Creative with facts

June 21, 2012

Three cheers for Geraint Wiggins' plea for creativity in the sciences ("Hidden in plain sight", 7 June). But why is the situation so bad that this notion seems odd to so many?

The source of the trouble is probably that today the word "creativity" covers all shapes and sizes, from mindless try-outs and childish daubs to solving problems in economics and cosmology. This turns the word into a deception zone: it could mean a great deal or very little.

Wiggins notes that Karl Popper and Imre Lakatos went unmentioned at his school. General intellectual confidence took a hit in the 1970s and references to hard creativity all but dropped out of the common discourse. The centre of gravity of its use moved downmarket to hairstyles, hats, football, even parking.

In the old days, the challenge of proving Euclidean lemmas was a great stamping ground for hard creativity in mathematics, but this went out in the 1960s. There is now a good case for bringing it back.

Chris Ormell, London

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