I work in science and got a degree in Zoology, and so I fully understand how people can be casually dismissive of scientific research which is not immediately translatable to human problems. This response from Dr. Sheila Patek to these kinds of criticisms is one of the best that I have heard so far.
Of course the Republican Senator wet his pants as soon as he heard the word “military”. But, as she points out, it goes beyond those kinds of applications. Science is about discovery, about working towards a more complete understanding of the world, and the universe, which we inhabit. Our world is our context, and a more comprehensive understanding of any context can bring a better understanding of the subject itself. You never know where your research will lead you, but the journey of discovery itself can be immensely rewarding.
Sometimes, when you’re under pressure in a hyper competitive environment and trying to produce a paper that you don’t even know if anyone will read, all the while making the same amount of money as a cook in a regularly priced restaurant, it is nice to remember that.