Some people have an ear for music. Hm… can one have an eye for a movie, an arm for a music instrument… or a wrist for theoretical theory? Is it really about a particular organ or is it about the brain’s capacity to “listen” and “sing”? Does the brain of an artist work any different from that of a scientist?
A scientific paper is not building bridges or agricultural irrigations, its intention is not to change the world. Its sole purpose, however, to be beautiful. A beautiful proof of a theorem, an insightful outlook on a phenomenon or a clever econometric identification strategy. Conceptually and behaviorally it is indistinguishable from a poem or a painting. An idea packed into a collection of symbols. However, to unpack the symbols and to understand the true meaning of idea one needs training (one need to go through a specific type of experience).
A collection of sensations create an idea, something that is born and dies in the confines of one’s mind. Yet one can pick a metaphor to mimic the idea. A surface of a metaphor is a collection of symbols, but the creator’s hope is to communicate the idea. A metaphor can be mathematical, visual or acoustical. The amazing minds who lived centuries ago also chose to be artists. The world of today offers millions of activities to choose from, but centuries ago the menu was limited: agriculture, army, church or making selfies for the nobles (for an arbitrarily chosen collection of people who manage the resources, again, in an arbitrary way). Michelangelos of today don’t do art, they do science because they are not limited in their choice. Art is a degenerated form of science.
Using metaphors comes naturally to a human mind and mathematical family of metaphors have a lot of advantages. One could say “that guy looks like a hockey player”. If that is true, then by studying a hockey player we can understand “that guy”. A political talk show is a great demonstration of limitation of verbal reasoning. Authors change definitions, make contradictory statements and the worst of it they talk too much. The (Occam’s) principle of parsimony is hard-wired into mathematics. Verbosity in mathematics looks silly but considered a embellishment in verbal reasoning. Reasoning needs to be compact to overcome the brain’s processing limitations.
Some will be able to understand the idea from the symbols, but some will never go beyond memorizing the symbols. Religious is most often misunderstood as a collection of silly symbols. A sad outcome when sinners are fooled to believe that by observing the signs of an idea they adhere to the idea itself. Or theomachists who always fight the signs of religion, being oblivious to the concepts of faith, peace, will, patience and love (all religions exhort us to be – in the language of n player prisoners dilemma game – unconditional contributors).
A true creator perpetuates the beauty of his mind by picking metaphors that live longer than his body. He packs a dense collection of processed unobserved sensations into a something that lives on.