Defining Science vs. Technology

In an earlier post, I defined Science, Technology, and Society (STS)... kind of.  I recognize that I didn't go into depth at all about the meaning of STS because it involves defining science and technology.  Which are not the same thing but are used interchangeably by the general population.  

This post is made with the intention of explaining the difference between science and technology and further defining STS.



Science is...

"...knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation." (1)

Science seeks to discover processes that can either find meaning or help explain how the natural world works.  This is done by inquiring about the world, discovering what already exists or potentially exists, then using the Scientific Method to validate or find truth in the inquiry/what was originally inquired. 

      Scientific Method

        1.   Observation:  this is your original "inquiry."  What are you experimenting on?  What phenomenon or events are occurring that created your question/problem/hypothesis?

        2.  Hypothesis:  the piece you are trying to solve or verify.  Typically structured as an "If...then." statement.  Example, "If Jessica Jones doesn't kill Killgrave, then Trish Walker will die."  What results do you expect to see or achieve by the end of your experiment?  

         3.  Experiment:  this is the process used to either validate or invalidate your hypothesis.  The experimenting process involves a series of steps and tests that creates a collection of data to analyze in the next step.

         4.  Conclusion:  at this step, the data is analyzed to conclude whether a revision of the hypothesis or experiment is necessary or the experiments validated the hypothesis.  

For an in-depth explanation of the scientific process, click here.

When following the scientific method, revision happens a lot.  So the scientist won't only do this process once, but multiple times and not always in order.  

After findings have been made, the scientist is not accountable for what people or others do with the information.  Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is an example of this.  


It was discovered when Albert Hofman was trying to create a blood stimulant.  The effects of the drug were not later known until five years later when it was then used for pharmaceutical purposes.  Its broad experimentation led to broad use and by the 1960s, LSD became a large part of American and UK culture.  

Technology is...

"...the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems." (2)

In other words, technology is a specific application of science to alter the natural world. It is tied to words like "innovation, invention," or "product."  Not "experiment, process," or "test."  It can enable science understand the natural world, i.e. a microscope, but requires science in order to work.  

In this sense, they are not interchangeable.  They are very much connected as technology requires science and science benefits from technology.  But unlike science, technology is accountable for how people use it.  

A mechanical pencil is a form of technology.  The inventor of the pencil is responsible for the pollution, waste, and problems the pencil creates.  A better example would be oil rigs.  When the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico ruptured, the company that installed and built the oil rig was responsible for the disaster.  Not the scientists that discovered the metal mixture that the pipe was made of.

Another main difference between science and technology is that technology is the direct application of science in society.  Medicine, for example, is science that depends greatly on technology to make life-saving decisions every day.    However, the ethics of those decisions are left in the hands of the individual using it and the medical institution-- not the inventor.

For an interactive slideshow of science vs. technology, click here.


1.  "Science." Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

2. "Technology." Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.