Science: Funding and Morals

William Tivol tivol at
Thu Jan 25 17:29:26 EST 1996

Gregory R. Harriman (gregoryh at wrote:

:      This is certainly true, but you state the obvious.  Yes, people are
: rewarded according to how much society values their activities.  But my
: previous point (which perhaps was not apparent) is that these rewards are
: often grossly distorted.  In other words, much of what our society (USA)
: currently "values" is not in the best long term interest of that society.

	I agree that what I said is obvious (once one thinks of it), but
the great hue & cry over, for example, baseball players' salaries tells me
that many people have not thought of it.  I did pick up on your point, but
the problem is to decide what society "should" value.  Each of the people
who think ballplayers are overpaid have as many votes as those of us who
realize that they are obviously paid according to how much money they make
for the owners.  I know of few societies which have monitary values consis-
tant with their long-term interests.  How can the voters choose a society
in which rock stars get paid relatively little, but those who produce wealth
get paid a lot?  I wouldn't be willing to accept a system in which an expert
panel evaluates each job to arrive at a "correct" salary, and I can't find
an easy market-based solution either.  Some social activities, such as roo-
ting for the home team, have value to bind the members of a society together.
When such ideas are considered along with wealth creation, it makes the pro-
blem of societal distribution of effort and recompense even more difficult.

: I should be careful not to seem overly pessimistic but analyses of past
: civilizations have shown that decadent behavior is often a prelude to the
: downfall of that civilization.

	Indeed.  And if one of our adversaries solves the valuation problem
and starts acting in its long-term self interest, we are in for even bigger
trouble than we have now.
				Bill Tivol

More information about the Bioforum mailing list