Jonathan Lethem
Jonathan Lethem writes novels and stories. He teaches at Pomona College.

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REASON 79: Because President Obama supports stem cell research, while Romney's position is, er, wiggly.

President Obama has provided funding for stem cell research, an avenue promising new and life-saving treatments for heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer's, and dozens of other diseases. He's had to do so by executive order, in the face of fierce Republican opposition, which prevents any chance of positive legislation.

Romney, meanwhile, has managed to stake out equivocating, obfuscating, and disingenuous stances on the issue. The anti-choice right wing, which defines stem cell research as an equivalent to abortion, believes that Romney shares their extremist position. Romney himself claims to support the "scientific alternative," known as iPS, without acknowledging—or could he somehow not know?—that iPS requires stem cell research to progress; the two presently go hand in hand, or not at all.

Ironically, to pander to the anti-stem cell research position is no less than to toss future human lives on the scrap heap.

Expanding a bit on this theme: What is it, anyway, that prepares a candidate to fudge on matters of such clear logical consequence that they may as well be matters of arithmetic? Is it perhaps the polymorphous and amoral world of investment finance, where wishful thinking like "one plus one equals three" is the Tinkerbell every participant must applaud to keep aloft?

Finally—and granting the severe and tragic failures of the Obama administration to do much more than whisper the words "climate change" during this campaign—let us at the very least consider that the stem cell question may be taken as a kind of rebus for the unspoken "doomsday" question hanging over every human life, and as to which we will depend on a next Obama administration to do much, much more than whisper. To laugh expediently in the face of science is, unmistakably, the precedent for a Romney administration's unwillingness to confront our unspoken reality. To evince some faith in science, as regards stem cells, may be—let us fervently hope—the Obama campaign's prerequisite for helping the United States begin to address the kind of paradigm shift away from "growth" models for civilization, which may be civilization's only chance.

Jonathan Lethem
 Los Angeles, California


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