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Quote of the Day 8/7/08

August 7th, 2008 | by Paul Merda |

We must not forget that when radium was discovered no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science. And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science, and then there is always the chance that a scientific discovery may become like the radium a benefit for humanity. - Marie Curie (1867 - 1934), Lecture at Vassar College, May 14, 1921

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  1. 10 Responses to “Quote of the Day 8/7/08”

  2. By Liberal Jarhead on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    The best reply to anyone who disparages the value of research for which a practical use has yet to be found is Ben Franklin’s: “What good is a newborn baby?”

  3. By Mateo Giovanni on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    I liked the quote regarding science; to bad science is sometimes put in a respect similar to religion.

  4. By Craig R. Harmon on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    Yes but science must have limits, no? Josef Mengele did all sorts of experiments of which the benefits to mankind were not immediately obvious. Few today, I think, would suppose that his experiments should not have been opposed even if his experiments DID yield some benefit to mankind. That’s why we have ethicists in the fields of science and medicine: because some things ought not be done regardless of whether some beneficial outcome might come of it.

    Isn’t that the argument against torture? Sure it might yield actionable intelligence that might save many lives but some things just ought not be done, yield.

    Surely, if some pure scientist decided that there might be great advances in knowledge to be gained from vivisecting infant humans, people, religious or not, would not be out of line in protesting such scientia gratia scientiae, right?

    Mengele is the byword for skepticism about pure scientific research.

  5. By Paul Watson on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    Craig,
    The quote is responding to a trend of saying “Stop wasting money on basic science and give me a product I can sell”. There was nothing in there about science without limit. I’m not sure what your point, valid though it is, has to do with the quote.

  6. By Craig R. Harmon on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    Paul,

    My point is merely that freedom of scientific experimentation must have limits. Those limits ought not to be merely based upon the likely monetary benefit of such research but it must have limits.

    In short, the first word of my comment was, “Yes”, as in, “I agree.”

  7. By Craig R. Harmon on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    Put another way, not all science is beautiful. It can, and has been at times, quite ugly.

  8. By Paul Watson on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    Craig,
    Doesn’t that apply to everything, though? The only possible exception I can think of is God, and, well, I’m an agnostic so that rules that one out, for me at least. ;-)

  9. By Craig R. Harmon on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    Paul,

    Yes, it applies to everything, which is why I tried to high light the other side of the “science for science’s sake” coin.

  10. By Liberal Jarhead on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    As for me, I think about arguments like that in which people disparage what they call the useless spending on the space program, without acknowledging (maybe because they don’t realize) that advances including lifesaving microsurgery, electronic microminiaturization, and odds and ends like teflon have all been byproducts of the space program.

    Of course science can be, and has been, used in evil ways. There has never been a tool or system of thought that hasn’t been misused. But the basic human trait of curiosity, that leads people to investigate questions just because they want to find out more about the world, is the reason that we’re not still living on fruit and nuts and carrion and hiding from leopards.

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