Originally Posted by Saquist
One's about human benefit the other is about human curiousiity.
I would say saving lives would mean more than satisfiying my need for knowledge in general.
I agree with the ends, but even that which saves lives stems from that which was once mere curiosity. There's a reason why a basic knowledge of the core sciences is still greatly re-enforced before going on to studying things like medicine. As Sherlock Holmes said in the case of the Copper Beeches, "Data data data! I can't make bricks without clay."
A find like this opens up an entirely different area in biochemistry, something which is increasingly important in fields like medicine among others. You don't have to dump a whole lot into it. At this early stage, such research could probably benefit from a fraction of what goes into things like cancer research and what not.
Both can benefit us and save lives. The difference is that in an applied science I can say right off the bat that if the research is successful then it can be of practical benefit. In the more theoretical all you can say is we may or may not find something that will be of benefit. Both can benefit people it's just one is more clear cut in its potential. Both, however, will not benefit people at all if not pursued.
Now to be honest, I would be much much less impressed if they had found a new bug that had nothing more remarkable than being hot pink. But this, being an entirely new biochemistry carries greater potential weight with it.