Science and the military-industrial complex

I move in circles where people don't really like science; they're constantly complaining about corporate science whores covering up the truth, working for Big Pharma, trying to sell us dopey pills and being slaves to the military. The irony of some of them doing this on their computers and smartphones over the internet while drinking pasteurised milk is not lost on me. (Incidentally, some of those who call themselves liberal or leftist have also succeeded in giving liberalism and leftism a bit of an anti-science reputation in some quarters, thus driving some popular science publications even more rightwards than they already were thanks to being propped up at least in part by industry money. Nice job breaking it, guys!)

Anyway, now that I've finished insulting the people I was supposed to be trying to win over (nice job breaking it, Osnat! Next time, shut your big mouth and remember that no matter how juicy that snark is, it's not worth permanently offending the people you're trying to convince), I should probably continue without too many other digressions. Perhaps some view scientists as freely and willingly doing evil on behalf of murderers and conmen. I doubt ideology is as much of a motive as holding down a job in a subject you invested several years and thousands of pounds in studying, but my cynicism isn't really doing my arguments any favours and if I tell you all a somewhat moving anecdote it's probably more psychologically available than all of the constantly happening snark. So let me tell my story.

I'm a science student. My dream is to eventually become a research physicist and try and answer fundamental questions about our universe and what it's made of. Curiosity is pretty much my sole motivation.

"What?!" you say. "A scientist who says they're not in it for the money?!"

No, I'm not. If I were in it for the money, I would have become a banker; anyway, to earn any serious money you'd probably be looking at applying physics, particularly in a military context, rather than researching it. Unless you're a Nobel laureate, most of the money for research goes on the actual research, not the scientists' salaries.

I'm not in it for the ideologies, either. I don't want to help kill people or feed them up with medicines; I don't want to put more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Given science's reputation as a pretty evil thing I doubt many people will believe me - but it's true. Hell, I'm anti-war - why would I go into science to support the military?!

So if I'm not doing it for the money or the ideology, what's left? What I started out with: curiosity about why and how the universe works the way it does, the curiosity I've had since I was a child, the curiosity that kept me animated. I always dreamed that through science I could do something good for others.

You can scoff at me and laugh at me for that; I wouldn't blame you at all. But if you think that my love of science trumps my desire for things to change for the better I think I have to set you straight.

You think I like seeing science used to kill and harm?! You think I actually like Big Pharma's lying, cheating, sickening practices that actually make people worse?! You think I'll cast aside my morals for the sake of a pay packet?!

Fuck you. Just...fuck you if you think that's true. It sickens me to see what science is used for and it sickens me to see the military-industrial complex providing most science funding, because it sickens me to see something that could feed and house the entire world used to find more ways to kill people and sell pills to the ones that are left at exorbitant prices. It sickens me even more as a science student because this is the utter perversion of something I love; I wanted to help, not to harm. I want scientists to be able to do cool things, to be able to do some of the most amazing things humanity has ever done, without having their agenda set by greedy generals and businesspeople.

And if anyone says that's unrealistic, they're talking to someone who sees no reason for our current systems (which are only a couple of centuries old at most) to continue on as they are. I see no reason, either, why I should be forced to give up either my ethics or my love of science.

So why aren't I taking a more active stand against this system? The short answer to this is that I am. The long answer to this is that I'm only a science student, and only a low-level one at that; I'm not at university, much less an academic, so there is only so much I can do in terms of trying to tear science out of the clutches of the military-industrial complex. I don't have the clout, the money or the inside knowledge to do that; all I have is my voice.

And feeble as it is, it's what I'm trying to use because I like the agendas of war and profit as little as the people who perhaps still think I'm a corporate whore.


  1. Your friends who call you a corporate whore are Marxist totalitarian thugs who would turn the Western world into a poverty-stricken wasteland ruled by anarchist mobs. Corporations are just a bunch of people getting together to produce stuff other people want to buy. if you don't like a corporation, don't buy it's goods. If you don't like the arms industry, vote for governments that won't buy arms. But before you do, just make sure their isn't a Hitler or Stalin waiting to swallow up democracies that don't have any way to defend themselves.


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