The Relationship between Science and Technology

Modified: 24th Sep 2021
Wordcount: 3201 words

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The word science comes from the Latin “scientia,” meaning knowledge.

How do we define science? According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, the definition of science is “knowledge attained through study or practice,” or “knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, esp. as obtained and tested through scientific method [and] concerned with the physical world.”

What does that really mean? Science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge. This system uses observation and experimentation to describe and explain natural phenomena. The term science also refers to the organized body of knowledge people have gained using that system. Less formally, the word science often describes any systematic field of study or the knowledge gained from it.

What is the purpose of science? Perhaps the most general description is that the purpose of science is to produce useful models of reality.

Most scientific investigations use some form of the scientific method. You can find out more about the scientific method here.

Science as defined above is sometimes called pure science to differentiate it from applied science, which is the application of research to human needs. Fields of science are commonly classified along two major lines: 

  • Natural sciences, the study of the natural world, and 
  • Social sciences, the systematic study of human behavior and society.

Due to the nature of contemporary society, the relationship between the domains of science and technology has never been stronger. Science and technology have different purposes, ways of viewing and knowing the world, and thus their relationship is often tense and complex. However, they serve to inform and extend each other in both intended and unexpected ways. Student learning in science and technology can be enhanced through their mutual study. By understanding the differences and relationship between these two domains, students in educational settings will gain an appreciation of the nature of each at a more philosophical level. This is important to the development of a both scientific and technological literacy that will allow for informed citizenship.

Technology is the usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or create an artistic perspective. The word technologycomes from the Greek technología (τεχνολογία) – téchnÄ“ (τέχνη), an “art”, “skill” or “craft” and -logía (-λογία), the study of something, or the branch of knowledge of a discipline.[1] The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology,medical technology, information technology, or high technology.

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Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The human species’ use of technology began with the conversion of natural resources into simple tools. The prehistorical discovery of the ability to control fire increased the available sources of food and the invention of the wheel helped humans in travelling in and controlling their environment. Recent technological developments, including the printing press, the telephone, and the Internet, have lessened physical barriers tocommunication and allowed humans to interact freely on a global scale. However, not all technology has been used for peaceful purposes; the development of weapons of ever-increasing destructive power has progressed throughout history, from clubs to nuclear weapons.

Technology has affected society and its surroundings in a number of ways. In many societies, technology has helped develop more advanced economies (including today’s global economy) and has allowed the rise of a leisure class. Many technological processes produce unwanted by-products, known as pollution, and deplete natural resources, to the detriment of theEarth and its environment. Various implementations of technology influence the values of a society and new technology often raises new ethical questions. Examples include the rise of the notion of efficiency in terms of human productivity, a term originally applied only to machines, and the challenge of traditional norms.

Philosophical debates have arisen over the present and future use of technology in society, with disagreements over whether technology improves the human condition or worsens it. Neo-Luddism, anarcho-primitivism, and similar movements criticise the pervasiveness of technology in the modern world, opining that it harms the environment and alienates people; proponents of ideologies such astranshumanism and techno-progressivism view continued technological progress as beneficial to society and the human condition. Indeed, until recently, it was believed that the development of technology was restricted only to human beings, but recent scientific studies indicate that other primates and certain dolphin communities have developed simple tools and learned to pass their knowledge to other generations.


Due to the nature of contemporary society, the relationship between the domains of science and technology has never been stronger. Both domains are recognised as key forms of human activity, and stand alongside the arts and social sciences as fundamental to human achievement and expression. Essential to recognising the strength of the relationship between science and technology, is the acknowledgement that neither holds a subservient position. Rather, science and technology work together for the mutual benefit and/or growth of each domain in both intended and unexpected ways.

In order to understand the complexity of the relationship between science and technology, it is first important to establish how the two domains differ, particularly given it is these differences that provide the strength of their current alliance. The differentiation between science and technology can be characterised by three key factors:

  • the domain’s core business (its purpose);
  • its view of what ‘exists’ in the world (its ontological stance); and
  • how it defines and validates knowledge (its epistemology).

The following provides an overview of how these factors are articulated within current understandings of science and technology.

Science – a brief overview

The overriding purpose of science is to explain the natural world through iterative intellectual and investigative practices that involve observations and controlled manipulations of that world. In support of this, science can be most comfortably argued today in terms of a ‘critical realist’ stance. This reflects a view that ‘things’ exist in the world and ‘are as they are’ (Lopez and Potter, 2001). As such, the role of scientists is to interrogate the ‘real things’ of the natural world in order to construct explanations of them. In keeping with the view of science as a human activity, resulting explanatory texts are embedded in the sociocultural world and as such will be human-mediated representations of the ‘real things’. Scientific knowledge therefore, is that which has ‘real things’ as its referent. For new knowledge to be validated within the domain of science, this knowledge must adhere to logical reasoning and be internally coherent within the dominant paradigm. Alternatively, it must provide a substantiated challenge to the paradigm, while still operating within the tolerance levels of the wider domain. It must withstand peer review in order to be represented as a ‘truth’. Truth therefore, is not viewed as an absolute within science. Rather scientific ‘truths’ are, in keeping with pragmatic theory, that knowledge that gains the consensus of experts within the domain. In contrast to traditional views of the existence of a scientific method, contemporary views of scientific methodologies include an understanding of their diversity and flexibility to meet the task at hand. Therefore, investigate methods employed both between, and often within, different subsets of science can differ markedly.

Technology – a brief overview

The purpose of technology is to intervene in the world to produce something ‘other’ to that which currently exists. It achieves this through iterative intellectual and design-based practices that involve multiple sources of input. These input sources include a mixture of that defined as natural, material, simulated, conceptual, emotional, and imagined. Technologists also draw from the past, current and a range of possible and probable futures. The stance that has been argued as best supporting an understanding of the domain of technology, is that of a’process ontology’. This stance challenges the critical realist notion that ‘things’ exist as such, and instead argues that ‘processes’ are what exist, and it is our interaction in process which allows the opportunity to categorise, and thus objectify, ‘things as such’ (Neuman, 2003). Therefore, from such a technological viewpoint, we are both creators of the material world of technology in clear and tangible ways, and also symbolic creators of the ‘natural’ world. Technological knowledge does not attempt to make claims to ‘truth’ in the same way as scientific knowledge does. Instead it has as its referent, the process of function. What validates technological knowledge therefore is ‘success’ not ‘truth’. However, like science, the ‘success’ of technological knowledge is determined within technological practice by experts within the domain of technology. Technological practices are situation specific, and therefore are as diverse and varied as the contexts and people involved in the endeavour.

How do they relate?

Scientific knowledge and methodologies themselves provide a major source of input into the development of technological practices and outcomes. They are also key tools in the establishment of explanations of why technological interventions were, or were not, successful. In short, science can provide powerful explanations for the why and why not behind technological intervention. However, as these interventions rely on more than an understanding of the ‘natural’ world, they can only provide partial justification for technological practices and outcomes.

Technological practices, knowledge and outcomes can provide mechanisms for science to gain a better view of its defined world, and in fact can provide serious challenges to the defining of that world. For example, the development of the technological artefacts that extend the observation capabilities of humans (such as the telescope and microscope), made ‘visible’ and available ‘new worlds’ for science to interrogate and explain.

The Relationship Between Science and Technology

Science, technology and innovation each represent a successively larger category of activities which are highly interdependent but distinct. Science contributes to technology in at least six ways:

  1. new knowledge which serves as a direct source of ideas for new technological possibilities;
  2. source of tools and techniques for more efficient engineering design and a knowledge base for evaluation of feasibility of designs;
  3. research instrumentation, laboratory techniques and analytical methods used in research that eventually find their way into design or industrial practices, often through intermediate disciplines;
  4. practice of research as a source for development and assimilation of new human skills and capabilities eventually useful for technology;
  5. creation of a knowledge base that becomes increasingly important in the assessment of technology in terms of its wider social and environmental impacts;
  6. knowledge base that enables more efficient strategies of applied research, development, and refinement of new technologies.

Middle school students struggle with differentiating between science and technology. “Engineers, architects, and others who engage in design and technology use scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. They also usually have to take human values and limitations into account.”

This quote comes from Benchmarks, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an inspiration for the National Science Education Standards (NSES). The NSESHYPERLINK “” Science and Technology standard has two parts: abilities of technological design and understandings about science and technology. The following resources will help students understand the relationship between science and technology and the differences between the two.

Technology and the Environment

In this publication, teachers will find resources they can use when building or freshening a unit about the environment. Units about technology and the environment provide excellent opportunities for teachers of technology, science, and mathematics to collaborate. Students to assess the risks and benefits of individual and industrial uses of technology.

The converse impact of technology on science is of at least equal importance

  1. through providing a fertile source of novel scientific questions and thereby also helping to justify the allocation of resources needed to address these questions in an efficient and timely manner, extending the agenda of science;
  2. as a source of otherwise unavailable instrumentation and techniques needed to address novel and more difficult scientific questions more efficiently.

Specific examples of each of these two-way interactions are discussed. Because of many indirect as well as direct connections between science and technology, the research portfolio of potential social benefit is much broader and more diverse than would be suggested by looking only at the direct connections between science and technology.

Science and technology is the best thing society could ever ask for. Since the industrial revolution in the 18th century science has been in progress. Some sectors that have been boosted by science and technology are energy, physical sciences, information and communication. The society has greatly gained with the invention of technology.

Infrastructure in the society has grown with the help of science and technology. Modes of transport like electronic railway lines were realized and these actually benefited the society by offering them a better means of transport. In the past, almost everything was analog but thanks to the science and technology we are now being digitalized by the day. The invention of the telephone and radio services has broadened human communication.

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Without society then there would be no science and technology and that is why the invention of certain tools and equipment have helped achieve big things. Society can not do without the industries we have today. The society needs science and technology. The creation of computers is work of art by individuals was a milestone that would come a long way in helping the society. A computer helps us to leverage ourselves by gaining valuable information that we can use to enrich our lives. The impact of science and technology can seriously be recognized. Many people around the world take for example scholars in colleges and universities have taken the lead examining the relationship between science and technology.

The evaluation of this relationship has emerged as an important area of research. Public interest groups and academic organizations throughout the world are recognizing the importance of STS. The reason is that people need to recognize that there are people who are affected by the science and technology. Controversies such as modified foods, stem cell research are the issues that have brought policy makers and scientists together to have a way forward on this.

Science and technology has actually largely contributed to the vision of man about himself. Science has been modified the opinion about the origin of man and place of origin too. Through the results of scientific discoveries the perception of man about his behavior and his place of origin has been modified diversly. Experiments in science today are in one way or another affecting the society.Take for example the experiment on cloning a human being. The experiment brought a lot of controversy since the society was skeptical about it.

How is science and technology related to society: The developing world has a long tradition of participatory action research, popular education and community organization joining up to solve some science and technology issues that affect the society. How is science and technology related to the society is something that is calling even for the government intervention. Science and technology related issues are actually been discussed worldwide today. Progress in this has resulted to the ability to produce diverse types of material items. Answering the question how science and technology is related to society.

Implications for Education in New Zealand

From the above, it can be seen that science and technology have a fundamentally different purpose, and different ways of viewing and knowing the world. Just as science and technology work in mutually beneficial ways in the wider contexts of scientific and technological endeavours, within the context of education, their relationship can be profitably explored to enhance learning in both areas.

Scientific knowledge and methodologies are useful, and in many cases critical, to students successful undertaking of technological practice and in the development of technological knowledge. Technological knowledge, practices and outcomes in turn can provide useful, and again in many cases critical, tools (both conceptual and material) for scientific practice and the development of scientific knowledge. Technological practices and outcomes can also provide authentic contexts which enable students to develop deeper more meaningful understandings of scientific knowledge and methodologies.

However, perhaps even more significantly, exploration of the nature of both science and technology can provide fertile grounds for developing deeper understandings of both through reflecting on the differences between these key areas of being ‘human’. The converging boundaries between that perceived as the made and the natural world, the real and simulated, the currently impossible and future probable, all demand students develop such relational cross domain knowledge, in combination with in-depth understandings within both science and technology. This in turn allows for the development of a critical frame essential to the development of scientific and technological literacy that supports students towards informed citizenship.


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