I was discussing science and religion with a family member last night, and our conversation drifted to the Large Hadron Collider.
This family member, whom I love dearly, mentioned that they thought the LHC costs entirely too much and that the money would be so much better used for humanitarian purposes. I replied that defense spending could be cut; the military-industrial complex should be the first thing to lose funds, not a scientific endeavor. My family member pressed that because this was unlikely to happen, the money to fund CERN should still be used to help Haiti instead.
I still stood firm in my conviction that scientific spending is in no way to blame for a lack of humanitarian relief funds, and that cutting research funds would be the most backward step to take. But is there something here? If defense spending was eradicated and there was still a need for disaster relief funds, should money be diverted from scientific research to a humanitarian cause? Should human welfare trump our quest for knowledge? Or ultimately, is human welfare the goal of our quest for knowledge?