I was once asked, “Can science exist without technology, and vice versa?”
Seemingly a basic question, but as they say — the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know. You know? 😉 So I’m always up for a good brainteaser.
How about you? Before reading further, try to think up of your answer and let’s see if we meet eye-to-eye or maybe you can offer a different lens. No need to write it down, just chill and ponder. It’s always nice to learn from each other.
Done with your answer? Alright, let’s get cracking. Some people answer yes. For instance, that science can exist without technology. Because technology is merely applied science — so science can exist without it being applied.
But my answer was a bit different. Here’s my take on that chicken-or-the-egg question on whether science and technology are indeed mutually exclusive. I based it on Epistemology, or the science of knowing (Babbie, 2007).
Let’s start with the building block. Epistemology, the science of knowing, answers the question: How do we know what we know? For instance, did we discover knowledge or invent it?
Dive into the concepts of Discovery (objectivism/postivism) vs Invention (constructivism/interpretivism) for a moment. To invent is to create something new (like a clock/watch or a even a social construct such as time), whereas to discover is to stumble on something naturally existing, perhaps a new tree species.
An invention is usually man-made, but it can also be animal or even plant-made, because other living things in the ecosystem use technology as well, not just us humans.
So, can science be constructed/exist without technology? Or could a technology (applied science) possibly have existed objectively without or before us even knowing about the science of it?
Instead, I say we explore how it can go both ways in the gray area — veering away from the black-and-white lens.
Sunlight and fire as technology with scientific offshoots
Amazingly, plants can move! Thanks to their hormone called Auxin, plants tend to grow/bend towards the strongest source of light to photosynthesize and flourish (Technische Universitaet Muenchen, 2013).
Perhaps it is a sign that plants also make decisions of where to go as they move. Can we say that they dance toward the light? At least I’d like to imagine it. How cool would that be.
Sunlight has always been there for many organisms to use knowingly or unknowingly. Did the plants first invent/have the ability to move even before knowing sunlight? Or did they first know/discover light before or independent of being able to move towards it? How about both – sunlight existed way before earth’s plants/organisms and plants moved towards it to thrive.
Similarly, we humans didn’t invent fire per se, it was more of a scientific/technological discovery. But we also did create inventions or new ways to use fire, such as in cooking, that marked important milestones in human evolution.
Are science and technology mutually exclusive? Hard NO.
One of my favorite words is Praxis — the marriage of theory and practice.
It’s a false dichotomy to say that one can exist without or precede the other. Science and technology go hand-in-hand. As epistemology shows us — how knowledge, science and technology exist is not necessarily a zero-sum game.
With that, what do you think? Tell us what’s on your luscious mind. This is your safe space too and respect is key when we’re butting heads in deep thought. Share, like and comment below!