Science vs Engineering


And why it also tells about your interest and nature!

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Science and Engineering are two terms that are often tagged together. If you come from my part of the world, the difference is not even that concrete. As kids growing up, we would often hear — “If you are good at Science, you do Engineering”. 

But as related are both the terms, there are some significant differences between the two, and the differences lie both in terms of approach and the end goal. 

Science is concerned with understanding our world. It is the pursuit of the knowledge behind “what, how, and why”. Engineering, on the other hand, is concerned with the application of knowledge in creating something new. 

I like the quote by Elon Musk where he concisely captures the difference. 

“Science is discovering the essential truths about what exists in the Universe, engineering is about creating things that never existed.”

So, that way, Science leads to discovery, whereas Engineering leads to invention.

How is the difference related to our interests and nature?

Well, that is because of the difference in approach that drives Science and Engineering. 

Science is driven by “Is it true?” whereas Engineering is driven by “Is it useful?”. And therein it coincides with our own interests and nature.

Some of us are more interested in knowing, and some of us in applying. We can even trace our lives and look back on what we loved more as a kid: creating a plane out of paper, or wondering why the stars twinkle at night. 

Now, the question is: which approach is better? 

Well, there is no single right or wrong approach. Some like knowing more and delving deeper, some just like applying whatever they know. Ultimately, we are who we are and we love what love. If not for our unique nature and interests, we would all be the same boring bots. 

Also, just because one person likes knowing more, that doesn’t mean the person doesn’t like to create, or vice-versa. You can also love both “knowing” (which is Science) and “applying” (which is Engineering) equally. The point is rather that our inclination depends more on our interests and maybe even our inherent nature. 

The reason I mention nature is because the professional degree we have has very little to do with it. One could be a dancer and still relate more to the Science part of dancing, or an entrepreneur and relate more to the Engineering side. 

I can’t think of a better well-known example than Elon Musk, who has a degree in Science (Physics) but sees himself as an Engineer. 

Which one is more important?

Well, this reminds me of the never-ending (and ultimately futile) childhood debates along “Doctors vs Engineers”. Without Science, we can not pursue Engineering, and without Engineering, we can not make use of Science. Plus, even to pursue Science further, we need the tools and instruments born out of Engineering.

At times, we do come across fancy arguments, but that’s just playing around with the words. “Finding the essential truths about the Universe” might give the edge to Science whereas “Creating something entirely new in the Universe“ might give the edge to Engineering. 

The truth is, one requires the other. As for us, we require both! 

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