Science and technology are forms of knowledge utilized for different purposes within society. Science is knowledge that society uses to understand the natural world while technology is knowledge that society employs to survive the natural world. Using these definitions, it is understood that society serves as the backdrop for these forms of knowledge to propagate and that these should be studied in the context of society. The society also determines the form and direction of science and technology through three mains factors – environment (geography, etc.), historical experience and lifestyle. A prominent example of the effect of society in shaping the form of science and technology is the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Its precarious location between its enemy state, North Korea, and former colonial master, Japan, provided the impetus to its consistent effort in creating a robust science and technology capacity. South Korea’s historical experience as being one of the most impoverished states in the world during the 1960s also contributed to its development of electronics, semiconductor devices and robotics in order to bolster its economic resources.
The history of science as knowledge dates back from ancient times when natural philosophers such as Thales of Miletus and Democritus would observe and theorize about the occurrences in the natural world. It was in places where Islam was practiced where science first emerged. Eventually, science gained momentum in Europe when the Protestant Reformation transpired which emphasized the value of individualism in the search for the explanation of various natural phenomena. This age of science would then be replaced with the occurrence of the Scientific Revolution three centuries ago when science developed into what it is known today. According to Michael Mosley’s The Story of Science, The Renaissance which paved the way for an unprecedented influx of scientific discoveries and inventions and the Reformation which opened the minds of Europe to individual search for knowledge are the two main factors which serves as catalysts for the Scientific Revolution. This revolution is one that began in Prague where Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, two brilliant medieval astrologers, began making their astronomical and planetary observations which ultimately led to the debunking of the geocentric view of Earth and shifted to the heliocentric viewpoint of Earth. Isaac Newton and Galileo Galilei led the Scientific Revolution to its height.
In defining the term knowledge, it must be noted that legitimate knowledge is information that can be processed by human senses, externally verifiable by others, and backed up by acceptable evidence. In Habermas’ Typology of Knowledge, knowledge is said to be classified into three, namely: empirical knowledge, historical knowledge and critical knowledge. Empirical knowledge is concerned with understanding the material world, historical knowledge is concerned with understanding the meaning of historical texts, and critical knowledge is concerned with uncovering sources of domination. Scientific knowledge can be classified under empirical knowledge. Therefore, it can be surmised that scientific knowledge is not the sole form of legitimate knowledge and that there are other forms of knowledge. One of these forms of knowledge is literature. In Lewis’ The Poet’s Way of Knowledge, poetry was cited as one of the forms of literature and that it operates in a field which is closed to science. Language scientifically used cannot describe a landscape or face. It is said that literature improves us by showing us images of perfection which is the end of all earthly learning being virtuous action. Therefore, literature is said to complement science because what science cannot do literature can and vice versa. Literature as knowledge is empirical, hermeneutic and critical knowledge all at the same time.
After defining knowledge, the question of how new knowledge is created arises. This question is answered by the scientific method in which science acts as a mode of inquiry. The basic technique of the scientific method is observation which uses the five human senses to gather qualitative data about the natural world. The scientific method consists of the identification and definition of the problem and formulating and testing a hypothesis. This method is geared towards the discovery of facts and principles. As such knowledge is produced by the scientific method through empirical verification – using empirical data and observations to confirm the truth or rational justification of a hypothesis. Although the scientific method offers a reliable mode of inquiry to produce new knowledge, it also has its share of drawbacks. Some of these disadvantages include its inability to capture the phenomenon in its natural setting, the possibility of flawed or manipulated design, the reality that not everything can be subjected to experimentation, and the limitations presented by scientific equipment and resources.
Science and technology allow humans to understand and survive the natural world. The scientific method is used to produce new scientific knowledge. Modern civilization is founded on scientific and technological achievements of the past which makes science and technology indispensable in today’s time. However, scientific knowledge which is a type of empirical knowledge is not the only form of knowledge in the world because it has certain limitations. One of the other forms of knowledge is literature – empirical, hermeneutic and critical at the same time. Both science and literature complement each other. Lastly, science is a form of knowledge and is also a mode of inquiry.