Even more abuse of science

Roxeanne de Luca is an annoying little creature. Without even being a creationist or a Christian she manages to engage in their style of argumentation: Make a positive claim, but pretend like the burden of proof is on the opposition. Even more annoying, she attempts to claim the mantle of science (in fields in which she has no significant experience), even though the specific topic will be a subjective one that cannot be defined scientifically. I’ve written about her antics in the past.

What I’ve also written about in the past is the abuse of science. People will commonly read a study which supports something they believe, but then they will inappropriately extrapolate the evidence. For instance, Christian and other far right bigots will find studies which show that it is categorically better for children to have two parents rather than just one parent. They will then extrapolate that gay parents aren’t good for children. That is wildly inappropriate and an obvious abuse of the far more limited evidence.

But this post is about another favorite topic of the far right: abstinence. They have this cockamamie idea that teenagers can be widely prevented from having sex with each other, therefore it’s okay to keep them ignorant about birth control. We’ve been seeing the deadly effects of this thinking in Africa and to a lesser extent South America thanks to the Catholic Church concerning condoms. Unfortunately, Roxeanne reflects this sort of backward thinking. Responding to a CNN article about the worth of casual sex, she says this:

Later in the CNN article, we are told – brace yourselves, conservatives, this is a shocker – that ‘protection’ is not all its is said to be: “[T]he rate of increased use of a condom does not seem great enough to offset the higher risks of infection.”

The above quote actually has nothing to do with the effectiveness of condoms. What it is saying, just after the article points out that increased sexual partners means increased STD risk, is that more people are using condoms, but they are not using them at a high enough rate in order to combat the frequency of infection. Roxeanne not only got this one dead wrong, but she did some very minor quote-mining. Here is the full excerpt:

“The more partners an individual has,” according to “Sex in America,” “the more likely he or she is to have sex with people who themselves have many partners, the more likely he or she is to have sex with virtual strangers, the more likely she or he is to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol during some sexual encounters, and while it is more likely that a condom was used, the rate of increased use of a condom does not seem great enough to offset the higher risks of infection.”

The obvious solution here is to encourage greater condom use while educating teens and others about their effectiveness. Abstinence is not the answer, nor has it ever been effective on a large social scale.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I work with troubled teens. It isn’t uncommon that some of them will have kids of their own – sometimes multiple kids – even though they may only be Freshmen or Sophomores in high school. One of the reasons for this is their ignorance about condom usage. During an educational group not too long ago they were being told about the need for such protection and their reactions were along the lines of, “Oh, I never knew that. I’ll start using condoms more often now.” I actually doubt many of them will unless forced by their partner, but the fact that they genuinely didn’t have this basic knowledge is indicative of the need for broad-based educational programs and protection promotion. No one can stop kids from having sex, but we can stop them from being ignorant.

But back to Roxeanne’s inappropriate and embarrassing extrapolation. The article clearly states that the increased rate of condom use is not high enough to combat the higher risks of infection. In other words, while condoms are effective when used properly, they are not being used frequently enough. More common usage can dramatically cut down on the rates of infection, but this will only be achieved through education and safe-sex promotion. At no point is it said that condom protection “is not all its (sic) is said to be”. No one doubts the effectiveness of condoms. The problem is with the effectiveness of educational campaigns and the spread of needed knowledge. People like Roxeanne who, in a willing abuse of science, put out misleading and false information are part of the problem; their promotion of ignorance contributes to increased rates of infection and even death.

State prayers

A number of states will be endorsing prayer today. I believe I heard about this awhile ago, perhaps even made a post on it, but it had slipped my mind until I saw a status update on Facebook. Now, as I’ve pointed out here before, Christians love to cherry-pick the parts of the Bible they quote, usually grabbing something from the Gospels. (Funny how they ignore the evils of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, huh?) But thanks to a post at The A-Unicornist, we can all play these selective games. From Matthew 6:5-6:

5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Problem, Christians?

New Cosmos

A new Cosmos is in the works:

In partnership with Sagan’s colleagues Ann Druyan (who is also his widow) and Steven Soter, Seth MacFarlane — yes, that Seth MacFarlane — is going to produce a new 13-part series to serve as a sequel and modern update to Sagan’s masterpiece.

Taking over the hosting duties will be none other than well-known astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has served as host of NOVA ScienceNOW on PBS for the past five years, so he has plenty of experience making science accessible to the general public. It would be difficult to think of anyone who would be better able to succeed the late, great Carl Sagan.

The folks working on it will take their time and do it right — it’s not scheduled to air until sometime in 2013.

It will unfortunately be airing on FOX, which means the commercials will be ridiculous, but I suppose it’s good that it will be given a broader audience than PBS gets. And it’s hard to go wrong with Neil deGrasse Tyson.