Science and Technology Strives to Improve Society
Science and Technology Strives to Improve Society
  • Reporter Park Tae-yoon
  • 승인 2012.10.17 17:21
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Science and Technology has enriched all public lives. Most people feel wonder when they contact science. It is obvious that technological progress is making people’s lives more convenient, but science and technology shouldn’t be considered sacred. As science often has greatly negative effects on society, science ought to be criticized. This idea is related to the field of science, technology and society  (STS).
<Editor's Comment> 


To know more about STS, The Postech Times met Professor Kiheung Kim (Humanities and Social Sciences) who has delivered a lecture called “Science Technology studies” to Postechians.

What is STS?
STC is the study of how cultural, political, and social values influence scientific research and technological improvement, and how these, in turn, affect culture, politics, and society. After the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, modern science began to be built up over many centuries in the frame of its social, cultural, and political context. For example, Galileo Galilei did not invent the telescope just to observe Jupiter in 1610. He also considered its military use and utilized it to earn money and gain social status. He succeeded in being noble by naming the star he discovered Medici. Like this, science cannot help but reflect social, financial, and political circumstances. Science and technology are advanced in the context of nonscientific values.

How did STS begin? Tell us its history.
Scholars of the philosophy and history of science made efforts to seek the essence of science because they believed science and technology have had specificity, judging by the fruit of them. However, a shocking event happened and changed their idea; dropping atom bombs on Japan brought the end of World War II. Some genius scientists invented the atomic bomb for further growth of humanity but it was used for the opposite purpose. Scholars were dumbfounded and tried to find specificity of science in nonscientific values. In 1960s, students and faculties of US, UK, and European universities started social movements. One such development was the rise of “Science, Technology, and Society” programs, which are also confusingly known by the STS acronym. During the 1970s and 1980s, leading universities in the US, UK, and Europe began offering STS programs, so STS began to take place as a branch of studies.

Which scholar could represent STS? Please introduce their theory.
David Bloor and Bruno Latour have been the famous scholars of STS. David Bloor pointed out the misunderstanding of value neutrality of science in 1977. Fault resulting from science should not shift the blame on to other values, such as social, cultural, and political factors. He insisted that scholars have to look closely at formation processes of scientific knowledge to find faults of science anthropocentrically because science itself was uncertain and wandering.
Furthermore, Bruno Latour insisted scholars should consider nonhuman factors as well as human to completely grasp formation processes of scientific knowledge because humans made and developed science under necessity. In other words, human factors and nonhuman factors established a network in forming science and technology.

What are differences among STS, the philosophy of science, the history of science, and sociology of science?
It is meaningless to distinguish them. The philosophy of science had an intention of finding essence and specificity of science. Scholars of the history of science wanted to find specificity of science in scientific history. Sociology of science looked at science from social dimensions. All of these things were fused together as STS.

Please give some examples of how has STS influenced science, technology, and, by extension, society?
Biotechnology and genetic engineering often encounter resistance. Especially, research on embryonic stem cells raises profound ethical questions. As most people know, Professor Hwang Woo-suk tried to clone patient-specific human stem cells. The research was later revealed as a fabrication. Questions arose about morality in the use of tissue from an aborted fetus at that time. And then, scientists have agonized over how to use stem cells without raising ethical questions. Finally, induced pluripotent stem cell, a method that does not require the ovum of a human, was developed. The scientist who developed it got the Nobel Prize.

What are the significances of STS in modern society?
There are three aspects of significance. First, scientists allow others to scrutinize (or re-scrutinize) their research. Even if new technology is perfect technically, it must not be allowed if it destroys the environment. Second, the public can understand science by STS acting as a bridge. The public sometimes state their demands to scientists because science is not secret any more. Third, policy makers become considerate because they consider social and scientific aspects when they decide on a policy.