The sociology of science



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Instrumental needs.

Scientific knowledge is power, that is, power to adjust more or less satisfactorily to the nonsocial environment and to the internal and external social environment. Some scientific discovery and technological innovation, then, is a response to immediate instrumental needs for adjustment to what are defined as dangerous and harsh environments. Certainly this must have been an especially large influence on the development of science in the early stages of human society, when every bit of scientific knowledge was of great instrumental importance in a threatening and severe physical and social environment. But even powerful modem industrial societies respond strongly to their instrumental needs for science. Whatever their values in regard to science, they feel an urgent need to use it to strengthen their national defense, promote industrial and agricultural growth, and improve the health of their populations. Some scientists deplore this "exploitation" of science, that is, this encouragement of science "not for science's own sake." But the instrumental needs of even already powerful societies are defined by their citizens as more important under some circumstances than the value considerations that are preferred by scientists and by those who share the values that support science directly. Finally, the nonindustrial or underdeveloped societies of the present also push the acquisition of science for urgent instrumental needs, to cope with "the revolution of rising expectations" in their populations.






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