To let someone completely modify it and not even attribute it back to them is near professional suicide
Almost almost right... In the article at the top of this discussion, the least restrictive (that is, the most permissive) license choice given was CC-BY. It - and indeed, all three licenses listed - require that attribution be preserved as a condition of reuse. That said, I'm on board with most of the rest of your comment. If we look at how most scientists expect and hope their published papers to be used, then even the no-derivative-works, non-commercial-only CC-BY-NC-ND license works just fine.
The need for appropriate attribution of others' work and ideas is already very deeply rooted in the sciences. In writing a paper for publication, one very seldom needs or wants to directly copy more than a few words from another author's work. Such limited, clearly-attributed, de minimus copying is already considered permissible, desirable fair use even when drawn from entirely non-free works.
Further, copyright doesn't cover ideas, but only their specific form of expresssion, so paraphrasing of descriptive material in non-free works is generally non-infringing of copyright--but still requires proper attribution for the purposes of academic publishing. Similarly, copyright doesn't protect simple facts (the mass of the proton was measured as such-and-such) but again academic publishers will expect such claims to be properly attributed.
A professor giving a lecture, or a scientist giving a talk at a conference, may lift figures wholesale from other authors' non-free work, as long as appropriate attribution is given; this sort of 'remixing' into a derivative work is taken to be fair use in an educational setting. (About the only place this bumps up against copyright issues is where this sort of material gets bundled into courseware packs that are sold by a university or other publisher.)
The writer of a review article may occasionally seek permission from another author to reprint a figure, but generally such material is included by reference to the original work, rather than by direct copying. Partly this is for the prosaic and increasingly-less-relevant purpose of limiting the length of printed papers, and partly this is for the entirely noble and worthy purpose of encouraging a reader to review a figure in its full context.
In truth, the expectations of the academic and scientific publishing communities regarding proper attribution and avoiding plagiarism already impose more stringent (but still generally reasonable) restrictions on most reuse of published papers than any license. For the purposes of disseminating and reusing scientific knowledge, it is far more constructive for papers to be gratis than libre.