Should money for scientific research be diverted to a humanitarian cause?

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?

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Maybe rather than diverting money from scientific endeavors, the Government should stop subsidizing religions with tax free status.


Basic innumeracy or the ability to compare two hugely different sums of money. The sum today required to "make everything everywhere better in every way" will never really be knowable. The cost to slam protons together is a known quantity (3-4 times higher than we thought).


We could also pave every dirt road before we put out all the fires or drink all the milk we were ever going to drink before we poured the cereal. These are the simple versions of the false choice trap.


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