Part of the: Common Arguments by Skeptics and Deniers series
A common argument among skeptics/deniers is that scientists fabricate scares just to raise grant funding. If this were true then one would expect scientists to be, on average, a very deceitful and greedy bunch. So lets analyze a few scientists and see exactly what kind of people we are dealing with. The method I used to choose the following scientists was simple. They are the last three scientists that acquired a million dollars and made it to the front page of Digg news service.
Our first stop is a NASA scientist that ended up with $20 million in royalties from inventing the super soaker water gun:
Notice how he spent his money on more research and "returned to his roots". He could have spent his money on a giant house, traveled the world, and spent his money on materialistic things but it would appear this is not the case. Granted he did start his own science oriented business so one could make the argument that he is simply trying to earn more money. On the other hand one could certainly argue that there are more lucrative and less labor intensive ways of earning money than the hardcore physical sciences and he is simply following his heart. I will refrain from making an absolute judgment on this individual.
Next up is Abul Hussam, a chemistry professor at George Mason University in Fairfax. He won a $1 million dollar prize for developing a life saving technology to remove arsenic from water.
How does he plan to spend the cool million? From MSNBC:
Hussam said he plans to use 70 percent of his prize so the filters can be distributed to needy communities. He said 25 percent will be used for more research, and 5 percent will be donated to GMU.This suddenly "rich scientist" spent his entire million dollar prize on helping others and furthering research. Could you say you would do the same?
Then there is the even more extreme example of Grigory "Grisha" Perelman who turned down the Fields medal and a million dollar Clay Mathematics Institute prize only to co-exist with his mother on a $74 a month pension.
It seems from this small sample set that many top academic/federally funded scientists simply are not driven by money and many will freely give it away if they happen to stumble upon it. At least two of these three scientists are at the self actualization stage of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Although these are only anecdotes they go a long way in showing that many top scientists are generally far more altruistic or knowledge loving than the 'grant money scamming Nazis' many politicians and climate change skeptics/deniers such as Senator Inhofe label them as. If these scientists were to claim global warming was a 'no-brainer' would Senator Inhofe be able to label them as scam artists?
More counterarguments against the "grant scam" can be found here. Readers, if you know of other stories please post.
MSNBC, $1 million prize awarded for water purifier, Bangladesh-born professor devised simple method for removing arsenic
The Sydney Morning Herald, Maths genius living in poverty, Nadejda Lobastova and Michael Hirst in St Petersburg, Russia August 21, 2006
Clay Mathematics Institute, Millennium Problems