The meanings of the terms science and technology have changed significantly from one generation to another. More similarities than differences, however, can be found between the terms.
Both science and technology imply a thinking process, both are concerned with causal relationships in the material world, and both employ an experimental methodology that results in empirical demonstrations that can be verified by repetition (see Scientific Method). Science, at least in theory, is less concerned with the practicality of its results and more concerned with the development of general laws, but in practice science and technology are inextricably involved with each other. The varying interplay of the two can be observed in the historical development of such practitioners as chemists, engineers, physicists, astronomers, carpenters, potters, and many other specialists. Differing educational requirements, social status, vocabulary, methodology, and types of rewards, as well as institutional objectives and professional goals, contribute to such distinctions as can be made between the activities of scientists and technologists; but throughout history the practitioners of “pure” science have made many practical as well as theoretical contributions.
Indeed, the concept that science provides the ideas for technological innovations and that pure research is therefore essential for any significant advancement in industrial civilization is essentially a myth. Most of the greatest changes in industrial civilization cannot be traced to the laboratory. Fundamental tools and processes in the fields of mechanics, chemistry, astronomy, metallurgy, and hydraulics were developed before the laws governing their functions were discovered. The steam engine, for example, was commonplace before the science of thermodynamics elucidated the physical principles underlying its operations.
In recent years a sharp value distinction has grown up between science and technology. Advances in science have frequently had their bitter opponents, but today many people have come to fear technology much more than science. For these people, science may be perceived as a serene, objective source for understanding the eternal laws of nature, whereas the practical manifestations of technology in the modern world now seem to them to be out of control.