10 December 2023

Science and Technology


Science and Technology


Topic and notes by Lawrence


Today we get the feeling that the idea of science serves certain people in society who wish to promote some irrational programme maybe to exploit economic or financial opportunities to the detriment of society in general.


Others talk about science to compare with religious dogma, which instantly betrays a lack of familiarity with science, or maybe to promote an agenda for political or ideological objectives.


Whilst the subject of science and technology in the political philosophy is very relevant in the 21st century, this would be a mammoth task to pursue earnestly for these notes.


Technology is today the darling of marketers and companies who usually go on to market up their products and services with unreasonable margins of profit. But there is no doubt that technology today has improved our lives and some companies still pay homage to science to distinguish their products; in the same way that companies still show people in white coats to sell their over the counter medicines.


But what are the philosophical issues regarding science and technology? The list is endless, but I will try to identify some topical issues.


The consensus is that science is the endeavour to discover the principles, sometimes called laws, of nature usually employing experience and experimentation to arrive at these principles. We can say that science is a methodology. However, not any experience, or any experiment will do. This is the most important aspect about science, there are norms, established procedures and protocols regulating how to account for experience and conduct experiments. And even more important this methodology is always evolving and improving.


Technology is the application of scientific knowledge to create “machines” to meet human needs. Technology is also referred to as applied science. This is where some modern confusion might result from the misuse and misunderstood language concepts such as science and technology.


In the public domain, science and technology are interchanged without further clarification. To take an extreme example we find a discourse of such concepts as “mad scientists” but we hardly ever hear of “mad technologists” or “evil technologists” but always of “evil scientists”. Forgetting, as mentioned above, for something to be science or technology, it must follow accepted methodologies.


Calling something, science, experiment or experience does not make it science or technology. Moreover, just because the person conducting such behaviour was or is recognised as a scientist or technician, it does not follow that what they are doing is science and technology.


This scenario need not involve malicious forethought, just a misapplication of the scientific method. The peer review gate keeping practice is the obvious place to detect such misapplication of the scientific method. Genuine mistakes do happen in science and even careless mistakes do get past the gatekeepers; maybe negative results of studies are normally not published to protect the reputation of honest scientists who, maybe, made a genuine mistake.


A second issue that is relevant for us is precisely the inevitable connection between science, which might be regarded as theory, and technology, which is indeed applied science. However, most times, advances in science are not as advanced as science. This is quite understandable since the robustness of technology has to include safety and risks to humans. But this is a serious challenge to human knowledge: sometimes science make advancements that we still do not have the technology to test these advancements, think of Einstein and the theory of relativity.


A final issue is whether today more resources are available to develop technology thus leaving advancements in science trailing behind technology. Should there be more resources made available for the advancement of new scientific theories?






Best and take care




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