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June 16, 2000


More on Scientist Salaries and replies to Red Porphyry


16 2000 13:51:09 EDT

From: Andrew Apel <

Subject: Re: Red Porphyry and Trewavas-A


I've interviewed scientists beyond counting, albeit primarily in the
field of

agricultural biotechnology, and one thing has always struck me about

they're having so much fun chasing down new discoveries that you have
to wonder

what they do during their free time.

Accordingly, I'm not completely convinced by salary averages. Besides,

are lots of people who make substantially less income for the sake of

what they enjoy. The classical example is that of the starving artist.

Red Porphyry wrote:

> >>well, here in the states, most of us assume that scientists are no

> >>different than anyone else, meaning that they're in it mostly for

> >>money, not ideology. the money from working in science allows them

> >>drive


Curt Hannah

Subject: Re: Red Porphyry and Trewavas-A

Dear Mr. Porphyry,

I have been reading what I think are some of your views concerning
why scientists do science in the U.S. Like the other working
scientists who have responded, I can't believe some of the things you
are saying.

Before I invest too much time in this debate, I am curious what
your background is that gives you insight into this.

I would appreciate a response.

Curt Hannah


From: John McCarthy

Subject: Re: Red Porphyry and Trewavas-A

Red Porphyry doesn't say how he "knows" what the motivations
of most

scientists are. I don't know most scientists either. However, there

is some evidence.

1. When they write autobiographies, scientists say what motivated them

towards science. Mostly it is a book read as a young teenager. Paul

de Kruif's _Microbe Hunters_ is mentioned by people who went into

medical science. Physicists often mention _Our Mysterious Universe_

by James Jeans. I read the above two, but the one that decided me was

"Men of Mathematics" by Eric Temple Bell. None of these books

mentions money.

2. When I was younger, I could always expect to double my salary if I

went into industry. The cost would have been having a boss.

There has always been a substantial differential between academic and

industrial salaries across all fields of science and engineering.

3. When scientists working in industrial laboratories, e.g. IBM or

Bell Labs, have received Nobel Prizes, most of them rather quickly

switch to an academic job. I suppose this is as a cut in pay.

If someone wanted to take the trouble, interviewing young PhDs

deciding what jobs to apply for would answer the question of whether

they are motivated by money. Besides engineering jobs in industry,

people with scientific training are also eligible for management jobs

which pay a lot more. Some go that route.


From: Red Porphyry

Subject: Red Porphyry and Trewavas-B

At 10:46 PM 6/15/2000 -0000, you wrote:

>>well, here in the states, most of us assume that scientists are no

>>different than anyone else, meaning that they're in it mostly for the

>>money, not ideology. the money from working in science allows them to



>Well I am a scientist in America and would like to know where to go to

>sign up for my 3,000-4,000 sq ft house and my 30,000 dollar SUV or

>luxury car.

uh, a real estate company or new car dealer? (1.9% financing + a

rebate on a 2000 Ford Explorer. Hurry while supplies last!) :-)

> Most scientist are not in it for the money, and most don't

>make exhorbitant sums that your letter suggest. Most are in it because

>they are driven my their inquisitive nature. And scientist at public

>universities certainly aren't in it for the money or they would be

>working for industry. If we were in it for the money we would be

>computer programmers, business executives, lawyers or medical doctors

>(not that these people are necessarily in it for the money either).

ah, but i never claimed or implied that a typical scientist made more

than lawyers or doctors. i agree, they don't. the main reason for this,

my opinion, is that in the u.s., lawyers and doctors are true

professionals, while scientists are, as i wrote, well-paid tradesmen

few exceptions). if you recall, what i wrote was "in it mostly for the

money". i did not write "in it only for the money", or "in it to be as

as midas". by this i simply mean that, when push comes to shove, those

become scientists value this (money) more than they do faithfulness to

scientific ideology. i stand by what i wrote. but don't take my word

it. the median starting salary for newly-minted, inexperienced ph.d.

scientists in the u.s. is $56,000, according to the american chemical

society and the national science foundation. after ten years on the

the median salary is in the range of $75,000-$80,000. granted, this is

no means extreme wealth, but i never claimed or implied that it was. it

what it is: a well-paid trade. please note also that when i say

i mean anyone with a ph.d. in a "hard" science ("hard" *does* include

biological sciences, in case you were wondering) who works in either

industry, academia, or the government, not just those who work on

campuses. i'm well aware that academic scientists earn, on average,

salaries than industrial or government scientists. but when talking

the earnings of scientists, all scientists should be included, no?

>Everything doesn't have to be black and white you can have a job for

>your ideals of improving the world and the love of discovery and also

>as a way to live a comfortable life.

i never claimed otherwise. "well-compensated" does not equal

or "selfish", at least in my opinion. your mileage may vary.

>[Red Porphyry wrote:]

>>here in the states, most people are fairly skeptical that any global

>>warming is taking place at all, and if it is, that people have

>>anything to do with it (the contributors to this list from the hudson

>>institute and the hoover institute will back me up on this, i'm

>>arguing that gm technology is necessary to counteract the effects of

>>global warming doesn't cut much ice with us yanks, i'm afraid.


>This is not a scientific study but most of the people I talk to in the

>states actually do think global warming is taking place. But people's

>views are not the baseline for the truth, science is.

yes, and the science is just sufficiently ambiguous enough to delay

action in the u.s. for years to come. global warming skeptics just need

play their cards right. in my original comments to dr. trewavas'
letter, i

included a relevant url on this brought to you by our dear friends at

cato institute. in addition, i draw your attention to an article

recently by dennis t. avery (no idea if he's related to the avery who

contributes to this group), the director of the hudson institute's

for global food issues", entitled "what's wrong with global warming?"

an aside, i encourage everyone to check out the hudson institute's web

(http://www.hudson.org). there's tons of interesting stuff there!).

finally, there is the following url:


which has some interesting things to say about possible flaws in the

surface temperatures are measured on the earth's surface. this last one

particularly interesting because it's most likely to send pro-global

warming atmospheric scientists (especially those who are borderline

obsessive-compulsive types who require their models to be absolutely

perfect) running back to their labs for two or three years trying to

explain this, in the meantime leaving global warming skeptics in

possession of the field. as someone else said here recently, the

eco-reactionaries take advantage of this behaviorial quirk (common to a

of scientists) all the time. global warming skeptics are not above

the same thing, when it suits their purposes--which in this case is to

delay implementation of any public policy action as long as possible.

>And more and

>more climatologist are coming to the same conclusion that global

>warming is "real". Having genetic engineering at our disposal to

>develop plants quickly that could grow better under conditions that

>may result from global warming (ex: drought tolerance) cuts ice with

>us Yanks quite well and I think a majority of Americans would support

>these endevors.

only if us yanks actually believe global warming is real. if that

it will come only when global warming skeptics run out of ways to

ambiguity (the one about flawed methods and assumptions in measuring

surface temperatures is particularly ingenious, in my opinion).

i don't need perfect temperature readings; the facts that arctic pack

is four feet thinner than it was in the 1950's and that it now rains in

antarctic summer on palmer peninsula tells me that *something* is

to the global climate. however, i think the majority of the american

*will* need perfect temperature readings before they become convinced

global warming is real.

>In closing I don't know why you think that a purely capitalist view

>devoid of any emotions or convictions or religion is somehow superior

>to incorporating a stewardship view for the role of science.

since i never either wrote or implied that, i'm fascinated to know how

came to that conclusion. all i did was make the observation that dr.

trewavas' view that man's role on earth is to be a "good gardner" with

express purpose of creating a "planetary garden" is an expression of

religious mysticism, not science. i also specifically said viewing the

world ultimately through a mystical lens rather than a scientific one

necessarily bad, so long as one is able to recognize it. i myself have

religious perspective regarding nature and man's role with respect to

why you concluded that i'm anti-religious or anti-mysticism is

perhaps known only to the gods. :-)


>science takes place in a vacuum from the culture, beliefs and

>religions in which it takes place.

never claimed otherwise.

>What exactly are you advocating, I

>just don't get what you are driving at?

for one thing, that scientists stop visualizing human achievements in

way that michaelangelo painted "the creation of adam" on the sistine

chapel: as acts that are purely positive. instead, they should be

visualized like the two sides of a coin, or better yet, like the

figure of janus, meaning that all human achievement is both positive

negative in its implications and consequences, and *both* the positive

negative consequences *will* (not *may*) manifest themselves in

and we should prepare accordingly.