I'll start - though I guess I did in my welcome statement. As an empiricist, I think that curiosity and imagination are the engine of the first step in the scientific method - getting an idea (or creating an hypothesis.) And, once a new principle or theory is developed and validated, then finding useful applications goes back to the innovators and artists as well.
You should know that I honor Erasmus Darwin
as much as his famous Grandson - who, indeed, was a poet among many other things. A contemporary of Lamarck
, he wrote a very important poem The Temple of Nature
before Charles was born that was a precursor to his Grandson's ideas. He was a hero to Samuel Coleridge, William Wordsworth and the other great romantic poets who glorified the richness of nature and our place in it.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote Eureka
in 1848 - predicting something very close to the Big Bang - far more specific than any Nostradamus quatrain. Van Gogh and Monet (after Cezanne) taught us about light in a way that, along with the ancient art of weaving, and tapestry making, led us to the pixels on the screen that you are reading from right now.
As all anthropologists know, we have pottery and poetry to thank for the little we know about many ancient cultures. Architecture, medicine, music, and mathematics speak to us from the distant past and point the way to the unknown future we are, right this moment, busy building.
From the first person to notice that a shadow, or a reflection, or a footprint in the sand, was an image that mimicked reality - and learned to deliberately follow suit, to whoever figures out high temperature super-conductivity, cold fusion, or cheap, switch grass ethanol production - I love it all.
I love it because, we don't have a purpose in any god's plan like a hammer has a purpose; or a nail. Purpose emerges in us as a new aspect of evolution. It emerges from our minds, our curiosity, and imaginations as an extension of our sexuality and survival instinct and transforms into an adventurer's need to rise to challenges of our own creation. I love it because six billion minds, once free enough from the shackles of ancient inhibitions, can advance and progress and not only realize that the stars are not pinholes in the dome of heaven - but destinations for our posterity to explore.