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Friday, 6 February 2009

The Haldane principle- an excuse for scientists to do whatever they want.

The Haldane principle is an admirable thing, and it ensures that the academia of science is not tainted by outside influences. However at this current moment in time perhaps this is what is needed. An example would be the LHC, a fantastic piece of kit for certain, and probing the very fundamentals of physics, hopefully to answer questions about how the universe works on a level more fundamental than we yet understand. But I personally feel this is noting more than knowledge for knowledge's sake. Science has improved the lives of people for generations with inventions and concepts such as computers, vaccination, ecology and fundamental scientific method. But what does the LHC, the higgs boson and M-theory all give to the masses? Will it improve their quality of life? Will it cure their illnesses?

Like the moon landings 40 years ago, the LHC is a great accomplishment of science, but is ultimately nothing more than a white elephant. It does nothing to actually improve ourselves as a society, with the possible exception of smiling and feeling smug that we can do it.

We should emphasise spending in areas that will tackle our immediate problems- Climate change, AIDS, Cancer, The energy crisis and so forth. Spending should still be given to purely academic pursuits, but not so much as is given to research into areas that will ultimately provide solutions to problems.