In 1969 Bob Wilson (later the first director of Fermilab) was called before a hearing of the US Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy to answer questions about particle accelerators. In it Senator John Pastore demanded to know how such a device improved the security of America and Bob Wilsons response of “nothing at all” didn’t go down to well, and so he was prodded further.
His obituary from Cornell in January 2000 puts it like this:
“It has only to do,” Wilson told the lawmakers, “with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.”
I have to concur.