For centuries the exploration of science has been used to answer questions about the world that were previously unanswered. For this reason the main purpose of science is the pursuit for truth, not profit. If you look at the meaning of the word Science you will find that the word itself comes from the Latin Scientia meaning ‘knowledge’ implying that historically, at least, science is the pursuit of truth. In fact looking through dictionaries you will find a plethora of definitions all pertaining to the general idea that the word ‘science’ refers to a study of phenomena and finding out how they work. Nowhere does it mention profit.
Nevertheless this does not mean that Science is now not used for profit. Scientific advancements of all kinds in fields as varied as medicine, engineering and environmental science are all created for profit and have made some very clever people very rich.
However, speak to a scientist and it is unlikely he or she will say they got into the career for the money. While cures for diseases and ground-breaking inventions have the potential to make great profit the average science career is unlikely to make someone extremely rich. Someone entering into a science career will do so for their love of science, their love of experimenting and by definition, their love of the truth.
If you watch television reports reports of scientists getting ready for their next exciting experiments, such as the Hadron collider, you will see a great amount of excitement from those involved. They are not excited about the amount of profit they will get from it, this excitement stems from their desire to find out answers, to discover the unknown, to find out what will happen when we crash these particles together. Only after the initial experiments have been made will advancements occur which can make people money.
Profit does play a role in today’s science industry, investment will be placed in areas that are deemed more profitable and more useful, as a result certain scientific advancements are held back. Medicine is an area which probably suffers the greatest because of this. While there are scientists who would love to be discovering new cures for diseases funding is not always available so scientific investigations stop, if it is not deemed profitable for certain research to be made funding is withdrawn.
As with all things the question of general science being for the pursuit of truth or profit depends largely on about whom the statement is being made. For the scientist in the laboratory the purpose of science is for finding the truth, discovering new advances and learning something new. For the government, the large pharmaceutical companies and any other science industries the purpose of science is for profit, pure and simple.