First observation: I often hear someone defend their field of research by saying something like “hey, its not useful today, but someday someone will figure out a use for it.” Most recently I heard a budding choice theorist use this defense (and I wasn’t even attacking his field, he was just being defensive). I generally agree with this line. Further, I think some things are just interesting in themselves and don’t have to ever be “useful” for us to want to know more about them.
This argument is made for science as a whole or for a particular field, but the opposite case is usually made against individual scientists. Scientists, its argued, should stick to their own fields; venturing out isn’t useful. I’m in a math class this quarter that doesn’t, in any way, touch on my research. Several people, including the budding choice theorist, have wondered why I’m bothering taking the class.
Second observation: science and the generation of knowledge, it is well understood, should be an objective and fact-driven process. Of course, I agree with this sentiment, but people often confuse this idea with the one that individual scientists themselves should be unemotional and unbiased.
In both cases, I think the role of individual curiosity in science is being underplayed.