On the Driving Forces of Science

By Matthias Tomczak.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: January 31, 2014 $US5.00

Science and society are Siamese twins: modern society could not exist without the fruits of science, and modern science could not exist without the tools provided by society. This paper investigates the link between the two, starting from the hypothesis that science develops in accordance with the needs of society. In other words, the direction science takes is not the result of decisions made by scientists but a response to demands from society. To test the hypothesis, the history of science is reviewed. It is argued that at every stage of the development of society—from the hunter-gatherer to the nomadic herder, agricultural, feudal and capitalist stage—the new needs of society led to new scientific concepts. Private ownership of animals brought the invention of numbers. The need for a calendar for agriculture brought about the development of the position value system. The rise of Greek democracy demanded rational thought and brought the separation of science from religion. Muslim empire building brought the new mathematics. Merchant capitalism brought colonialism, and with it, the classification of species and evolution, and modern capitalism subjugates science under the search for profit. The role of the individual in the process is discussed. Evidence is noted that science may enter a transition from supporting profit-driven enterprise to focusing on protection of the environment.

Keywords: Science History

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 5, Issue 1, March 2014, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: January 31, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 172.373KB)).

Prof. Matthias Tomczak

Emeritus Professor, School of the Environment, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Matthias Tomczak holds a Dr. rer. nat. from the University of Kiel and a Dr. habil. from the University of Hamburg. He is Emeritus Professor of Oceanography at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia and the designer and editor of the oceanography website http://www.es.flinders.edu.au/~mattom/index.html and the Science and Civilization website www.worldcivilizations.info.