of frustration; and God is metamorphosed into a tribal deity. Once the veil of mystery that enshrouds these great primary instincts of the human soul is ruthlessly snatched away, life loses the qualities which have made it beautiful and significant in the past. Despair takes the place of hope; resignation takes the place of resolution; sex takes the place of love; atheism takes the place of religion. Wise and intelligent men become cynics and common men become hedonists. Duty and morality are forgotten in the mad struggle to forget a life thus deprived of the ideals which before had made it endurable. To eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge can be as disastrous today as it was ages ago in the Garden of Eden.