The post about atheism in UK scientists will go up in about 1.5 hours; in the meantime, listen to Feynman on scientific honors.
As you’ll see from the video, Feynman feels pretty much the way I do about scientific honors. The real honor is being able to see something that nobody else has ever seen—to learn a brand new fact about nature. That’s an enormous thrill and a privilege. Everything else is gravy, and pretty thin gravy. In fact, I’m not sure that they should give out prizes to scientists at all. Ditto for honorary societies, which, as Feynman notes, seem to function largely to choose who else gets to join you in the pantheon. We’d still do exactly what we do even without the Nobel Prize or the Royal Society, for the greatest honor is the attention and approbation of fellow scientists.
After saying that he sees the Nobel Prize as a “pain in the neck,” Feynman adds this: “I’ve already got the prize: the prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick of the discovery, the observation of it; people use it. Those are the real things. The honors are unreal to me. I don’t believe in honors.”
Well, he did use part of his Nobel Prize money to build a beach house! But I wasn’t aware that he’d resigned from the National Academy of Science. (My advisor, Dick Lewontin, also did that, but such resignations are rare.)