Comparing the Social Roles of Science, Engineering, Education and Religion
Scientific theories are traditionally assessed on the basis of how well these theories can describe nature (here we refer mainly to natural sciences). Theories that are supported by experimental evidence are deemed correct and theories contradicting observed phenomena or some features of these phenomena are dismissed as incorrect. In practice, judging the correctness of a scientific theory or hypothesis is not easy and different and sometimes contradictory points of view can be expressed by the world's most distinguished scientists. The social role of a scientific theory is determined more by whether the majority of people belonging to the professional segment of the population believe that it is correct than by actual correctness of the theory. The explanation for the existence of science in human society is not reducible to the notion of the overall correctness of science, real or imaginary. The question of whether the scope of science can and should be extended to explain the existence and role of since itself is very interesting from methodological point of view. Despite certain differences between science and engineering and major differences between science and religion, the social role of science is versatile and, in some respects, can be similar to that of engineering or religion. Education plays a very important social role of producing a sufficient number of qualified individuals serving various needs of human society. For example, a lack of medical doctors is a significant problem that would be felt immediately by many people seeking medical help. The social duty of educational institutions is not, however, limited to this role. Education also prepares a more limited group of individuals to be called to perform the very special task of extending the frontiers of science. In modern educational theories the emphasis is placed on the first role and the goal of educating everyone is often cited as major overriding educational principle. Although advanced education involves a more limited group of people, its importance is difficult to overestimate, especially in the context of addressing the long-term interests of human society. We believe that the true purpose of education is in combining a wide education of most of society with more advanced education of selected individuals.
Keywords: Science, Engineering, Education, Social Role, Scientific Methodology
Dr. Alexander Y Klimenko
Senior Lecturer, School of Engineering, The University of Queensland