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Chapter 4:
Scientific Knowledge & Technological Advances

Main Idea: This chapter demonstrates that technology is not merely "applied science" and that the relationship between technology and science is extremely complex.

  • There has generally been an inverse relationship between science and technology: when science has flourished, technology has not.
  •  Although our time is unique in that both science and technology are flourishing at the same time, most research demonstrates that scientific research is not directly responsible for technological advances. We must therefore conclude that there is not a direct, linear relationship between science and technology.  A very small percentage of major technological advances can be directly linked to a scientific discovery or to scientific research in general.
  • The complexity of the relationship between science and technology is based on the fact that they have different purposes and ask different questions. Science asks "Is it true?" while technology asks "Will it work?" The purpose of science is the discovery of knowledge for the sake of knowledge while the purpose of technology is to develop and employ knowledge to get something done.
  • While the common belief is that science encourages technological advances, it is usually the case that technological advances encourage scientific discoveries. There is often a "back and forth" movement in which technology encourages scientific discovery which in turn leads to new technological innovations.
  • Technological development also aids in scientific discoveries through the development of new instruments such as MRI, Hubble, etc. In an indirect way technology has encouraged scientific discovery by lending science a sense of practicality (and thus money through funding grants).
  • Although science and technology operate in different realms they have several elements in common including:
    • Reliance on rational thought process
    • Use of math as analytical tool
    • Sense of optimism and progress
  • Science and technology depend upon individuals and organizations that operate in both realms at the same time in order to translate science into technology.

Study Questions
Explain what is meant by the statement that there is an inverse relationship between scientific and technological advance.

How do the purposes and goals of science and technology differ?

Give an example of how technological innovation may lead to scientific discovery.


Self Test