Oh really? What a surprise!

From the Reuters Science and Health category:

Experts say sex abstinence program doesn’t work

To summarize, the article reports on studies and reports from medical experts indicating that Bush and Republican supported sex abstinence programs are not reducing teen pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) nor are they increasing the age when sexual activity begins. They also emphasized that these programs may be doing more harm than good by not providing sufficient knowledge to teenagers on how to avoid pregnancy and STDs if they should have sexual relations.

These health professionals from the American Public Health Association, U.S. Institute of Medicine, American Psychological Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend instead comprehensive sexual education programs, that provide America’s youth with knowledge they need to make intelligent decisions, including abstinence, concerning sexual activity.

Did you notice how this ties in with my “blogging American Unreason” series (see the preceding two posts)? Indeed this is a perfect—but oh how it’s a perfect—example of American anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism in living action. Check out this quote taken from the second page of the Reuters article:

“Rep. John Duncan, a Tennessee Republican, said that it seems ‘rather elitist’ that people with academic degrees in health think they know better than parents what type of sex education is appropriate. ‘I don’t think it’s something we should abandon,’ he said of abstinence-only funding.”

Did you notice how he doesn’t try to demonstrate falsehood of the rational argument the “people with academic degrees in health” are stating, he just accuses them of being “elitist”. You have there ad hominem anti-intellectualism combined with anti-rationalism. That’s bad enough, but then he goes on to pander to parents by saying that they know better about sexual education than medical experts do. This is political manipulation: I think it is safe to say that most reasonably intelligent adults with kids, when they think about it, would say that sexual education of their children requires the engagement of both the parents and the schooling system. Duncan’s panders to knee-jerk reactions in fundamentalist and uneducated Americans, and hopes that the others will just go along out of laziness. And note as well how he says he “thinks” that abstinence-only funding should not be abandoned. He “thinks” it because he cannot provide rational, tangible evidence of its efficacy and furthermore he is confronted with rational, tangible evidence of its non-efficacy. The poor thing.

“Thinking” and “believing”, and their diverse bed-partners are red-flag words; they mean that the person is speaking without knowledge and/or expressing an opinion (which comes down to the same thing). That’s a reality of the human experience and everyone not only has the right to do so, but in certain cases the obligation to do so. Nevertheless, we all need to be able to make the difference between opinion and scientifically-established evidence. The latter is not necessarily ‘proof’, and researchers will be the first to tell us that, but it’s already a much more legitimate argument than “I think”.

But here in particular, we have an illustration of anti-rationalism that is, in all probability, doing harm to American youth. When is America going to put aside its puritan anti-rational silliness concerning sex? Why are Americans (parents, in particular) so freaked out about the human body, and why are the trying to “protect” their kids from knowing how it works? The result of this bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach is a first-place finish for teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world (be sure to scroll down and look at the chart).

Knowledge is power, especially when it’s about our kids and their future.

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