The average high energy physicist will receive a much greater benefit from the LHC [Large Hadron Accelerator] than will the average human. Consequently, the self-interests of high energy physicists don't align with that of the rest of humanity in deciding whether to turn on the LHC, so we should be very suspicious of their claims that the LHC is safe.
- James D. Miller
It has been at least fifty years (and probably much longer) since our knowledge of the world around us overshot our societal skills and our wisdom. Not only do we no longer care about societal benefit, but increasingly we don't care about societal cost either. The sure sign of this is that in a growing number of disciplines, the only reasons we can give for pursuing further knowledge is because we can and because it will support our belief/policy structure/agenda -- which, in these disciplines, utterly trumps all other considerations, including any potential cost to greater society.
Thus, at this point in the maturation of the human race, there really is no independently logical reason to further pursue research in:
- theoretical physics
- nearly all molecular biology
- non-ecological chemistry
- possibly economics
This does not mean that there will never be a logical reason to pursue these directions. The test question is a simple one:
Does the research have a real potential for medium-term benefit to humankind generally, beyond that of simple increase of knowledge? If not, can the research be conducted without any risk of harm (including increasing polarisation/ alienation) to humankind?
If the answer is "no", maybe we should be seriously re-considering our priorities?