I watched the documentary that Damien’s discussing there, which struck me as a charming and sincere (but somewhat strained) attempt to bridge the Two Cultures thing, if only at a very basic level of aesthetics.
But I think this argument in general has been done to death, and there’s never going to be a satisfactory answer. For one thing, we can’t all agree on a definition of science fiction that sticks; for another, even if we could define sf successfully, it wouldn’t be (or at least I hope not) sufficiently homogeneous to assess with a single (and equally vague) aesthetic criterion. There’s no neat cleavage point; tap the crystal of genre at the point Damien’s talking about, and it just shatters into lots of tiny fragments.
I guess I’m holding to my Quantity Theory Of Genre, here; Damien’s talking about one of many qualities that some of the fuzzy set of books labeled sf partake in (and, to be honest, it’s one of the qualities I look for when picking things to read), but – even if it’s not meant as such – it still boils down to “my sf good, your sf not so good”. And that argument, so far as I can tell, has been going since long before ’55!
A more interesting question would be to ask whether fiction that partakes in sf can produce that “internal experience” of the world in a way that fiction that doesn’t partake in sf cannot achieve. The answer is intuitively “yes”, but I suspect reaching an agreement on how and why that is the case would be a rather longer discussion… and more productive than another round of “where do we draw the fence between the crap stuff and the good stuff”. 🙂
Beauty is subjective and objective at once, and trying to define it universally is a fruitless effort; understanding how and why beauty arises from our interaction with the universe and the things within it is probably one of the greatest civilisational goals we could aspire to. But you may want to take this with a large pinch of salt, because I have been re-reading Zen & The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance again recently, and it has a very long-lasting and pervasive influence on my philosophy of aesthetics… 😉
My two cents, anyhow. Attack my opinion with sharp things!