Programming: A Science Or An Art?

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48 Replies - 13489 Views - Last Post: 22 September 2010 - 04:57 AM

#1 Splatocaster  Icon User is offline

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Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Post icon  Posted 07 September 2010 - 06:20 PM

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If you ask any programmer, especially myself, they will claim that programming is an art. However, if you consult any high school curriculum, it is a science. I have often heard of programming as pure science. In my opinion, programming is a form of art more than science, because of the following unbiased reasons.

The definition of Science:

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Any systematic knowledge that is capable of resulting in a correct prediction or reliable outcome.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science

The definition of Art:

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The use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others.

http://info.britannica.com/

It seems like a mix of both - it is systematic knowledge that is (hopefully) capable of a reliable outcome. However, it is also encompasses skill, imagination, and expression. While the same program made by two developers might have the same outcome, the code and techniques used within the code will vary drastically. I am interested in other people's views on the subject.

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Replies To: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

#2 eclipsed4utoo  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 07 September 2010 - 06:35 PM

I think of it as an Art. More from the perspective that not everybody can be a musician, not everybody can be a good painter, and not everybody can be a programmer.

To me, a science is something that anybody can learn. You can learn biology, anatomy, physics, etc. To me, programming is not that.
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#3 Nikitin  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 07 September 2010 - 06:35 PM

You can stick words "skill, imagination, and expression" into pretty much any activity and argue that it's art. Programming is a science.
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#4 AdamSpeight2008  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 07 September 2010 - 06:41 PM

You look at some source code and it looks like Paint-By-Numbers, with colouring in not contained inside the lines. Others you look and its beautiful and elegant, a piece of art. It is in my believe that the more Academically minded consider it to be a science, a branch a Mathematics. They (the academics) do in this so they can keep the owner ship of it.

Programming is a science (you have to be precise in your definition and usage) but aspects of it are an art-form in itself, take the 1Kb demo challenges.

I personally consider it to be an art.
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#5 Splatocaster  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 07 September 2010 - 07:12 PM

After further thought, I thought about some other points.

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You can stick words "skill, imagination, and expression" into pretty much any activity and argue that it's art. Programming is a science.

An interesting point of view, and does yield truth. However, so does the opposite.

I'll use music as an example.

In music, there are "rules" that must be followed to allow for enjoyable music to be made. There are common themes, scales, chord progressions, etc. Music is made systematically - not just random notes and words. All the rest is personal touch.

I believe that programming is the same way. Programming has all of the elements that I described music to have - rules, common themes, algorithms, and a lot of personal touch.

Another point is User Interface. Some UIs are beautiful, some aren't. If you draw up a user interface in MS Paint - it's art, right? If you port that same exact design to Visual Studio, it is still art in my opinion.

No two programmers program the same just like no two painters paint the same.
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#6 ChoiBoi  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 07 September 2010 - 08:16 PM

I've always considered programming to be a science much in the way chemistry is considered a science.

Synthesis, like programming, can utilize a variety of different approaches to obtain the same product. However, as both value simplicity and cost-effectiveness, not all approaches are created equal. An experienced programmer/chemist will attempt to determine the most efficient approach, while a novice is satisfied with anything that works.

I agree that, on an intellectual level, well done code is aesthetically pleasing but the same could be said of an efficient synthetic procedure.

If chemistry is considered a science why not programming?
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#7 izrafel  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 08 September 2010 - 02:51 AM

i would say a little bit of both.
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#8 cfoley  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 08 September 2010 - 04:14 AM

Damn, I must have forgotten to hit reply before!

To a programmer, programming can be an art. However to a user, an application is a black box; sloppy code is indistinguishable from elegant code. I think this is where a lot of the controversy lies.

This post has been edited by cfoley: 08 September 2010 - 04:15 AM

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#9 Adkins  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 08 September 2010 - 04:37 AM

I agree partially with cfoley, but the problem is that too me modern art is just a bunch of random color that don't make any sense and are far from pleasing to look at. It is much the same to someone looking at code who doesn't understand it. This is why it leans towards art.

BUT (there is always a but)

Programming is something that is studied and learned much the same as a science. 5 year old kids can pick up a pencil and make art, but I would be overly impressed if they created programs or solved scientific problems.

I suppose that leaves me on the fence. Programming is a beast all to itself. It defies classification as do most programmers.
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#10 Dormilich  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 08 September 2010 - 04:55 AM

View PostChoiBoi, on 08 September 2010 - 03:16 AM, said:

I've always considered programming to be a science much in the way chemistry is considered a science.

as a programmer/chemist I can assure you that there are areas in chemistry, that can be considered art (like "growing crystals [for X-ray analysis] is the black art of chemistry.") there are many aspects, though they follow rules in general, any specific example may or may not work. esp. when it comes to plan something, which sometimes needs an enormous amount of creativity.
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#11 baavgai  Icon User is online

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 08 September 2010 - 06:32 AM

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Cooking is a science. You combine a given set of elements under a given set of conditions and you will consistently get an expected set of results. It should be just that simple, but not everyone can cook.

The act of cooking is an art. It's an expression of the artist, taking well understood elements and combining them with skill in such a way to produce something both functional and aesthetically pleasing. That doing, that act of creation, cannot be taught; the cook hones their craft through experience, intuition, perseverance, and passion.

Language is a science. It is a strict set of defined terms than must but organized in a particular way to have any meaning at all. Most people use language adeptly enough to be understood. Few write great novels.

Like language and cooking, programming is a science, with a finite, well understood set of conditions. However, writing a program is an act of creation as unique as the individual. As experience programmers, we can look at the work of others and can tell if they're an apprentice, or copying the work of others, or are skilled enough to have found their own voice. This is not a skill that can be taught, it comes from dedication to the craft.

As with any expression of individual creativity and skill, programming is an art.
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#12 Dormilich  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 08 September 2010 - 06:35 AM

cant we just say programming is both? from reading the posts, nearly everyone says that.
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#13 anonymouscodder  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 08 September 2010 - 07:31 AM

Science can be considered art, and art can also be considered science. It's a matter of point of view.
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#14 Luckless  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 08 September 2010 - 08:06 AM

It's a freaking interpretive dance :wink:
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#15 Codey09  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming: A Science Or An Art?

Posted 08 September 2010 - 08:06 AM

After reading all the post I agree with all of them, which makes programming both an Art and a Science!
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