Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Forbes (Feb 16) has an update on heart disease research. It appears that there is good reason to think that leukrotines are a problem and that leukrotine inhibitors are a promising treatment. "Both Merck and Pfizer are now racing to test whether their leukrotine-blocking drugs might work for cardiovascular disease." We hope. In this political season, the demagogues are also racing -- to be the first to threaten "big pharma" for "putting profits before people." The simple answer is that this is impossible; they make profits only if they succeed in saving (extending) people's lives.

It is just like the joke about the deconstructionist who puts aside his objections that science and engineering are simply cultural (and oppressive) artifacts when he is cruising to a conference at 30,000 feet to deliver the bad news about the hegemonists in their white coats.

The demagogues will surely have their lives and the lives of their loved ones extended and/or made less miserable by the nasties who are putting people before profits. Neither group can consider the irony. It is, after all, their intellectual capital that's at stake. What would they do for a living?

Yet, beating up the messenger (deconstructionists or demagogues, even MTV) overlooks the hard fact that they only succeed because they are delivering to an audience. There are large audiences for quirky messages. Mass higher education (a U.S. invention) seems not to have made a difference.