Well, nothing, really. Although some might argue that many advances in science happen when one group of people is trying to figure out how to kill another group of people.
You could argue, however, that we also make advances in science when peaceful people get excited about what the future could look like. Look at how many things we now have that are directly inspired by stuff from Star Trek. (And my smart phone is way cooler than Dick Tracy’s wristwatch. Just sayin’.)
And there’s always the bottom line: Money. Try this thought experiment: what would happen if, instead of using bazillions of dollars on finding new and more appalling ways to kill each other, we used that money to fuel scientific research into medicine, physics, astronomy, the space program, and so on. Can you just imagine the strides we could make?
Money works — Qualcomm is currently offering a $10 million XPrize for a working medical tricorder, for example. Seriously, I think it’ll be on your smart phone someday. Your kid has an earache? There’s an app for that! You have a migraine? Ditto!
Some of this is coming, yeah. But there could be so much more, so much faster — with fewer hungry people in the mean time — if we weren’t cutting research funding. If human beings could just stop fighting over stupid things like lines on the ground and who gets to believe what about how the universe came to be, so we could spend money on what’s important, like curing diseases and feeding children so they don’t go blind from malnutrition.