Discussing Ethical Issues in Science & Technology in Spanish

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Some very specific vocabulary is part of conversations about ethical issues in Spanish. In this lesson, we explore the basic vocabulary that relates ethics to science and technology.

Science and Technology are Foreign

How would you feel about science and technology if your country did not have many people who are dedicated to either one? What if the smartphone had originated in a foreign country? This is exactly how people feel about science and technology in Latin America and Spain. The reason is the vast majority of the advancements in science and in technology come to Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Spain, etc. from other non-Spanish speaking countries. This does not mean there are not conversations about ética (EH-tee-kah), which is 'ethics.' Now, let's focus on science and technology.

Science and Technology

In Spanish, the word 'science' is la ciencia (lah see-EHN-seeah). La ciencia involves all the knowledge in different disciplines such as la medicina (medicine), la química (chemistry), etc. and, of course, la ética is very important.

Now, the word 'technology' is la tecnología (lah tehk-noh-loh-HEE-ah). To make it easy for you to learn the terms that come up in conversations, let's first put together all these key words in a sentence that comes in handy:

  • La ética en la ciencia y la tecnología es primordial. (Ethics in science and technology is key.)

Now, let's move on with some words. In this lesson, the best part is that you have a guide and examples on how to use specific words in real conversation.


To begin, you need to know how to say the word 'advancement' for both science and technology:

  • el avance científico (ehl ah-VAHN-seh see-ehn-TEE-fee-koh): scientific advancement
  • el avance tecnológico (ehl ah-VAHN-seh tehk-noh-LOH-hee-koh): technological advancement

What are you going to do with these words? You can learn a fixed sentence that is very natural in conversation:

  • _____ es un avance científico importante para la humanidad. (_____ is an important scientific advancement for humanity.)

Change the word científico for tecnológico as needed. Here are two examples:

  • El uso de células madre es un avance científico importante para la humanidad. (The use of stem cells is an important scientific advancement for humanity.)
  • El panel solar es un avance tecnológico importante para la humanidad. (The solar panel is an important technological advancement for humanity.)

Ethical People

When it comes to people, you can benefit from knowing two key words:

  • el científico/la científica (ehl see-ehn-TEE-fee-koh/lah see-ehn-TEE-fee-kah): the male scientist/the female scientist
  • el creador/la creadora de tecnología (ehl/la creh-ah-DOHR/DOH-rah deh tehk-noh-loh-HEE-ah): the male/female technology creator

You can also use the profession of the person who creates a new technology device. For example, if such person is a female engineer, you can say la ingeniera.

Now, let's refer to how they should work if they want to be ethical.

  • la actitud ética (lah ahk-tee-TOOD EH-tee-kah): ethical attitude
  • la buena fe (lah bwEH-nah feh): good faith
  • el bien común (ehl bee-EHN koh-MOON): common good
  • el buen criterio (ehl bWEHN kree-TEH-reeoh): good criteria
  • el juicio moral (ehl hoo-EE-seeoh moh-RAHL): moral judgment
  • la autoridad moral (lah ahoo-toh-ree-DAD moh-RAHL): moral authority
  • el uso responsable (ehl OO-soh rehs-pohn-SAH-bleh): responsible use
  • la honestidad (lah oh-nehs-tee-DAD): honesty

Let's look at this vocabulary in context as we read what Dra. Hernández says about how scientists would ideally be:

  • Todo científico debe tener una actitud ética y actuar con buena fe a fin de trabajar por el bien común. (Every scientist should have an ethical attitude and act in good faith to work for the common good.)
  • También, es importante poseer otras cualidades como el buen criterio y ser capaz de hacer un juicio moral razonable acerca de los experimentos. (Also, it is important to possess other qualities such as good criteria and be able to make a reasonable moral judgment about experiments.)
  • Sólo cuando el científico hace un uso responsable de su conocimiento, tiene la autoridad moral para estar orgulloso de sus logros. (Only when a scientist makes responsible use of her/his knowledge, s/he has the moral authority to be proud of her/his achievements.)

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