This is about as good a statement of what motivates scientists as I’ve ever heard. It’s by Feynman, of course, but, unlike some science popularizers who seem to deliberately overdo the “wonder” stuff, what Feynman said always rang true.
Listen to a “spiritual determinist”:
I’ll add this quote from H. L. Mencken:
“The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves one of the most useful men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigator. What actually urges him on is not some brummagem idea of Service, but a boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but a dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes.”