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.