Reagan Decries Putting Ideology Ahead of Rationality

November 6, 2005
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

"We must add our light to the sum of lights," declared Ron Reagan in his Nov. 6 keynote address to the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. He was quoting Billy Kwan, the half-Indonesian, half-Australian photojournalist of divided loyalties in the 1982 film, "The Year of Living Dangerously," a character who redeems himself by taking bold action in the face of moral crisis. Reagan encouraged the audience to take similar action to defend science, which he said is currently subordinated to political convenience.

"We must add our light to the sum of lights," declared Ron Reagan in his Nov. 6 keynote address to the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. He was quoting Billy Kwan, the half-Indonesian, half-Australian photojournalist of divided loyalties in the 1982 film, "The Year of Living Dangerously," a character who redeems himself by taking bold action in the face of moral crisis. Reagan encouraged the audience to take similar action to defend science, which he said is currently subordinated to political convenience.

Speaking before an audience of approximately 1800 pharmaceutical scientists at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, TN, Reagan said he supports public funding for stem-cell research because one day it may revolutionize medicine and relieve suffering from Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, and spinal-cord injuries. Some object to stem-cell research because it involves destroying an embryo, he said, but this means giving up hope for finding treatments for living, breathing, feeling human beings.

The moral arguments made by opponents of stem-cell research are inconsistent, Reagan said. He referred to the positions of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who hold that embryos are human beings and therefore should not be destroyed, but that discarded embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics may be used for stem-cell research because they are "surplus."

"Does that mean we've created a new category, 'surplus human beings'?" Reagan asked. "If this strikes you as nonsensical and self-contradictory, you are quite correct."

Reagan said that the debates over stem-cell research, the teaching of evolution, and global warming all show how science has been subjugated by political whim. Reagan said that President George W. Bush's 2000 post-election declaration that global warming "needed more study," was Washington code for doing nothing. "He could have pushed up standards for automobile gas consumption, but instead he raised tax subsidies for Hummers, the great phallic substitute that gets three miles per gallon," Reagan joked.

At the end of a speech peppered by venom and humor, Reagan concluded on a serious note: "Not all of us are as brave as Billy Kwan . . . and some lights shine more brightly than others . . . but together our lights can push back the dark. Go out and find the truth for yourself, weigh the truth, then speak truth to power."