Is Progress in Science, Progress for Society?

  • Catherine BréchignacEmail author
Conference paper


Science progresses in a cumulative way, each step corresponding to as many changes of paradigms, with successive theories gradually approaching more general concepts. Thus, in the eighteenth century, Lavoisier, using mathematics to explain chemical reactions and express the law of mass conservation, brought chemistry into modernity. At the dawn of the twentieth century, another revolution resulted from the discovery of laws specific to properties at the atomic scale, which made it possible to understand, for instance, the laser effect, on which our modern technology is based, from medicine to defense and metrology to everyday items such as optical drives, microcomputers, and GPS. However, the values that set up our societies hardly fit the increasing speed of technological progresses. This lack of necessary distance for a more thoughtful judgment leads both to the unreasoned rejection of acquired progress such as vaccination and to harmful over-appropriation of information communication techniques when they lack the necessary critical analysis. It is therefore essential, in view of the rapid growth of science and technology, to take time to think about the values we want to give to our societies.


Progress Science Paradigm Mass conservation law Stoichiometry Elements Compounds Periodic table Atom Laser GPS Vaccination Communication Internet Values 

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.French Academy of SciencesParisFrance
  2. 2.European Academy of SciencesBrusselsBelgium

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