This year's presidential election is shaping up to be like every other presidential election in recent history. The most sensible candidates were knocked out of the race months ago or never had a chance, and we yet again have a choice between the lesser of two evils in Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, two very similar evils if you actually look at their positions.
As disheartening as it may be to vote for the guy who you dislike the least, there's one issue that can make the choice between Romney and Obama a little easier: science. Since it's through scientific research that we're going to address some our most difficult problems, voting in a pro-science (or at least not anti-science) candidate is an important task. And the only way to accomplish it is to vote for Mitt Romney.
The thought of voting for a moderate Republican for president hurts my stomach a little bit, to be honest. But since President Obama has spent the last four years thumbing his nose at science, the fact remains that Romney is the better choice between the two candidates. Democrats will surely protest such a conclusions, so let's look at the president's record on science.
In 2008, President Obama voiced his concerns about the possibility that vaccines cause autism. It's a hypothesis that's nothing short of laughable if you ask the experts, but when you're hustling votes, which the president was doing at the time, the facts aren't always that important. This wasn't just a simple misstatement either, because the following year the United States experienced a shortage of the swine flu vaccine. One of the reasons for the shortage was the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) decision to switch from multi-dose to single-dose vaccines, which contain less of the preservative anti-vaccine activists wrongly think causes autism.
On the equally important public health issue of smoking cessation, President Obama has been no better. While the available research so far suggests that electronic cigarettes are an effective way to encourage smokers to quit, Obama's FDA has been less than accepting of the devices, actually trying to prevent the sale of e-cigarettes a few years ago. Instead, the federal government's advice to smokers has been to stick with nicotine replacement therapies that have a dismal success rate, like gum and patches.
The examples of the Obama administration standing against science are numerous, but I want to move on to the one issue on which the president is supposedly on the right side of science, climate change. While Mitt Romney has been rightly lambasted for his tap dancing on the issue, President Obama did next to nothing about climate change during his first term, despite lofty campaign promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even when the Democrats held majorities in both houses of Congress, and even a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the cap and trade bill was allowed to die, and the administration didn't force the issue.
It's true that Romney hasn't yet had the opportunity to weigh in on science policy at the national level, so some may say it isn't fair to compare his record on science to Obama's. But that's wrong for several reasons. For one thing, we know President Obama isn't as science friendly as he claimed to be. So it seems reasonable to take our chances with an unproven candidate in Romney rather than stick with an incumbent who has thrown science under the bus when it suits him. For another, Romney doesn't have to cater to the crazy progressive constituency that is driving so many anti-science policies in this country. Republicans by and large aren't afraid of vaccines, for example. So they won't put pressure on Romney to endorse the sorts of anti-science silliness that Obama has happily embraced.
Romney is hardly a pro-science candidate, of course. He's expressed skepticism about climate change, though now he apparently thinks it's real. And he'll probably be in step with the kooky pro-life people on issues like contraception and stem cell research. But on balance, he's better than our current president. That's why I'm going to hold my nose and vote for the Republican ticket next week.