Oh my dear Jonathan Jones, you silly, silly lad.
You ask, why does CERN (it's all caps by the way, so much for fact checking) want artists to respond to it, but then, instead of doing a little bit of journalistic leg work--that is, asking the very scientists, or the ground staff, or whoever the writer is invoking, but not engaging--you jump immediately to an overly generalized, and somewhat unqualified, value judgment. Oops…
Instead of empty rhetoric, (loved how you also alluded to Macbeth so as to use art to say art is useless, classic) wouldn’t it have been enlightening to not only to find out ‘why artists’, but why Ikeda, and more over, what the people at CERN thought of working with Ikeda, and likewise of the final work? Maybe they loved it, hated it, whatever, but maybe they also actually thought about it and can articulate an informed response? Yet all we get is your little rant.
I’m not at CERN, so I will not try to speak for ‘those’ people, —who are, what, dumb to want to look at art according to your sweeping statement?—however, I will speak from experience.
I have been lucky enough to work with preeminent scientists in several fields, even your beloved ‘hardcore’ physicists, whatever hardcore is supposed to mean. Some are Nobel Prize winners, some are supposedly tapped to win one, and others work at places like NASA—my uncle was the most senior scientist in astrophysics there, and I spent a lot of time in the Goddard Space Flight Center growing up. Most of the scientists I've spoken with are not only interested in art, they collect it, debate it, seek the company of artists, and so on. For example, a friend runs a genetics lab at Rockefeller University, which is by no means a slouchy place. In his very office, right next to his lab, is a painting about influenza; he looks to it for both inspiration and conjecture. Over lunch once—in tow with a Noble Prize winner, who is strangely married to an artist for some very odd reason, can’t be her mind, right?—he posed the question: why in America (he is from the Ukraine and was schooled in Germany), are intellectuals not interested in each others’ work no matter what discipline they are in, why are they not together discussing as they do in other places? It’s a good question, and it speaks to a desire that maybe the folks over at CERN might have—and I don’t think it’s just for passing fancy…
For another example, I worked with one of the worlds more esteemed paleontologists and evolutionary biologists on the relationship between Duchamp and Poincare, he was curious: did Duchamp really figure out something about non-Euclidian geometry? Whether or not Duchamp did, the act of questioning the work and looking at it actively created new and interesting problems for him.
Those ‘hardcore’ physicists at NASA, all they would want to talk about was fiction, theater, and cinema—you know, something about that thing called speculation. At dOCUMENTA (13) I worked with several scientists and science historians who all, in turn, worked with artists and discussed art ravenously and often collaborated with several artists through their own initiatives. Historically you can point to Einstein (who was a musician), Von Neumann (who was overly cultured), Konrad Zuse (who was a painter) and countless others… Bringing it back to today, many scientists I’ve spoken with are deeply concerned with questions of a funny thing called representation (which you botched Mr. Jones) as well, and well, you know to who they look to to think with and about that subject?
I can tell you one thing that several scientists have gripes about, and it's not art. It’s a thing called overspecialization and the frankly dangerous idea that forms of knowledge are totally discreet and have nothing to say to each other. Likewise, many of them talk about the commercialization of knowledge, and how their research is negatively effected by stupid concerns for the market…hmmm, what other field is also concerned with that and could join with these thinkers to provide a larger and more useful critique of how we live today? Oh, I’m sorry, that would be prescriptive.
In closing, let me just say how I love how you admit that you don’t know much about the 'language of science'. By extension, it's obvious you don’t know much about scientific culture either...so please don’t bore us with your ignorance.*
*By the way, that is how you are supposed to use rhetorics...