Science and Intuition

Can the hard sciences be influenced by intuition? When I think of the hard sciences, my first though is facts. Mainly I see science as separate from intuition or an individual’s motivation and beliefs and a focus on the cold hard facts, but after reading about Barbara McClintock, I would have to agree that intuition plays an important role in the hard sciences.

Barbra McClintock is a scientist who won the Nobel Prize in 1983 for her work in plant genetics. In Evelyn Fox Keller’s book, A Feeling for the Organism (1983), Keller describes McClintock’s view on intuition and science:

“In short, McClintock shares with all other natural scientists the credo that nature is lawful, and the dedication to the task of articulating those laws. And she shares, with at least some, the additional awareness that reason and experiment, generally claimed to be the principal means of this pursuit, do not suffice. To quote Einstein again, “…only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding, can lead to these laws; …the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart.”

The facts can only take you so far; you need to a little something extra, and that is where intuition comes into play. If you only look at the facts there is a whole world of information, thoughts, and ideas that is being completely overlooked. However, this goes both ways, science can benefit from intuition and intuition can benefit from the hard sciences, and the facts. If you rely only on reason you are ignoring the facts and missing out on important information that can really make a difference.

A holistic understanding of a subject is extremely important too. Take a puzzle for example. If you only look at one little piece, or even a section of the pieces, you won’t get the whole picture. You need to know more than just a portion to get anywhere. If you have a complete, or as close to one as us humans can get, then advancements can be made or previous thoughts can be questioned. Having a holistic view is essential for development.

A balance between the facts and intuition is extremely important in the hard sciences and many other areas of life. You need that dedication and passion to make great strides like McClintock. Sometimes you need that extra edge to achieve what you are after.

*Quote from Evelyn Fox Keller, “A Feeling for the Organism”


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