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The earliest roots of science can be traced to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in around 3500 to 3000 BCE. Their contributions to mathematics, astronomy, and medicine entered and shaped Greek natural philosophy of classical antiquity, whereby formal attempts were made to provide explanations of events in the physical world based on natural causes. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, knowledge of Greek conceptions of the world deteriorated in Western Europe during the early centuries (400 to 1000 CE) of the Middle Ages but was preserved in the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. The recovery and assimilation of Greek works and Islamic inquiries into Western Europe from the 10th to 13th century revived "natural philosophy", which was later transformed by the Scientific Revolution that began in the 16th century as new ideas and discoveries departed from previous Greek conceptions and traditions. The scientific method soon played a greater role in knowledge creation and it was not until the 19th century that many of the institutional and professional features of science began to take shape; along with the changing of "natural philosophy" to "natural science."
Modern science is typically divided into three major branches that consist of the natural sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, and physics), which study nature in the broadest sense; the social sciences (e.g., economics, psychology, and sociology), which study individuals and societies; and the formal sciences (e.g., logic, mathematics, and theoretical computer science), which study abstract concepts. There is disagreement, however, on whether the formal sciences actually constitute a science as they do not rely on empirical evidence. Disciplines that use existing scientific knowledge for practical purposes, such as engineering and medicine, are described as applied sciences.
Science is based on research, which is commonly conducted in academic and research institutions as well as in government agencies and companies. The practical impact of scientific research has led to the emergence of science policies that seek to influence the scientific enterprise by prioritizing the development of commercial products, armaments, health care, and environmental protection.
Science in a broad sense existed before the modern era and in many historical civilizations. Modern science is distinct in its approach and successful in its results, so it now defines what science is in the strictest sense of the term. Science in its original sense was a word for a type of knowledge, rather than a specialized word for the pursuit of such knowledge. In particular, it was the type of knowledge that people can communicate to each other and share. For example, knowledge about the working of natural things was gathered long before recorded history and led to the development of complex abstract thought. This is shown by the construction of complex calendars, techniques for making poisonous plants edible, public works at a national scale, such as those which harnessed the floodplain of the Yangtse with reservoirs, dams, and dikes, and buildings such as the Pyramids. However, no consistent conscious distinction was made between knowledge of such things, which are true in every community, and other types of communal knowledge, such as mythologies and legal systems. Metallurgy was known in prehistory, and the Vin?a culture was the earliest known producer of bronze-like alloys. It is thought that early experimentation with heating and mixing of substances over time developed into alchemy.
Neither the words nor the concepts "science" and "nature" were part of the conceptual landscape in the Ancient Near East. The ancient Mesopotamians used knowledge about the properties of various natural chemicals for manufacturing pottery, faience, glass, soap, metals, lime plaster, and waterproofing; they also studied animal physiology, anatomy, and behavior for divinatory purposes and made extensive records of the movements of astronomical objects for their study of astrology. The Mesopotamians had intense interest in medicine and the earliest medical prescriptions appear in Sumerian during the Third Dynasty of Ur ( 2112 BCE ? 2004 BCE). Nonetheless, the Mesopotamians seem to have had little interest in gathering information about the natural world for the mere sake of gathering information and mainly only studied scientific subjects which had obvious practical applications or immediate relevance to their religious system.
In classical antiquity, there is no real ancient analog of a modern scientist. Instead, well-educated, usually upper-class, and almost universally male individuals performed various investigations into nature whenever they could afford the time. Before the invention or discovery of the concept of "nature" (ancient Greek phusis) by the Pre-Socratic philosophers, the same words tend to be used to describe the natural "way" in which a plant grows, and the "way" in which, for example, one tribe worships a particular god. For this reason, it is claimed these men were the first philosophers in the strict sense, and also the first people to clearly distinguish "nature" and "convention." Natural philosophy, the precursor of natural science, was thereby distinguished as the knowledge of nature and things which are true for every community, and the name of the specialized pursuit of such knowledge was philosophy ? the realm of the first philosopher-physicists. They were mainly speculators or theorists, particularly interested in astronomy. In contrast, trying to use knowledge of nature to imitate nature (artifice or technology, Greek techn?) was seen by classical scientists as a more appropriate interest for artisans of lower social class.
The early Greek philosophers of the Milesian school, which was founded by Thales of Miletus and later continued by his successors Anaximander and Anaximenes, were the first to attempt to explain natural phenomena without relying on the supernatural. The Pythagoreans developed a complex number philosophy and contributed significantly to the development of mathematical science. The theory of atoms was developed by the Greek philosopher Leucippus and his student Democritus. The Greek doctor Hippocrates established the tradition of systematic medical science and is known as "The Father of Medicine".
A turning point in the history of early philosophical science was Socrates' example of applying philosophy to the study of human matters, including human nature, the nature of political communities, and human knowledge itself. The Socratic method as documented by Plato's dialogues is a dialectic method of hypothesis elimination: better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those that lead to contradictions. This was a reaction to the Sophist emphasis on rhetoric. The Socratic method searches for general, commonly held truths that shape beliefs and scrutinizes them to determine their consistency with other beliefs. Socrates criticized the older type of study of physics as too purely speculative and lacking in self-criticism. Socrates was later, in the words of his Apology, accused of corrupting the youth of Athens because he did "not believe in the gods the state believes in, but in other new spiritual beings". Socrates refuted these claims, but was sentenced to death.
Aristotle later created a systematic programme of teleological philosophy: Motion and change is described as the actualization of potentials already in things, according to what types of things they are. In his physics, the Sun goes around the Earth, and many things have it as part of their nature that they are for humans. Each thing has a formal cause, a final cause, and a role in a cosmic order with an unmoved mover. The Socratics also insisted that philosophy should be used to consider the practical question of the best way to live for a human being (a study Aristotle divided into ethics and political philosophy). Aristotle maintained that man knows a thing scientifically "when he possesses a conviction arrived at in a certain way, and when the first principles on which that conviction rests are known to him with certainty".
The Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos (310?230 BCE) was the first to propose a heliocentric model of the universe, with the Sun at the center and all the planets orbiting it. Aristarchus's model was widely rejected because it was believed to violate the laws of physics. The inventor and mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse made major contributions to the beginnings of calculus and has sometimes been credited as its inventor, although his proto-calculus lacked several defining features. Pliny the Elder was a Roman writer and polymath, who wrote the seminal encyclopedia Natural History, dealing with history, geography, medicine, astronomy, earth science, botany, and zoology. Other scientists or proto-scientists in Antiquity were Theophrastus, Euclid, Herophilos, Hipparchus, Ptolemy, and Galen.
Because of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire due to the Migration Period an intellectual decline took place in the western part of Europe in the 400s. In contrast, the Byzantine Empire resisted the attacks from invaders, and preserved and improved upon the learning. John Philoponus, a Byzantine scholar in the 500s, questioned Aristotle's teaching of physics and to note its flaws. John Philoponus' criticism of Aristotelian principles of physics served as an inspiration to medieval scholars as well as to Galileo Galilei who ten centuries later, during the Scientific Revolution, extensively cited Philoponus in his works while making the case for why Aristotelian physics was flawed.
During late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the Aristotelian approach to inquiries on natural phenomena was used. Aristotle's four causes prescribed that the question "why" should be answered in four ways in order to explain things scientifically. Some ancient knowledge was lost, or in some cases kept in obscurity, during the fall of the Western Roman Empire and periodic political struggles. However, the general fields of science (or "natural philosophy" as it was called) and much of the general knowledge from the ancient world remained preserved through the works of the early Latin encyclopedists like Isidore of Seville. However, Aristotle's original texts were eventually lost in Western Europe, and only one text by Plato was widely known, the Timaeus, which was the only Platonic dialogue, and one of the few original works of classical natural philosophy, available to Latin readers in the early Middle Ages. Another original work that gained influence in this period was Ptolemy's Almagest, which contains a geocentric description of the solar system.
During late antiquity, in the Byzantine empire many Greek classical texts were preserved. Many Syriac translations were done by groups such as the Nestorians and Monophysites. They played a role when they translated Greek classical texts into Arabic under the Caliphate, during which many types of classical learning were preserved and in some cases improved upon. In addition, the neighboring Sassanid Empire established the medical Academy of Gondeshapur where Greek, Syriac, and Persian physicians established the most important medical center of the ancient world during the 6th and 7th centuries.
The House of Wisdom was established in Abbasid-era Baghdad, Iraq, where the Islamic study of Aristotelianism flourished. Al-Kindi (801?873) was the first of the Muslim Peripatetic philosophers, and is known for his efforts to introduce Greek and Hellenistic philosophy to the Arab world. The Islamic Golden Age flourished from this time until the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), as well as his predecessor Ibn Sahl, was familiar with Ptolemy's Optics, and used experiments as a means to gain knowledge. Alhazen disproved Ptolemy's theory of vision, but did not make any corresponding changes to Aristotle's metaphysics. Furthermore, doctors and alchemists such as the Persians Avicenna and Al-Razi also greatly developed the science of Medicine with the former writing the Canon of Medicine, a medical encyclopedia used until the 18th century and the latter discovering multiple compounds like alcohol. Avicenna's canon is considered to be one of the most important publications in medicine and they both contributed significantly to the practice of experimental medicine, using clinical trials and experiments to back their claims.
In Classical antiquity, Greek and Roman taboos had meant that dissection was usually banned in ancient times, but in Middle Ages it changed: medical teachers and students at Bologna began to open human bodies, and Mondino de Luzzi (c. 1275?1326) produced the ?rst known anatomy textbook based on human dissection.
By the eleventh century, most of Europe had become Christian; stronger monarchies emerged; borders were restored; technological developments and agricultural innovations were made which increased the food supply and population. In addition, classical Greek texts started to be translated from Arabic and Greek into Latin, giving a higher level of scientific discussion in Western Europe.
By 1088, the first university in Europe (the University of Bologna) had emerged from its clerical beginnings. Demand for Latin translations grew (for example, from the Toledo School of Translators); western Europeans began collecting texts written not only in Latin, but also Latin translations from Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew. Manuscript copies of Alhazen's Book of Optics also propagated across Europe before 1240, as evidenced by its incorporation into Vitello's Perspectiva. Avicenna's Canon was translated into Latin. In particular, the texts of Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Euclid, preserved in the Houses of Wisdom and also in the Byzantine Empire, were sought amongst Catholic scholars. The influx of ancient texts caused the Renaissance of the 12th century and the flourishing of a synthesis of Catholicism and Aristotelianism known as Scholasticism in western Europe, which became a new geographic center of science. An experiment in this period would be understood as a careful process of observing, describing, and classifying. One prominent scientist in this era was Roger Bacon. Scholasticism had a strong focus on revelation and dialectic reasoning, and gradually fell out of favour over the next centuries, as alchemy's focus on experiments that include direct observation and meticulous documentation slowly increased in importance.
New developments in optics played a role in the inception of the Renaissance, both by challenging long-held metaphysical ideas on perception, as well as by contributing to the improvement and development of technology such as the camera obscura and the telescope. Before what we now know as the Renaissance started, Roger Bacon, Vitello, and John Peckham each built up a scholastic ontology upon a causal chain beginning with sensation, perception, and finally apperception of the individual and universal forms of Aristotle. A model of vision later known as perspectivism was exploited and studied by the artists of the Renaissance. This theory uses only three of Aristotle's four causes: formal, material, and final.
In the sixteenth century, Copernicus formulated a heliocentric model of the solar system unlike the geocentric model of Ptolemy's Almagest. This was based on a theorem that the orbital periods of the planets are longer as their orbs are farther from the centre of motion, which he found not to agree with Ptolemy's model.
Kepler and others challenged the notion that the only function of the eye is perception, and shifted the main focus in optics from the eye to the propagation of light. Kepler modelled the eye as a water-filled glass sphere with an aperture in front of it to model the entrance pupil. He found that all the light from a single point of the scene was imaged at a single point at the back of the glass sphere. The optical chain ends on the retina at the back of the eye. Kepler is best known, however, for improving Copernicus' heliocentric model through the discovery of Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Kepler did not reject Aristotelian metaphysics and described his work as a search for the Harmony of the Spheres.
Galileo made innovative use of experiment and mathematics. However, he became persecuted after Pope Urban VIII blessed Galileo to write about the Copernican system. Galileo had used arguments from the Pope and put them in the voice of the simpleton in the work "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems", which greatly offended Urban VIII.
In Northern Europe, the new technology of the printing press was widely used to publish many arguments, including some that disagreed widely with contemporary ideas of nature. René Descartes and Francis Bacon published philosophical arguments in favor of a new type of non-Aristotelian science. Descartes emphasized individual thought and argued that mathematics rather than geometry should be used in order to study nature. Bacon emphasized the importance of experiment over contemplation. Bacon further questioned the Aristotelian concepts of formal cause and final cause, and promoted the idea that science should study the laws of "simple" natures, such as heat, rather than assuming that there is any specific nature, or "formal cause", of each complex type of thing. This new science began to see itself as describing "laws of nature". This updated approach to studies in nature was seen as mechanistic. Bacon also argued that science should aim for the first time at practical inventions for the improvement of all human life.
As a precursor to the Age of Enlightenment, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz succeeded in developing a new physics, now referred to as classical mechanics, which could be confirmed by experiment and explained using mathematics (Newton (1687), Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica). Leibniz also incorporated terms from Aristotelian physics, but now being used in a new non-teleological way, for example, "energy" and "potential" (modern versions of Aristotelian "energeia and potentia"). This implied a shift in the view of objects: Where Aristotle had noted that objects have certain innate goals that can be actualized, objects were now regarded as devoid of innate goals. In the style of Francis Bacon, Leibniz assumed that different types of things all work according to the same general laws of nature, with no special formal or final causes for each type of thing. It is during this period that the word "science" gradually became more commonly used to refer to a type of pursuit of a type of knowledge, especially knowledge of nature ? coming close in meaning to the old term "natural philosophy."
During this time, the declared purpose and value of science became producing wealth and inventions that would improve human lives, in the materialistic sense of having more food, clothing, and other things. In Bacon's words, "the real and legitimate goal of sciences is the endowment of human life with new inventions and riches", and he discouraged scientists from pursuing intangible philosophical or spiritual ideas, which he believed contributed little to human happiness beyond "the fume of subtle, sublime, or pleasing speculation".
Science during the Enlightenment was dominated by scientific societies and academies, which had largely replaced universities as centres of scientific research and development. Societies and academies were also the backbones of the maturation of the scientific profession. Another important development was the popularization of science among an increasingly literate population. Philosophes introduced the public to many scientific theories, most notably through the Encyclopédie and the popularization of Newtonianism by Voltaire as well as by Émilie du Châtelet, the French translator of Newton's Principia.
Some historians have marked the 18th century as a drab period in the history of science; however, the century saw significant advancements in the practice of medicine, mathematics, and physics; the development of biological taxonomy; a new understanding of magnetism and electricity; and the maturation of chemistry as a discipline, which established the foundations of modern chemistry.
Enlightenment philosophers chose a short history of scientific predecessors ? Galileo, Boyle, and Newton principally ? as the guides and guarantors of their applications of the singular concept of nature and natural law to every physical and social field of the day. In this respect, the lessons of history and the social structures built upon it could be discarded.
The nineteenth century is a particularly important period in the history of science since during this era many distinguishing characteristics of contemporary modern science began to take shape such as: transformation of the life and physical sciences, frequent use of precision instruments, emergence of terms like "biologist", "physicist", "scientist"; slowly moving away from antiquated labels like "natural philosophy" and "natural history", increased professionalization of those studying nature lead to reduction in amateur naturalists, scientists gained cultural authority over many dimensions of society, economic expansion and industrialization of numerous countries, thriving of popular science writings and emergence of science journals.
Both John Herschel and William Whewell systematized methodology: the latter coined the term scientist. When Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859 he established evolution as the prevailing explanation of biological complexity. His theory of natural selection provided a natural explanation of how species originated, but this only gained wide acceptance a century later.
The laws of conservation of energy, conservation of momentum and conservation of mass suggested a highly stable universe where there could be little loss of resources. With the advent of the steam engine and the industrial revolution, there was, however, an increased understanding that all forms of energy as defined in physics were not equally useful: they did not have the same energy quality. This realization led to the development of the laws of thermodynamics, in which the free energy of the universe is seen as constantly declining: the entropy of a closed universe increases over time.
The electromagnetic theory was also established in the 19th century, and raised new questions which could not easily be answered using Newton's framework. The phenomena that would allow the deconstruction of the atom were discovered in the last decade of the 19th century: the discovery of X-rays inspired the discovery of radioactivity. In the next year came the discovery of the first subatomic particle, the electron.
Albert Einstein's theory of relativity and the development of quantum mechanics led to the replacement of classical mechanics with a new physics which contains two parts that describe different types of events in nature.
In the first half of the century, the development of antibiotics and artificial fertilizer made global human population growth possible. At the same time, the structure of the atom and its nucleus was discovered, leading to the release of "atomic energy" (nuclear power). In addition, the extensive use of technological innovation stimulated by the wars of this century led to revolutions in transportation (automobiles and aircraft), the development of ICBMs, a space race, and a nuclear arms race.
The molecular structure of DNA was discovered in 1953. The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964 led to a rejection of the Steady State theory of the universe in favour of the Big Bang theory of Georges Lemaître.
The development of spaceflight in the second half of the century allowed the first astronomical measurements done on or near other objects in space, including six manned landings on the Moon. Space telescopes lead to numerous discoveries in astronomy and cosmology.
Widespread use of integrated circuits in the last quarter of the 20th century combined with communications satellites led to a revolution in information technology and the rise of the global internet and mobile computing, including smartphones. The need for mass systematization of long, intertwined causal chains and large amounts of data led to the rise of the fields of systems theory and computer-assisted scientific modelling, which are partly based on the Aristotelian paradigm.
Harmful environmental issues such as ozone depletion, acidification, eutrophication and climate change came to the public's attention in the same period, and caused the onset of environmental science and environmental technology.
The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, determining the sequence of nucleotide base pairs that make up human DNA, and identifying and mapping all of the genes of the human genome. Induced pluripotent stem cells were developed in 2006, a technology allowing adult cells to be transformed into stem cells capable of giving rise to any cell type found in the body, potentially of huge importance to the field of regenerative medicine.
With the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, the last particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics was found. In 2015, gravitational waves, predicted by general relativity a century before, were first observed.
Modern science is commonly divided into three major branches: natural science, social science, and formal science. Each of these branches comprises various specialized yet overlapping scientific disciplines that often possess their own nomenclature and expertise. Both natural and social sciences are empirical sciences, as their knowledge is based on empirical observations and is capable of being tested for its validity by other researchers working under the same conditions.
There are also closely related disciplines that use science, such as engineering and medicine, which are sometimes described as applied sciences. The relationships between the branches of science are summarized by the following table.
|Empirical sciences||Formal science|
|Natural science||Social science|
|Basic||Physics, chemistry, biology,
earth science, and space science
|Anthropology, economics, political science,
sociology, human geography, and psychology
|Logic, mathematics, and statistics|
|Applied||Engineering, agricultural science,
medicine, and materials science
|Business administration, public policy, marketing,
law, pedagogy, and international development
Natural science is concerned with the description, prediction, and understanding of natural phenomena based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. It can be divided into two main branches: life science (or biological science) and physical science. These two branches may be further divided into more specialized disciplines. Physical science is subdivided into branches, including physics, chemistry, astronomy and earth science. Modern natural science is the successor to the natural philosophy that began in Ancient Greece. Galileo, Descartes, Bacon, and Newton debated the benefits of using approaches which were more mathematical and more experimental in a methodical way. Still, philosophical perspectives, conjectures, and presuppositions, often overlooked, remain necessary in natural science. Systematic data collection, including discovery science, succeeded natural history, which emerged in the 16th century by describing and classifying plants, animals, minerals, and so on. Today, "natural history" suggests observational descriptions aimed at popular audiences.
Social science is concerned with society and the relationships among individuals within a society. It has many branches that include, but are not limited to, anthropology, archaeology, communication studies, economics, history, human geography, jurisprudence, linguistics, political science, psychology, public health, and sociology. Social scientists may adopt various philosophical theories to study individuals and society. For example, positivist social scientists use methods resembling those of the natural sciences as tools for understanding society, and so define science in its stricter modern sense. Interpretivist social scientists, by contrast, may use social critique or symbolic interpretation rather than constructing empirically falsifiable theories, and thus treat science in its broader sense. In modern academic practice, researchers are often eclectic, using multiple methodologies (for instance, by combining both quantitative and qualitative research). The term "social research" has also acquired a degree of autonomy as practitioners from various disciplines share in its aims and methods.
Formal science is involved in the study of formal systems. It includes mathematics, systems theory, and theoretical computer science. The formal sciences share similarities with the other two branches by relying on objective, careful, and systematic study of an area of knowledge. They are, however, different from the empirical sciences as they rely exclusively on deductive reasoning, without the need for empirical evidence, to verify their abstract concepts. The formal sciences are therefore a priori disciplines and because of this, there is disagreement on whether they actually constitute a science. Nevertheless, the formal sciences play an important role in the empirical sciences. Calculus, for example, was initially invented to understand motion in physics. Natural and social sciences that rely heavily on mathematical applications include mathematical physics, mathematical chemistry, mathematical biology, mathematical finance, and mathematical economics.
Scientific research can be labeled as either basic or applied research. Basic research is the search for knowledge and applied research is the search for solutions to practical problems using this knowledge. Although some scientific research is applied research into specific problems, a great deal of our understanding comes from the curiosity-driven undertaking of basic research. This leads to options for technological advances that were not planned or sometimes even imaginable. This point was made by Michael Faraday when allegedly in response to the question "what is the of basic research?" he responded: "Sir, what is the use of a new-born child?". For example, research into the effects of red light on the human eye's rod cells did not seem to have any practical purpose; eventually, the discovery that our night vision is not troubled by red light would lead search and rescue teams (among others) to adopt red light in the cockpits of jets and helicopters. Finally, even basic research can take unexpected turns, and there is some sense in which the scientific method is built to harness luck.
Scientific research involves using the scientific method, which seeks to objectively explain the events of nature in a reproducible way. An explanatory thought experiment or hypothesis is put forward as explanation using principles such as parsimony (also known as "Occam's Razor") and are generally expected to seek consilience ? fitting well with other accepted facts related to the phenomena. This new explanation is used to make falsifiable predictions that are testable by experiment or observation. The predictions are to be posted before a confirming experiment or observation is sought, as proof that no tampering has occurred. Disproof of a prediction is evidence of progress. This is done partly through observation of natural phenomena, but also through experimentation that tries to simulate natural events under controlled conditions as appropriate to the discipline (in the observational sciences, such as astronomy or geology, a predicted observation might take the place of a controlled experiment). Experimentation is especially important in science to help establish causal relationships (to avoid the correlation fallacy).
When a hypothesis proves unsatisfactory, it is either modified or discarded. If the hypothesis survived testing, it may become adopted into the framework of a scientific theory, a logically reasoned, self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of certain natural phenomena. A theory typically describes the behavior of much broader sets of phenomena than a hypothesis; commonly, a large number of hypotheses can be logically bound together by a single theory. Thus a theory is a hypothesis explaining various other hypotheses. In that vein, theories are formulated according to most of the same scientific principles as hypotheses. In addition to testing hypotheses, scientists may also generate a model, an attempt to describe or depict the phenomenon in terms of a logical, physical or mathematical representation and to generate new hypotheses that can be tested, based on observable phenomena.
While performing experiments to test hypotheses, scientists may have a preference for one outcome over another, and so it is important to ensure that science as a whole can eliminate this bias. This can be achieved by careful experimental design, transparency, and a thorough peer review process of the experimental results as well as any conclusions. After the results of an experiment are announced or published, it is normal practice for independent researchers to double-check how the research was performed, and to follow up by performing similar experiments to determine how dependable the results might be. Taken in its entirety, the scientific method allows for highly creative problem solving while minimizing any effects of subjective bias on the part of its users (especially the confirmation bias).
John Ziman points out that intersubjective verifiability is fundamental to the creation of all scientific knowledge. Ziman shows how scientists can identify patterns to each other across centuries; he refers to this ability as "perceptual consensibility." He then makes consensibility, leading to consensus, the touchstone of reliable knowledge.
Mathematics is essential in the formation of hypotheses, theories, and laws in the natural and social sciences. For example, it is used in quantitative scientific modeling, which can generate new hypotheses and predictions to be tested. It is also used extensively in observing and collecting measurements. Statistics, a branch of mathematics, is used to summarize and analyze data, which allow scientists to assess the reliability and variability of their experimental results.
Computational science applies computing power to simulate real-world situations, enabling a better understanding of scientific problems than formal mathematics alone can achieve. According to the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, computation is now as important as theory and experiment in advancing scientific knowledge.
Scientists usually take for granted a set of basic assumptions that are needed to justify the scientific method: (1) that there is an objective reality shared by all rational observers; (2) that this objective reality is governed by natural laws; (3) that these laws can be discovered by means of systematic observation and experimentation. The philosophy of science seeks a deep understanding of what these underlying assumptions mean and whether they are valid.
The belief that scientific theories should and do represent metaphysical reality is known as realism. It can be contrasted with anti-realism, the view that the success of science does not depend on it being accurate about unobservable entities such as electrons. One form of anti-realism is idealism, the belief that the mind or consciousness is the most basic essence, and that each mind generates its own reality. In an idealistic world view, what is true for one mind need not be true for other minds.
There are different schools of thought in the philosophy of science. The most popular position is empiricism, which holds that knowledge is created by a process involving observation and that scientific theories are the result of generalizations from such observations. Empiricism generally encompasses inductivism, a position that tries to explain the way general theories can be justified by the finite number of observations humans can make and hence the finite amount of empirical evidence available to confirm scientific theories. This is necessary because the number of predictions those theories make is infinite, which means that they cannot be known from the finite amount of evidence using deductive logic only. Many versions of empiricism exist, with the predominant ones being Bayesianism and the hypothetico-deductive method.
Empiricism has stood in contrast to rationalism, the position originally associated with Descartes, which holds that knowledge is created by the human intellect, not by observation. Critical rationalism is a contrasting 20th-century approach to science, first defined by Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper. Popper rejected the way that empiricism describes the connection between theory and observation. He claimed that theories are not generated by observation, but that observation is made in the light of theories and that the only way a theory can be affected by observation is when it comes in conflict with it. Popper proposed replacing verifiability with falsifiability as the landmark of scientific theories and replacing induction with falsification as the empirical method. Popper further claimed that there is actually only one universal method, not specific to science: the negative method of criticism, trial and error. It covers all products of the human mind, including science, mathematics, philosophy, and art.
Another approach, instrumentalism, colloquially termed "shut up and multiply," emphasizes the utility of theories as instruments for explaining and predicting phenomena. It views scientific theories as black boxes with only their input (initial conditions) and output (predictions) being relevant. Consequences, theoretical entities, and logical structure are claimed to be something that should simply be ignored and that scientists should not make a fuss about (see interpretations of quantum mechanics). Close to instrumentalism is constructive empiricism, according to which the main criterion for the success of a scientific theory is whether what it says about observable entities is true.
Thomas Kuhn argued that the process of observation and evaluation takes place within a paradigm, a logically consistent "portrait" of the world that is consistent with observations made from its framing. He characterized normal science as the process of observation and "puzzle solving" which takes place within a paradigm, whereas revolutionary science occurs when one paradigm overtakes another in a paradigm shift. Each paradigm has its own distinct questions, aims, and interpretations. The choice between paradigms involves setting two or more "portraits" against the world and deciding which likeness is most promising. A paradigm shift occurs when a significant number of observational anomalies arise in the old paradigm and a new paradigm makes sense of them. That is, the choice of a new paradigm is based on observations, even though those observations are made against the background of the old paradigm. For Kuhn, acceptance or rejection of a paradigm is a social process as much as a logical process. Kuhn's position, however, is not one of relativism.
Finally, another approach often cited in debates of scientific skepticism against controversial movements like "creation science" is methodological naturalism. Its main point is that a difference between natural and supernatural explanations should be made and that science should be restricted methodologically to natural explanations. That the restriction is merely methodological (rather than ontological) means that science should not consider supernatural explanations itself, but should not claim them to be wrong either. Instead, supernatural explanations should be left a matter of personal belief outside the scope of science. Methodological naturalism maintains that proper science requires strict adherence to empirical study and independent verification as a process for properly developing and evaluating explanations for observable phenomena. The absence of these standards, arguments from authority, biased observational studies and other common fallacies are frequently cited by supporters of methodological naturalism as characteristic of the non-science they criticize.
A scientific theory is empirical and is always open to falsification if new evidence is presented. That is, no theory is ever considered strictly certain as science accepts the concept of fallibilism. The philosopher of science Karl Popper sharply distinguished truth from certainty. He wrote that scientific knowledge "consists in the search for truth," but it "is not the search for certainty ... All human knowledge is fallible and therefore uncertain."
New scientific knowledge rarely results in vast changes in our understanding. According to psychologist Keith Stanovich, it may be the media's overuse of words like "breakthrough" that leads the public to imagine that science is constantly proving everything it thought was true to be false. While there are such famous cases as the theory of relativity that required a complete reconceptualization, these are extreme exceptions. Knowledge in science is gained by a gradual synthesis of information from different experiments by various researchers across different branches of science; it is more like a climb than a leap. Theories vary in the extent to which they have been tested and verified, as well as their acceptance in the scientific community. For example, heliocentric theory, the theory of evolution, relativity theory, and germ theory still bear the name "theory" even though, in practice, they are considered factual. Philosopher Barry Stroud adds that, although the best definition for "knowledge" is contested, being skeptical and entertaining the possibility that one is incorrect is compatible with being correct. Therefore, scientists adhering to proper scientific approaches will doubt themselves even once they possess the truth. The fallibilist C. S. Peirce argued that inquiry is the struggle to resolve actual doubt and that merely quarrelsome, verbal, or hyperbolic doubt is fruitless ? but also that the inquirer should try to attain genuine doubt rather than resting uncritically on common sense. He held that the successful sciences trust not to any single chain of inference (no stronger than its weakest link) but to the cable of multiple and various arguments intimately connected.
Stanovich also asserts that science avoids searching for a "magic bullet"; it avoids the single-cause fallacy. This means a scientist would not ask merely "What is cause of ...", but rather "What the most significant of ...". This is especially the case in the more macroscopic fields of science (e.g. psychology, physical cosmology). Research often analyzes few factors at once, but these are always added to the long list of factors that are most important to consider. For example, knowing the details of only a person's genetics, or their history and upbringing, or the current situation may not explain a behavior, but a deep understanding of all these variables combined can be very predictive.
Scientific research is published in an enormous range of scientific literature. Scientific journals communicate and document the results of research carried out in universities and various other research institutions, serving as an archival record of science. The first scientific journals, Journal des Sçavans followed by the Philosophical Transactions, began publication in 1665. Since that time the total number of active periodicals has steadily increased. In 1981, one estimate for the number of scientific and technical journals in publication was 11,500. The United States National Library of Medicine currently indexes 5,516 journals that contain articles on topics related to the life sciences. Although the journals are in 39 languages, 91 percent of the indexed articles are published in English.
Most scientific journals cover a single scientific field and publish the research within that field; the research is normally expressed in the form of a scientific paper. Science has become so pervasive in modern societies that it is generally considered necessary to communicate the achievements, news, and ambitions of scientists to a wider populace.
Science magazines such as New Scientist, Science & Vie, and Scientific American cater to the needs of a much wider readership and provide a non-technical summary of popular areas of research, including notable discoveries and advances in certain fields of research. Science books engage the interest of many more people. Tangentially, the science fiction genre, primarily fantastic in nature, engages the public imagination and transmits the ideas, if not the methods, of science.
Recent efforts to intensify or develop links between science and non-scientific disciplines such as literature or more specifically, poetry, include the Creative Writing Science resource developed through the Royal Literary Fund.
Discoveries in fundamental science can be world-changing. For example:
! Research !! Impact
| Static electricity and magnetism (c. 1600)
Electric current (18th century) || All electric appliances, dynamos, electric power stations, modern electronics, including electric lighting, television, electric heating, transcranial magnetic stimulation, deep brain stimulation, magnetic tape, loudspeaker, and the compass and lightning rod. |- | Diffraction (1665) || Optics, hence fiber optic cable (1840s), modern intercontinental communications, and cable TV and internet. |- | Germ theory (1700) || Hygiene, leading to decreased transmission of infectious diseases; antibodies, leading to techniques for disease diagnosis and targeted anticancer therapies. |- | Vaccination (1798) || Leading to the elimination of most infectious diseases from developed countries and the worldwide eradication of smallpox. |- | Photovoltaic effect (1839) || Solar cells (1883), hence solar power, solar powered watches, calculators and other devices. |- |
leading to special (1905) and general relativity (1916) || Satellite-based technology such as GPS (1973), satnav and satellite communications. |- | Radio waves (1887) || Radio had become used in innumerable ways beyond its better-known areas of telephony, and broadcast television (1927) and radio (1906) entertainment. Other uses included ? emergency services, radar (navigation and weather prediction), medicine, astronomy, wireless communications, geophysics, and networking. Radio waves also led researchers to adjacent frequencies such as microwaves, used worldwide for heating and cooking food. |- | Radioactivity (1896) and antimatter (1932) || Cancer treatment (1896), Radiometric dating (1905), nuclear reactors (1942) and weapons (1945), mineral exploration, PET scans (1961), and medical research (via isotopic labeling). |- |X-rays (1896)|| Medical imaging, including computed tomography. |- | Crystallography and quantum mechanics (1900) || Semiconductor devices (1906), hence modern computing and telecommunications including the integration with wireless devices: the mobile phone, LED lamps and lasers. |- |Plastics (1907)||Starting with Bakelite, many types of artificial polymers for numerous applications in industry and daily life. |- |Antibiotics (1880s, 1928) || Salvarsan, Penicillin, doxycycline etc. |- |Nuclear magnetic resonance (1930s) || Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1946), magnetic resonance imaging (1971), functional magnetic resonance imaging (1990s). |}
The replication crisis is an ongoing methodological crisis primarily affecting parts of the social and life sciences in which scholars have found that the results of many scientific studies are difficult or impossible to replicate or reproduce on subsequent investigation, either by independent researchers or by the original researchers themselves. The crisis has long-standing roots; the phrase was coined in the early 2010s as part of a growing awareness of the problem. The replication crisis represents an important body of research in metascience, which aims to improve the quality of all scientific research while reducing waste.
An area of study or speculation that masquerades as science in an attempt to claim a legitimacy that it would not otherwise be able to achieve is sometimes referred to as pseudoscience, fringe science, or junk science. Physicist Richard Feynman coined the term "cargo cult science" for cases in which researchers believe they are doing science because their activities have the outward appearance of science but actually lack the "kind of utter honesty" that allows their results to be rigorously evaluated. Various types of commercial advertising, ranging from hype to fraud, may fall into these categories. Science has been described as "the most important tool" for separating valid claims from invalid ones.
There can also be an element of political or ideological bias on all sides of scientific debates. Sometimes, research may be characterized as "bad science," research that may be well-intended but is actually incorrect, obsolete, incomplete, or over-simplified expositions of scientific ideas. The term "scientific misconduct" refers to situations such as where researchers have intentionally misrepresented their published data or have purposely given credit for a discovery to the wrong person.
The scientific community is a group of all interacting scientists, along with their respective societies and institutions.
Scientists are individuals who conduct scientific research to advance knowledge in an area of interest. The term scientist was coined by William Whewell in 1833. In modern times, many professional scientists are trained in an academic setting and upon completion, attain an academic degree, with the highest degree being a doctorate such as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Many scientists pursue careers in various sectors of the economy such as academia, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations.
Scientists exhibit a strong curiosity about reality, with some scientists having a desire to apply scientific knowledge for the benefit of health, nations, environment, or industries. Other motivations include recognition by their peers and prestige. The Nobel Prize, a widely regarded prestigious award, is awarded annually to those who have achieved scientific advances in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry, and economics.
Science has historically been a male-dominated field, with some notable exceptions. Women faced considerable discrimination in science, much as they did in other areas of male-dominated societies, such as frequently being passed over for job opportunities and denied credit for their work. For example, Christine Ladd (1847?1930) was able to enter a Ph.D. program as "C. Ladd"; Christine "Kitty" Ladd completed the requirements in 1882, but was awarded her degree only in 1926, after a career which spanned the algebra of logic (see truth table), color vision, and psychology. Her work preceded notable researchers like Ludwig Wittgenstein and Charles Sanders Peirce. The achievements of women in science have been attributed to the defiance of their traditional role as laborers within the domestic sphere.
In the late 20th century, active recruitment of women and elimination of institutional discrimination on the basis of sex greatly increased the number of women scientists, but large gender disparities remain in some fields; in the early 21st century over half of the new biologists were female, while 80% of PhDs in physics are given to men. In the early part of the 21st century, women in the United States earned 50.3% of bachelor's degrees, 45.6% of master's degrees, and 40.7% of PhDs in science and engineering fields. They earned more than half of the degrees in psychology (about 70%), social sciences (about 50%), and biology (about 50?60%) but earned less than half the degrees in the physical sciences, earth sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer science. Lifestyle choice also plays a major role in female engagement in science; women with young children are 28% less likely to take tenure-track positions due to work-life balance issues, and female graduate students' interest in careers in research declines dramatically over the course of graduate school, whereas that of their male colleagues remains unchanged.
Learned societies for the communication and promotion of scientific thought and experimentation have existed since the Renaissance. Many scientists belong to a learned society that promotes their respective scientific discipline, profession, or group of related disciplines. Membership may be open to all, may require possession of some scientific credentials, or may be an honor conferred by election. Most scientific societies are non-profit organizations, and many are professional associations. Their activities typically include holding regular conferences for the presentation and discussion of new research results and publishing or sponsoring academic journals in their discipline. Some also act as professional bodies, regulating the activities of their members in the public interest or the collective interest of the membership. Scholars in the sociology of science argue that learned societies are of key importance and their formation assists in the emergence and development of new disciplines or professions.
The professionalization of science, begun in the 19th century, was partly enabled by the creation of distinguished academy of sciences in a number of countries such as the Italian in 1603, the British Royal Society in 1660, the French in 1666, the American National Academy of Sciences in 1863, the German Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in 1911, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1928. International scientific organizations, such as the International Council for Science, have since been formed to promote cooperation between the scientific communities of different nations.
Science policy is an area of public policy concerned with the policies that affect the conduct of the scientific enterprise, including research funding, often in pursuance of other national policy goals such as technological innovation to promote commercial product development, weapons development, health care, and environmental monitoring. Science policy also refers to the act of applying scientific knowledge and consensus to the development of public policies. Science policy thus deals with the entire domain of issues that involve the natural sciences. In accordance with public policy being concerned about the well-being of its citizens, science policy's goal is to consider how science and technology can best serve the public.
State policy has influenced the funding of public works and science for thousands of years, particularly within civilizations with highly organized governments such as imperial China and the Roman Empire. Prominent historical examples include the Great Wall of China, completed over the course of two millennia through the state support of several dynasties, and the Grand Canal of the Yangtze River, an immense feat of hydraulic engineering begun by Sunshu Ao (??? 7th c. BCE), Ximen Bao (??? 5th c.BCE), and Shi Chi (4th c. BCE). This construction dates from the 6th century BCE under the Sui Dynasty and is still in use today. In China, such state-supported infrastructure and scientific research projects date at least from the time of the Mohists, who inspired the study of logic during the period of the Hundred Schools of Thought and the study of defensive fortifications like the Great Wall of China during the Warring States period.
Public policy can directly affect the funding of capital equipment and intellectual infrastructure for industrial research by providing tax incentives to those organizations that fund research. Vannevar Bush, director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development for the United States government, the forerunner of the National Science Foundation, wrote in July 1945 that "Science is a proper concern of government."
Scientific research is often funded through a competitive process in which potential research projects are evaluated and only the most promising receive funding. Such processes, which are run by government, corporations, or foundations, allocate scarce funds. Total research funding in most developed countries is between 1.5% and 3% of GDP. In the OECD, around two-thirds of research and development in scientific and technical fields is carried out by industry, and 20% and 10% respectively by universities and government. The government funding proportion in certain industries is higher, and it dominates research in social science and humanities. Similarly, with some exceptions (e.g. biotechnology) government provides the bulk of the funds for basic scientific research. Many governments have dedicated agencies to support scientific research. Prominent scientific organizations include the National Science Foundation in the United States, the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia, in France, the Max Planck Society and in Germany, and CSIC in Spain. In commercial research and development, all but the most research-oriented corporations focus more heavily on near-term commercialisation possibilities rather than "blue-sky" ideas or technologies (such as nuclear fusion).
The public awareness of science relates to the attitudes, behaviors, opinions, and activities that make up the relations between science and the general public. it integrates various themes and activities such as science communication, science museums, science festivals, science fairs, citizen science, and science in popular culture. Social scientists have devised various metrics to measure the public understanding of science such as factual knowledge, self-reported knowledge, and structural knowledge.
The mass media face a number of pressures that can prevent them from accurately depicting competing scientific claims in terms of their credibility within the scientific community as a whole. Determining how much weight to give different sides in a scientific debate may require considerable expertise regarding the matter. Few journalists have real scientific knowledge, and even beat reporters who know a great deal about certain scientific issues may be ignorant about other scientific issues that they are suddenly asked to cover.
Politicization of science occurs when government, business, or advocacy groups use legal or economic pressure to influence the findings of scientific research or the way it is disseminated, reported, or interpreted. Many factors can act as facets of the politicization of science such as populist anti-intellectualism, perceived threats to religious beliefs, postmodernist subjectivism, and fear for business interests. Politicization of science is usually accomplished when scientific information is presented in a way that emphasizes the uncertainty associated with the scientific evidence. Tactics such as shifting conversation, failing to acknowledge facts, and capitalizing on doubt of scientific consensus have been used to gain more attention for views that have been undermined by scientific evidence. Examples of issues that have involved the politicization of science include the global warming controversy, health effects of pesticides, and health effects of tobacco.
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Technology ("science of craft", from Greek , techne, "art, skill, cunning of hand"; and , -logia) is the sum of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation. Technology can be the knowledge of techniques, processes, and the like, or it can be embedded in machines to allow for operation without detailed knowledge of their workings. Systems (e.g. machines) applying technology by taking an input, changing it according to the system's use, and then producing an outcome are referred to as technology systems or technological systems.
The simplest form of technology is the development and use of basic tools. The prehistoric discovery of how to control fire and the later Neolithic Revolution increased the available sources of food, and the invention of the wheel helped humans to travel in and control their environment. Developments in historic times, including the printing press, the telephone, and the Internet, have lessened physical barriers to communication and allowed humans to interact freely on a global scale.
Technology has many effects. It has helped develop more advanced economies (including today's global economy) and has allowed the rise of a leisure class. Many technological processes produce unwanted by-products known as pollution and deplete natural resources to the detriment of Earth's environment. Innovations have always influenced the values of a society and raised new questions in the ethics of technology. Examples include the rise of the notion of efficiency in terms of human productivity, and the challenges of bioethics.
Philosophical debates have arisen over the use of technology, with disagreements over whether technology improves the human condition or worsens it. Neo-Luddism, anarcho-primitivism, and similar reactionary movements criticize the pervasiveness of technology, arguing that it harms the environment and alienates people; proponents of ideologies such as transhumanism and techno-progressivism view continued technological progress as beneficial to society and the human condition.
The use of the term "technology" has changed significantly over the last 200 years. Before the 20th century, the term was uncommon in English, and it was used either to refer to the description or study of the useful arts or to allude to technical education, as in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (chartered in 1861).
The term "technology" rose to prominence in the 20th century in connection with the Second Industrial Revolution. The term's meanings changed in the early 20th century when American social scientists, beginning with Thorstein Veblen, translated ideas from the German concept of Technik into "technology." In German and other European languages, a distinction exists between technik and technologie that is absent in English, which usually translates both terms as "technology." By the 1930s, "technology" referred not only to the study of the industrial arts but to the industrial arts themselves.
In 1937, the American sociologist Read Bain wrote that "technology includes all tools, machines, utensils, weapons, instruments, housing, clothing, communicating and transporting devices and the skills by which we produce and use them." Bain's definition remains common among scholars today, especially social scientists. Scientists and engineers usually prefer to define technology as applied science, rather than as the things that people make and use. More recently, scholars have borrowed from European philosophers of "technique" to extend the meaning of technology to various forms of instrumental reason, as in Foucault's work on technologies of the self (techniques de soi).
Dictionaries and scholars have offered a variety of definitions. The Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary offers a definition of the term: "the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems" and "a machine, piece of equipment, method, etc., that is created by technology." Ursula Franklin, in her 1989 "Real World of Technology" lecture, gave another definition of the concept; it is "practice, the way we do things around here." The term is often used to imply a specific field of technology, or to refer to high technology or just consumer electronics, rather than technology as a whole. Bernard Stiegler, in Technics and Time, 1, defines technology in two ways: as "the pursuit of life by means other than life," and as "organized inorganic matter."
Technology can be most broadly defined as the entities, both material and immaterial, created by the application of mental and physical effort in order to achieve some value. In this usage, technology refers to tools and machines that may be used to solve real-world problems. It is a far-reaching term that may include simple tools, such as a crowbar or wooden spoon, or more complex machines, such as a space station or particle accelerator. Tools and machines need not be material; virtual technology, such as computer software and business methods, fall under this definition of technology. W. Brian Arthur defines technology in a similarly broad way as "a means to fulfill a human purpose."
The word "technology" can also be used to refer to a collection of techniques. In this context, it is the current state of humanity's knowledge of how to combine resources to produce desired products, to solve problems, fulfill needs, or satisfy wants; it includes technical methods, skills, processes, techniques, tools and raw materials. When combined with another term, such as "medical technology" or "space technology," it refers to the state of the respective field's knowledge and tools. "State-of-the-art technology" refers to the high technology available to humanity in any field.
Technology can be viewed as an activity that forms or changes culture. Additionally, technology is the application of mathematics, science, and the arts for the benefit of life as it is known. A modern example is the rise of communication technology, which has lessened barriers to human interaction and as a result has helped spawn new subcultures; the rise of cyberculture has at its basis the development of the Internet and the computer. As a cultural activity, technology predates both science and engineering, each of which formalize some aspects of technological endeavor.
The distinction between science, engineering, and technology is not always clear. Science is systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. Technologies are not usually exclusively products of science, because they have to satisfy requirements such as utility, usability, and safety.
Engineering is the goal-oriented process of designing and making tools and systems to exploit natural phenomena for practical human means, often (but not always) using results and techniques from science. The development of technology may draw upon many fields of knowledge, including scientific, engineering, mathematical, linguistic, and historical knowledge, to achieve some practical result.
Technology is often a consequence of science and engineering, although technology as a human activity precedes the two fields. For example, science might study the flow of electrons in electrical conductors by using already-existing tools and knowledge. This new-found knowledge may then be used by engineers to create new tools and machines such as semiconductors, computers, and other forms of advanced technology. In this sense, scientists and engineers may both be considered technologists; the three fields are often considered as one for the purposes of research and reference.
The exact relations between science and technology, in particular, have been debated by scientists, historians, and policymakers in the late 20th century, in part because the debate can inform the funding of basic and applied science. In the immediate wake of World War II, for example, it was widely considered in the United States that technology was simply "applied science" and that to fund basic science was to reap technological results in due time. An articulation of this philosophy could be found explicitly in Vannevar Bush's treatise on postwar science policy, Science ? The Endless Frontier: "New products, new industries, and more jobs require continuous additions to knowledge of the laws of nature ... This essential new knowledge can be obtained only through basic scientific research." In the late-1960s, however, this view came under direct attack, leading towards initiatives to fund science for specific tasks (initiatives resisted by the scientific community). The issue remains contentious, though most analysts resist the model that technology is a result of scientific research.
The use of tools by early humans was partly a process of discovery and of evolution. Early humans evolved from a species of foraging hominids which were already bipedal, with a brain mass approximately one third of modern humans. Tool use remained relatively unchanged for most of early human history. Approximately 50,000 years ago, the use of tools and complex set of behaviors emerged, believed by many archaeologists to be connected to the emergence of fully modern language.
Hominids started using primitive stone tools millions of years ago. The earliest stone tools were little more than a fractured rock, but approximately 75,000 years ago, pressure flaking provided a way to make much finer work.
The discovery and use of fire, a simple energy source with many profound uses, was a turning point in the technological evolution of humankind. The exact date of its discovery is not known; evidence of burnt animal bones at the Cradle of Humankind suggests that the domestication of fire occurred before 1 Ma; scholarly consensus indicates that Homo erectus had controlled fire by between 500 and 400 ka. Fire, fueled with wood and charcoal, allowed early humans to cook their food to increase its digestibility, improving its nutrient value and broadening the number of foods that could be eaten.
Other technological advances made during the Paleolithic era were clothing and shelter; the adoption of both technologies cannot be dated exactly, but they were a key to humanity's progress. As the Paleolithic era progressed, dwellings became more sophisticated and more elaborate; as early as 380 ka, humans were constructing temporary wood huts. Clothing, adapted from the fur and hides of hunted animals, helped humanity expand into colder regions; humans began to migrate out of Africa by 200 ka and into other continents such as Eurasia.
Human's technological ascent began in earnest in what is known as the Neolithic Period ("New Stone Age"). The invention of polished stone axes was a major advance that allowed forest clearance on a large scale to create farms. This use of polished stone axes increased greatly in the Neolithic, but were originally used in the preceding Mesolithic in some areas such as Ireland. Agriculture fed larger populations, and the transition to sedentism allowed simultaneously raising more children, as infants no longer needed to be carried, as nomadic ones must. Additionally, children could contribute labor to the raising of crops more readily than they could to the hunter-gatherer economy.
With this increase in population and availability of labor came an increase in labor specialization. What triggered the progression from early Neolithic villages to the first cities, such as Uruk, and the first civilizations, such as Sumer, is not specifically known; however, the emergence of increasingly hierarchical social structures and specialized labor, of trade and war amongst adjacent cultures, and the need for collective action to overcome environmental challenges such as irrigation, are all thought to have played a role.
Continuing improvements led to the furnace and bellows and provided, for the first time, the ability to smelt and forge gold, copper, silver, and lead native metals found in relatively pure form in nature. The advantages of copper tools over stone, bone, and wooden tools were quickly apparent to early humans, and native copper was probably used from near the beginning of Neolithic times (about 10 ka). Native copper does not naturally occur in large amounts, but copper ores are quite common and some of them produce metal easily when burned in wood or charcoal fires. Eventually, the working of metals led to the discovery of alloys such as bronze and brass (about 4000 BCE). The first uses of iron alloys such as steel dates to around 1800 BCE.
Meanwhile, humans were learning to harness other forms of energy. The earliest known use of wind power is the sailing ship; the earliest record of a ship under sail is that of a Nile boat dating to the 8th-millennium BCE. From prehistoric times, Egyptians probably used the power of the annual flooding of the Nile to irrigate their lands, gradually learning to regulate much of it through purposely built irrigation channels and "catch" basins. The ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia used a complex system of canals and levees to divert water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers for irrigation.
According to archaeologists, the wheel was invented around 4000 BCE probably independently and nearly simultaneously in Mesopotamia (in present-day Iraq), the Northern Caucasus (Maykop culture) and Central Europe. Estimates on when this may have occurred range from 5500 to 3000 BCE with most experts putting it closer to 4000 BCE. The oldest artifacts with drawings depicting wheeled carts date from about 3500 BCE; however, the wheel may have been in use for millennia before these drawings were made. More recently, the oldest-known wooden wheel in the world was found in the Ljubljana marshes of Slovenia.
The invention of the wheel revolutionized trade and war. It did not take long to discover that wheeled wagons could be used to carry heavy loads. The ancient Sumerians used the potter's wheel and may have invented it. A stone pottery wheel found in the city-state of Ur dates to around 3429 BCE, and even older fragments of wheel-thrown pottery have been found in the same area. Fast (rotary) potters' wheels enabled early mass production of pottery, but it was the use of the wheel as a transformer of energy (through water wheels, windmills, and even treadmills) that revolutionized the application of nonhuman power sources. The first two-wheeled carts were derived from travois and were first used in Mesopotamia and Iran in around 3000 BCE.
The oldest known constructed roadways are the stone-paved streets of the city-state of Ur, dating to circa 4000 BCE and timber roads leading through the swamps of Glastonbury, England, dating to around the same time period. The first long-distance road, which came into use around 3500 BCE, spanned 1,500 miles from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, but was not paved and was only partially maintained. In around 2000 BCE, the Minoans on the Greek island of Crete built a fifty-kilometer (thirty-mile) road leading from the palace of Gortyn on the south side of the island, through the mountains, to the palace of Knossos on the north side of the island. Unlike the earlier road, the Minoan road was completely paved.
Ancient Minoan private homes had running water. A bathtub virtually identical to modern ones was unearthed at the Palace of Knossos. Several Minoan private homes also had toilets, which could be flushed by pouring water down the drain. The ancient Romans had many public flush toilets, which emptied into an extensive sewage system. The primary sewer in Rome was the Cloaca Maxima; construction began on it in the sixth century BCE and it is still in use today.
The ancient Romans also had a complex system of aqueducts, which were used to transport water across long distances. The first Roman aqueduct was built in 312 BCE. The eleventh and final ancient Roman aqueduct was built in 226 CE. Put together, the Roman aqueducts extended over 450 kilometers, but less than seventy kilometers of this was above ground and supported by arches.
Innovations continued through the Middle Ages with innovations such as silk-manufacture (introduced into Europe after centuries of development in Asia), the horse collar and horseshoes in the first few hundred years after the 5th-century fall of the Roman Empire. Medieval technology saw the use of simple machines (such as the lever, the screw, and the pulley) being combined to form more complicated tools, such as the wheelbarrow, windmills and clocks, and a system of universities developed and spread scientific ideas and practices. The Renaissance era produced many innovations, including the printing press (which facilitated the communication of knowledge), and technology became increasingly associated with science, beginning a cycle of mutual advancement. Advances in technology in this era allowed a more reliable supply of food, followed by the wider availability of consumer goods.
Starting in the United Kingdom in the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution was a period of great technological discovery, particularly in the areas of agriculture, manufacturing, mining, metallurgy, and transport, driven by the discovery of steam power and the widespread application of the factory system. Technology took another step in a second industrial revolution ( to ) with the harnessing of electricity to allow such innovations as the electric motor, light bulb, and countless others. Scientific advances and the discovery of new concepts later allowed for powered flight and developments in medicine, chemistry, physics, and engineering. The rise in technology has led to skyscrapers and broad urban areas whose inhabitants rely on motors to transport them and their food supplies. Communication improved with the invention of the telegraph, telephone, radio and television. The late-19th and early-20th centuries saw a revolution in transportation with the invention of the airplane and automobile.
The 20th century brought a host of innovations. In physics, the discovery of nuclear fission has led to both nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Computers were invented and later miniaturized using transistors and integrated circuits. Information technology subsequently led to the birth in the 1980s of the Internet, which ushered in the current Information Age. Humans started to explore space with satellites (late 1950s, later used for telecommunication) and in manned missions (1960s) going all the way to the moon. In medicine, this era brought innovations such as open-heart surgery and later stem-cell therapy along with new medications and treatments.
Complex manufacturing and construction techniques and organizations are needed to make and maintain some of the newer technologies, and entire industries have arisen to support and develop succeeding generations of increasingly more complex tools. Modern technology increasingly relies on training and education ? their designers, builders, maintainers, and users often require sophisticated general and specific training. Moreover, these technologies have become so complex that entire fields have developed to support them, including engineering, medicine, and computer science; and other fields have become more complex, such as construction, transportation, and architecture.
Generally, technicism is the belief in the utility of technology for improving human societies. Taken to an extreme, technicism "reflects a fundamental attitude which seeks to control reality, to resolve all problems with the use of scientific?technological methods and tools." In other words, human beings will someday be able to master all problems and possibly even control the future using technology. Some, such as Stephen V. Monsma, connect these ideas to the abdication of religion as a higher moral authority.
Optimistic assumptions are made by proponents of ideologies such as transhumanism and singularitarianism, which view technological development as generally having beneficial effects for the society and the human condition. In these ideologies, technological development is morally good.
Transhumanists generally believe that the point of technology is to overcome barriers, and that what we commonly refer to as the human condition is just another barrier to be surpassed.
Singularitarians believe in some sort of "accelerating change"; that the rate of technological progress accelerates as we obtain more technology, and that this will culminate in a "Singularity" after artificial general intelligence is invented in which progress is nearly infinite; hence the term. Estimates for the date of this Singularity vary, but prominent futurist Ray Kurzweil estimates the Singularity will occur in 2045.
Kurzweil is also known for his history of the universe in six epochs: (1) the physical/chemical epoch, (2) the life epoch, (3) the human/brain epoch, (4) the technology epoch, (5) the artificial intelligence epoch, and (6) the universal colonization epoch. Going from one epoch to the next is a Singularity in its own right, and a period of speeding up precedes it. Each epoch takes a shorter time, which means the whole history of the universe is one giant Singularity event.
Some critics see these ideologies as examples of scientism and techno-utopianism and fear the notion of human enhancement and technological singularity which they support. Some have described Karl Marx as a techno-optimist.
On the somewhat skeptical side are certain philosophers like Herbert Marcuse and John Zerzan, who believe that technological societies are inherently flawed. They suggest that the inevitable result of such a society is to become evermore technological at the cost of freedom and psychological health.
Many, such as the Luddites and prominent philosopher Martin Heidegger, hold serious, although not entirely, deterministic reservations about technology (see "The Question Concerning Technology"). According to Heidegger scholars Hubert Dreyfus and Charles Spinosa, "Heidegger does not oppose technology. He hopes to reveal the essence of technology in a way that 'in no way confines us to a stultified compulsion to push on blindly with technology or, what comes to the same thing, to rebel helplessly against it.' Indeed, he promises that 'when we once open ourselves expressly to the essence of technology, we find ourselves unexpectedly taken into a freeing claim.' What this entails is a more complex relationship to technology than either techno-optimists or techno-pessimists tend to allow."
Some of the most poignant criticisms of technology are found in what are now considered to be dystopian literary classics such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. In Goethe's Faust, Faust selling his soul to the devil in return for power over the physical world is also often interpreted as a metaphor for the adoption of industrial technology. More recently, modern works of science fiction such as those by Philip K. Dick and William Gibson and films such as Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell project highly ambivalent or cautionary attitudes toward technology's impact on human society and identity.
The late cultural critic Neil Postman distinguished tool-using societies from technological societies and from what he called "technopolies," societies that are dominated by the ideology of technological and scientific progress to the exclusion or harm of other cultural practices, values, and world-views.
Darin Barney has written about technology's impact on practices of citizenship and democratic culture, suggesting that technology can be construed as (1) an object of political debate, (2) a means or medium of discussion, and (3) a setting for democratic deliberation and citizenship. As a setting for democratic culture, Barney suggests that technology tends to make ethical questions, including the question of what a good life consists in, nearly impossible because they already give an answer to the question: a good life is one that includes the use of more and more technology.
Nikolas Kompridis has also written about the dangers of new technology, such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and robotics. He warns that these technologies introduce unprecedented new challenges to human beings, including the possibility of the permanent alteration of our biological nature. These concerns are shared by other philosophers, scientists and public intellectuals who have written about similar issues (e.g. Francis Fukuyama, Jürgen Habermas, William Joy, and Michael Sandel).
Another prominent critic of technology is Hubert Dreyfus, who has published books such as On the Internet and What Computers Still Can't Do.
A more infamous anti-technological treatise is Industrial Society and Its Future, written by the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and printed in several major newspapers (and later books) as part of an effort to end his bombing campaign of the techno-industrial infrastructure. There are also subcultures that disapprove of some or most technology, such as self-identified off-gridders.
The notion of appropriate technology was developed in the 20th century by thinkers such as E.F. Schumacher and Jacques Ellul to describe situations where it was not desirable to use very new technologies or those that required access to some centralized infrastructure or parts or skills imported from elsewhere. The ecovillage movement emerged in part due to this concern.
This section mainly focuses on American concerns even if it can reasonably be generalized to other Western countries.
In his article, Jared Bernstein, a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, questions the widespread idea that automation, and more broadly, technological advances, have mainly contributed to this growing labor market problem. His thesis appears to be a third way between optimism and skepticism. Essentially, he stands for a neutral approach of the linkage between technology and American issues concerning unemployment and declining wages.
He uses two main arguments to defend his point. First, because of recent technological advances, an increasing number of workers are losing their jobs. Yet, scientific evidence fails to clearly demonstrate that technology has displaced so many workers that it has created more problems than it has solved. Indeed, automation threatens repetitive jobs but higher-end jobs are still necessary because they complement technology and manual jobs that "requires flexibility judgment and common sense" remain hard to replace with machines. Second, studies have not shown clear links between recent technology advances and the wage trends of the last decades.
Therefore, according to Bernstein, instead of focusing on technology and its hypothetical influences on current American increasing unemployment and declining wages, one needs to worry more about "bad policy that fails to offset the imbalances in demand, trade, income, and opportunity."
For people who use both the Internet and mobile devices in excessive quantities it is likely for them to experience fatigue and over exhaustion as a result of disruptions in their sleeping patterns. Continuous studies have shown that increased BMI and weight gain are associated with people who spend long hours online and not exercising frequently. Heavy Internet use is also displayed in the school lower grades of those who use it in excessive amounts. It has also been noted that the use of mobile phones whilst driving has increased the occurrence of road accidents ? particularly amongst teen drivers. Statistically, teens reportedly have fourfold the number of road traffic incidents as those who are 20 years or older, and a very high percentage of adolescents write (81%) and read (92%) texts while driving. In this context, mass media and technology have a negative impact on people, on both their mental and physical health.
Thomas P. Hughes stated that because technology has been considered as a key way to solve problems, we need to be aware of its complex and varied characters to use it more efficiently. What is the difference between a wheel or a compass and cooking machines such as an oven or a gas stove? Can we consider all of them, only a part of them, or none of them as technologies?
Technology is often considered too narrowly; according to Hughes, "Technology is a creative process involving human ingenuity". This definition's emphasis on creativity avoids unbounded definitions that may mistakenly include cooking "technologies," but it also highlights the prominent role of humans and therefore their responsibilities for the use of complex technological systems.
Yet, because technology is everywhere and has dramatically changed landscapes and societies, Hughes argues that engineers, scientists, and managers have often believed that they can use technology to shape the world as they want. They have often supposed that technology is easily controllable and this assumption has to be thoroughly questioned. For instance, Evgeny Morozov particularly challenges two concepts: "Internet-centrism" and "solutionism." Internet-centrism refers to the idea that our society is convinced that the Internet is one of the most stable and coherent forces. Solutionism is the ideology that every social issue can be solved thanks to technology and especially thanks to the internet. In fact, technology intrinsically contains uncertainties and limitations. According to Alexis Madrigal's review of Morozov's theory, to ignore it will lead to "unexpected consequences that could eventually cause more damage than the problems they seek to address." Benjamin R. Cohen and Gwen Ottinger also discussed the multivalent effects of technology.
Therefore, recognition of the limitations of technology, and more broadly, scientific knowledge, is needed ? especially in cases dealing with environmental justice and health issues. Ottinger continues this reasoning and argues that the ongoing recognition of the limitations of scientific knowledge goes hand in hand with scientists and engineers? new comprehension of their role. Such an approach of technology and science "[require] technical professionals to conceive of their roles in the process differently. [They have to consider themselves as] collaborators in research and problem solving rather than simply providers of information and technical solutions."
The use of basic technology is also a feature of other animal species apart from humans. These include primates such as chimpanzees, some dolphin communities, and crows. Considering a more generic perspective of technology as ethology of active environmental conditioning and control, we can also refer to animal examples such as beavers and their dams, or bees and their honeycombs.
The ability to make and use tools was once considered a defining characteristic of the genus Homo. However, the discovery of tool construction among chimpanzees and related primates has discarded the notion of the use of technology as unique to humans. For example, researchers have observed wild chimpanzees using tools for foraging: some of the tools used include leaf sponges, termite fishing probes, pestles and levers. West African chimpanzees also use stone hammers and anvils for cracking nuts, as do capuchin monkeys of Boa Vista, Brazil.
In 2005, futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted that the future of technology would mainly consist of an overlapping "GNR Revolution" of genetics, nanotechnology and robotics, with robotics being the most important of the three.
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