Just as science and technology provide all "nuts and bolts", as well as many of the ideas that hold our society together, society itself provide the environment and atmosphere for science and technology to either grow fast, or stagnate or even decay! Science and technology do not exist independent of the society, its culture and the value system.
Each individual society, in history, has developed science based on need and interests. Military equipment, space travel, and ocean exploration, etc., have all been researched and developed based on certain individual or group interests. Modern medical technology, fertilizers and pesticides, bio-fuel technology, etc., have all been researched and developed based on need. Society definitely shapes the future of science.
Society shapes the future of science. For an example, a lot of scientific research is devoted to discovering methods, products, and chemical compounds that directly benefit society. Since much of this research is undertaken by for profit companies, its aim is often a consumer application that societal trends indicate people will purchase to make money for the company.
Society makes determinations, all of the time, as to which scientific endeavors are worthy of funding, and which are not. Former President Bush opposed funding for stem cell research, and shut down the use of fertilized eggs in stem cell research, because he opposed the destruction of these eggs. This position was widely supported, even though this had the potential to unlock certain secrets that might make diseases curable.
Society has a strong influence on the future of science. The scientists and researchers who will someday make those breakthroughs are influenced by the society they grew up in. The hopes and dreams of their generation are what will shape the areas they study and work with. If society does not value an idea, or believes the idea to be negative, then the scientists and researchers that come out of that society will be less likely to focus on that field of study.
For instance, technology began as a science, and technology remains a science. The science of old is society's technological purchases of today. The science of now will be our technologically advanced purchases of tomorrow. The same is true for energy sources, weight loss products, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Science is the discovery of convenience, speed, automated and computerized methods, making the world easier, faster and better and for society has a whole. Societies' needs and wants govern the direction science takes us. Man's yearning to explore the heavens created planes, jets, rockets and spaceships. His yearning to get from A to B quicker resulted in the wheel, the cart, the automobile, and what will eventually replace it.
Society experiences health problems, weather problems and population problems, and science is there to help solve these types of situations. Any science undertaking is for the good of society and is a direct result of a situation society is enduring. Finding a cure for cancer or the common cold, exploration in space, global warming, migration patterns of birds, butterflies, whales, tornadoes, hurricanes, and more, are studied by scientists to benefit society, funded by society, and embraced by society for the survival of society. Only by society experiencing both bad and good events or crisis, does science exist to make sense and find solutions.
With the economy in the shape it is in at this time, almost all scientific projects have been cut in one way or the other.
If people are not interested in a specific topic, or find that topic too taboo, scientists will not widely research it. If an idea becomes mainstream or a "hot button" issue in the public mentality, scientists will be more likely to research it. The public also has a great deal to do with funding for scientific research.
Religion had played a major role in science in the past. Galileo's beliefs were dismissed by the Roman Catholic Church because they conflicted with the Bible. At that time, maintaining appearances was the only acceptable form of science. Our current technology explosion has only been possible because we have successfully separated science from theology, therefore eliminating biases that prevented empirical evidence from being applied to science in the past. Another example of this is psychological science, where the assumption that people had completely free wills given to them by God was transcended, and study of the anatomy of the brain has been able to yield a great deal of scientific advances and conclusions.
Historically, society has changed because of scientific discoveries. Galileo was considered a heretic because he believed that the Earth revolved around the sun. The Industrial Revolution, based on new science, changed the world forever. Facebook, instant messaging, and text messaging have changed the way we use the English language, in my opinion.
Society shapes the future of science because the demands of society dictate the funding that certain scientific projects receive, and it is very difficult for scientific innovation to take place without support and funding. From a materialist perspective, class creates consciousness and society creates scientific discoveries. We spend millions of dollars on cures for obesity and acne, but cloning is taboo because in our society we value appearance over research that would raise ethical questions that would be hard for us to answer.
Science is knowledge and based on truth. Although society may influence certain scientific ideas and position, it does not dictate honest and true science. Reason for this being is that science is based on verifiable laws and testing. The scientific method is used for knowledge. Science is knowledge, and ultimately, scientific laws can not be shaped, only discovered.