Two short excerpts from “The Value of Science” by Richard Feynman:
Another value of science is the fun called intellectual enjoyment which some people get from reading and learning and thinking about it, and which others get from working in it. This is a very real and important point and one which is not considered enough by those who tell us it is our social responsibility to reflect on the impact of science on society.
Is this mere personal enjoyment of value to society as a whole? No! But it is also a responsibility to consider the value of society itself. Is it, in the last analysis, to arrange things so that people can enjoy things? If so, the enjoyment of science is as important as anything else.
Not a point of view you hear often. (As a side-note, I am reminded of the science power-dream alluded to in Fred Hoyle’s “The Black Cloud” [spoiler alert]. One of the reasons you don’t hear this point of view being expressed often is perhaps because the ones in charge of allocating resources towards science are often ignoramuses who lack the capability to comprehend this argument.)
When we read about this in the newspaper, it says, “The scientist says that this discovery may have importance in the cure of cancer.” The paper is only interested in the use of the idea, not the idea itself. Hardly anyone can understand the importance of the idea, it is so remarkable. Except that, possibly, some children catch on. And when a child catches on to an idea like that, we have a scientist. These ideas do filter down (in spite of all the conversation about TV replacing thinking), and lots of kids get the spirit — and when they have the spirit you have a scientist. It’s too late for them to get the spirit when they are in our universities, so we must attempt to explain these ideas to children.
An interesting thing about R.P.F’s essays* is that they convey the profundity of their ideas in the simplest of language. Try as I might, I cannot think of anything relevant to add to the excerpt.
R.P.F says it all.
*apart from the warm and fuzzy feeling I get I read them, which I assume you do as well.