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
agricultural biotechnology, and one thing has always struck me about
they're having so much fun chasing down new discoveries that you have
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
From: 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
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.
From: John McCarthy
Subject: Re: Red Porphyry and Trewavas-A
Red Porphyry doesn't say how he "knows" what the motivations
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
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
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'
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
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.