Let us broadly define "science" as:

The systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

and "technology" as:

Machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge.

Here are some examples of what I mean:


  • Any act of war involving technology: guns, bombs, missiles, etc.
  • A man being electrocuted by a wall socket
  • Car accidents
  • Smoking industrialized products (e.g. cigars, cigarettes, etc.)
  • Crimes committed with the aid of internet, cell phones, etc. which would not have happened otherwise (indirect consequence)
  • Indirect effects on exercise (e.g. automobiles, video games, etc.)


  • Healing which was scientifically proven to have been induced by medicine (i.e. not "alternative medicine")
  • Cell phone enabling someone to call for help (e.g. 9-1-1 emergency service in U.S.)
  • Identification of causes of ill effects (e.g. carcinogens, heart disease, etc.) enabling people to actively avoid risk-increasing habits
  • Modern transportation allowing refugees to flee dangerous locations

This question is obviously impossible to answer with 100% certainty. That said, please try to be more objective than subjective. I'm looking for an order-of-magnitude assertion that concludes either "more sacrificed" or "more saved" and explains why. As demonstrated in the examples above, feel free to consider both direct and indirect consequences of science and technology.

  • FYI, this is not homework. I am long out of school. These are my own thoughts and curiosities. – Dan Aug 29 '17 at 2:53
  • It's a difficult one to measure, really. How do you count a man who would have died at 20 due to a lack of modern medicine, but instead lived until 48, when he died of lung cancer due to tobacco? – Cort Ammon Aug 29 '17 at 4:55
  • This question may get a better answer in History or history of science. – Gordon Aug 29 '17 at 10:48
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    A broad estimate can be done by looking at changes in lifespans and mortality rates; there's little question that the primary driver is technology. – Ask About Monica Aug 29 '17 at 15:58
  • @CortAmmon That's not difficult to answer at all. His net life was extended by 28 years, which is definitely "Saved". Everyone dies eventually. – Dan Sep 2 '17 at 20:05

Without science far less lives would have been possible. Of course all these will die again, but that cannot be blamed on science.

Consider the development of mankind. Two thousand years ago there were about 200 million people. Now we are more than 7 billions. That would not have been possible without modern science in agriculture and medicine. It can be observed that always when the agricultural and medical technologies were improved, the population has grown (see the second diagram).World population Source de.Wikipedia.

  • Yes, the population has grown but so has our ability to wipe it all out. My understanding is that the U.S. is now planning to spend 1 trillion dollars to modernize its nuclear arsenal. Konrad Lorenz in late life wrote that science would outstrip man's ability to adapt to it. – Gordon Aug 29 '17 at 12:05
  • I feel that Heinrich's graphs illustrate the main problem caused by technology. I see no cure for it. As for the other effects I'd have no idea how to measure the net benefits or dis-benefits of technology. On whole I'd say we're nuts to keep introducing new technologies as we do, always looking at few narrow benefits and ignoring the big picture,. but it's the number one way to make money.so we're stuck with the situation. I fear that one day scientists will be seen as the destroyers of the world but sincerely hope to be proved wrong. – PeterJ Aug 29 '17 at 12:42
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    This answer provides an interesting perspective on a difficult question. It is definitely true that the number of people in the world has increased substantially, and there's no doubt in my mind that modern science, technology, and especially medicine, have played a majority role in that achievement. – Dan Sep 2 '17 at 20:10

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