Technological invention applies the knowledge gained through science to create things specifically designed for human use. This principle applies to all technology, past, present, and future. The only difference is that the inventions of thousands of years ago (simple machines) are so simple that nonscientists like Proctor can understand them, and, therefore, can separate them from the science of that time (arithmetic). However, modern technology, which is based on such highly mathematical disciplines as electromagnetic theory and quantum mechanics, is much harder to separate from the complicated science that went into it.
It is not the simplicity of science that makes it neutral. General theory of relativity, quantum field theory, electromagnetism, and Newtonian mechanics are as neutral as arithmetic. Just as arithmetic, they are laws stated in the language of mathematics, generally in the form of differential equations, that describe the behavior of (the constituents of) the universe. This fact is extremely hard to understand for somebody who has not studied these equations and their meaning, and only sees their technological applications.
The often quoted sentence, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” is so obvious a tautology that it is pointless. It is as pointless as saying: “Cars don’t drive, people do,” or “Knives don’t cut, people do,” or “Pencils don’t write, people do.” It merely states the simple fact that any machine needs an operator to operate it. There is no “abstract truth” in this. It is as concrete as one can get! Abstract are the laws of science, and there are no concrete lies in them. There is no concrete lie in the universal law of gravitation, or in the four Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism, or the Schrödinger equation, or Einstein’s equation of the general theory of relativity. Or the laws of thermodynamics and chemistry. Concrete are the guns and the people who use them.
In the construction of a gun – the barrel, the ignition mechanism, the path of the bullet, and the fabrication of its parts – the laws of motion, thermodynamics, and chemistry may have been used, but these same laws are also used to operate a respirator or a pacemaker. Guns, being the product of a technology motivated, financed, and encouraged by war, were made with no other purpose in mind than to kill. We did not invent the gun with which to brush our teeth! A lot of values, ethics, morality (or lack thereof) has gone into the building of a gun. An abstract truth which conceals no concrete lie is the following statement:
The laws of physics and chemistry don’t kill people, guns do.
This statement captures the essence of the difference between technology (guns) and science (the laws of physics and chemistry), a difference that is overlooked by most critics of science like Proctor.