top-rated free essay

Science and Society

By nisreen Nov 02, 2008 1176 Words
It has been argued in this course that science is a social process. Do you agree?


The most widely used definition of social process states that “social process is a process involved in the formation of groups of persons”. Furthermore, referring to civilisation, social process is defined as “the social process whereby societies achieve an advanced stage of development and organisation”. (WordNet – Online dictionary definition) (1). This paper looks at how science has become part of this process and examines how it has achieved so, in terms of certain distinct perspectives.

How society is changing:

Within science, scientists formulate laws and applications that continually adapt to sociocultural changes and account for observations. Inventors on the other hand, create new technology in order to accomplish practical goals. Historical precedent proclaims that significant social changes have come about during periods where relations between human formations and technology have been remodelled. Adopting new technology eventually leads to social balance of power through economic relationships and therefore social change. Cynthia Cockburn in particular, is an author distinctly aware of the dependency between technology and society and in her 1983 article 'Caught in the wheels' ( Donald MacKenzie (Editor), Judy Wajcman (Editor), 1999, p.126 ) she stresses the growing engagement of feminism and technology. It soon becomes apparent that science, society and technology, are all closely linked. This is strikingly evident in today's society, which has without a doubt changed dramatically and continues to be an ever alternating phenomenon. Fewer girls than boys take on science subjects at schools. This is due to an education structure that encourages girls to study arts and humanities and in turn, this gender stereotyping creates fallacious perceptions that science is an area suited better for boys. As Rossiter says, “Most [women] chose to enrol for courses on cookery, sewing, and the household arts.” (Rossiter, 1980, p.393 ). The effect this has on the number of women deciding to take on science subjects upon entering university has caused unassertiveness in young women seeking to offer their unique values in this male dominated world. Of course, other factors, include women finding it extremely challenging to balance the responsibilities of a family parallel to a career. In today’s society however, this appears to be a small deterrent as official figures reveal that birth rate in the UK is down to an all time low. BBC News reports that “the average number of children per woman is just 1.64 .. women are waiting on average until the age of 27 before starting a family” (2). This occurrence is owed to the increasing number of women opting for careers and is evidence of how remarkably society is changing.

Until recently, to a large extent, the field of science has been a male dominant environment. The feminist movement reaches far back before the 18th century but is generally said to have begun in the 19th century. The first Women’s Rights Convention took place at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848 and it is interesting to note the critical rise in the number of women in science since (Graph 1). In her article "Women's Work in Science”, (1880- 1910), Rossiter discusses the changing structure of scientific work 1880s onwards, providing new opportunities for entering women and concludes that a woman's “experience in science...promises to add a new dimension to our knowledge of the development of scientific employment, especially its professionalization... “ and that “A pattern had been set for the twentieth century” (Rossiter, 1980, p.398 ). Indeed, this is certainly the case, as of 2007, Female Nobel Prize laureates are responsible for 35 prizes awarded, all of which have taken place in the 20th century (3).

(Source: “Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia” )
Schaffer's article “glass works: newton's prisms and the uses of experiment” (1989) offers a great insight to the role that scientific instruments played in

the experimental process, how they were adjusted to meet scientists needs, and the way in which they were deployed in order to gain authority in the concept of application. In the article, Newton uses optical prisms and receives a large amount of criticism on the methodology followed to carry out his experiments. The conceptual controversies that arose between critics were down to his instructions proving to be inadequately detailed.

In his later work, Newton begun to specify more detailed instructions and with time started paying greater attention to technical work, design and improvement of prisms. Newton became aware that in order to gain authority from opposing critics he would need to depend on turning his optical prisms into accurate and sophisticated instruments, therefore reconstructing his experiments. In the words of Schaffer “This implies that the provenance of Newton’s own instruments is an important factor.” (Schaffer, 1989, p.78). This makes sense of course because up until then his trials seemed to appear insignificant and unreliable in terms of the experiment being able to be reproduced under different sets of circumstances. It is through the use of more advanced tools that his experiments were helped separated from assumptious theories and presented as clear and concrete evidence. In the end, any scientists/critics who reported different sets of data while carrying out Newtons trials, were assumed to use defective instruments and were automatically dismissed; Newton had succeeded in gaining authority within his field. Our transitional society has seen plentiful advances in the field of science through change in scientific knowledge. Experiments have always been a vital ingredient in scientific research and progression. Moreover, the tools used in experimentation have seen significant improvement and its this constant seeking of adjustment and adaptation to better suit scientific needs that technological progression is all about. Science is responsible for for reforming society, however, it owes its very progression to social change which has been accomplished through technological advancement and use of new technology.


The findings of this paper reveal the effects science has witnessed as a result to changes in society. It would make sense to think of knowledge as a cultural process. As we begin the 21st century entering an era of technology and information, scientific research remains an evolving process and as a result we have reached a new society of knowledge by accentuating the process of discovery, communication, advancement in scientific instruments, and the transformation of research systems/groups. This process is cultural and social in nature and it's through social evolution that all this has become possible.

Donald MacKenzie (Editor), Judy Wajcman (Editor), ‘The Social Shaping Of Technology’, (Paperback), First Published 1985, Second Edition (Jun., 1999) Margaret W. Rossiter, "Women's Work" in Science, 1880-1910, Isis, Vol. 71, No. 3. (Sep., 1980), pp. 381-398.

S. Schaffer, 'Glass works: Newton’s prisms and the uses of experiment'. In D. Gooding; T. Pinch & S. Schaffer, eds. <i>The Uses of Experiment: studies in the natural sciences </i>. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989 5

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Science and Society

    ...Student I.D: 00000000 The article I choose is adverse effects of smoking on peak bone mass may be attenuated by higher body mass index in young female smokers. The authors and their place of work are as follows: Mattias Callerus, Fiona McGuigan and Kristina Akesson work at the clinical and molecular osteoporosis research unit, department of ...

    Read More
  • Science and Society

    ...Science and Society Is life fact or fiction? One could look at science and society in the same manner. Meaning that there is an ideal subject, one subject could be the truth and one could be deception. Science, in my opinion, is the truth. For example, science is based on facts and numbers and figures, these never deter from the truth if corre...

    Read More
  • science

    ...Science (from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge"[1]) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.[2][3][4] In an older and closely related meaning, "science" also refers to a body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and relia...

    Read More
  • Sociology the Science of Society

    ...Sociology is the science of society. It is an attempt to account for the origin, growth, structure, and activities of society by the operation of physical, vital, and psychical causes working together in a process of evolution. The basic concept of sociology is the groups to which people belong and the social interaction that take place within t...

    Read More
  • Society

    ...Basics in Social Science ( E,I,J & K) Lecture sheet-1, What is sociology? “ It ain’t the things we don’t know that gets us in trouble. It’s the things we know that ain’t so”.-Artemus Ward What is Society? • A group of sentient beings • A group of physically interested individuals (Ell Good) • Society is a ...

    Read More
  • science

    ... Is it necessary for everyone to learn science? What is science? “Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” Science can be known as a subject, explanation and possibly our underlying belief. Amon...

    Read More
  • science,ict and the society discuss

    ... What is science? Science is the concerted human effort to understand, or to understand better, the history of the natural world and how the natural world works, with observable physical evidence as the basis of that understanding1. It is done through observation of natural phenomena, and/or through experimentation that tries to simulat...

    Read More
  • Science, Technology, and Society Essay

    ...Science, Technology, and Society Essay 1. According to the social history of science, science, technology, and society has a special bond among these three. As taught in the lectures, societies create science and technology and science and technology makes societies better. Now these three co-exist with one another, one may be totally indepe...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.