Political Effectiveness in Science and Technology

Daniel Sarewitz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Scientific understanding and technological intervention may provide two different paths for addressing complex social problems. More scientific understanding is commonly prescribed as necessary to guide appropriate policy interventions and behavior. Technologies in contrast may offer a direct solution to a problem that does not demand policy or behavioral change. While solving a problem through better scientific understanding and changed behavior may seem more ethically or operationally satisfying than solving it through appropriate technological intervention, it is also often much more difficult. Drawing on several examples such as childhood vaccines and climate change, I argue that scientific knowledge has a tendency to exacerbate value disputes that impede action, whereas appropriate technological interventions have a capacity to sidestep or resolve such disputes. I end with the suggestion that some notion of pragmatic technological progressivism needs to be resurrected as part of any hopeful agenda for enhancing justice, equality, freedom, and mutual understanding the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBoston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 2011

Publication series

NameBoston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science
ISSN (Print)0068-0346
ISSN (Electronic)2214-7942


  • Climate Impact
  • Montreal Protocol
  • Social Vulnerability
  • Stratospheric Ozone
  • Teaching Reading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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