Money and self-esteem

aloisia schmid a-schmi at uiuc.edu
Fri Sep 19 00:30:54 EST 1997


In article <Judy-1809970932210001 at solace.zoo.duke.edu>,
Judy at amida.zoo.duke.edu (Judy Stone) wrote:


> 
> This talk about "society" valuing science makes me uncomfortable.  What I
> do does not directly benefit humans, and I feel blessed to be able to do
> it at all.  I think we, as academic researchers, are responsible for
> demonstrating how we benefit society.  Is my salary really more valuable
> than food supplements for poor children, medicare, or Amtrack?
> 
> 
> Only my second time posting to a newsgroup.  Hope my technique/etiquette
is ok.
> 
> Judy

Dear Judy,

      The thing is, there is no way of knowing whether what you are working
on will ever benefit society.  The people who were working on restriction
enzymes back in the 50's had no idea where it would all lead.  Pretty much
the same is true of everyone who has ever done anything that turned out to
be incredibly valuable....  So since we have no way of knowing whether
what we do is going to prove beneficial to humans, the bigger question HAS
to be, "Is science on the whole a beneficial undertaking?"  Do humans
benefit from scientific research?  

      Poor children, medicare and amtrack get less money from our societal
coffers than does the defense industry.  An industry, I might add, that
frequently justifies its own swollen coffers by informing us (i.e.,
society) what the invaluable humanitarian benefits are from its own
research and development efforts.  Think about all of the missiles GE
makes the next time you hear "we bring good things to life"....  The point
HERE being that those corporations have executives and CEOs earning
millions and millions, they have middle managers earning four or five
times what the typical academic scientist makes and I think that is just
not right.  

      My bottom line is that it is true that we are lucky to be in
challenging jobs, but LIFE is challenging and most people get paid very
well to be challenged and intellectually engaged---and scientists should
be treated with the same courtesy.



                                             Alice



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