Being reality-based is elite?

By Phil Plait | April 25, 2008 12:42 pm

Abstinence-only education does not work. This is beyond a doubt: test after test, study after study show that it does not lower pregnancy rates, nor lower the amount of sexually transmitted diseases, nor does it change the average age when sexual activity begins.

And the feds have funded it to the tune of over a billion dollars over the past 20 years.

Several health experts and scientists testified before Congress recently, once again saying these obvious truths:

“Those adolescents who choose to abstain from sexual intercourse should obviously be encouraged and supported in their decisions by their families, peers and communities. But abstinence should not be the only strategy that is discussed,” [American Academy of Pediatrics member Dr. Margaret ] Blythe said.

A logical course of action and a thoughtful statement.

However, how do you think Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) responded to this? He said

… 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.

And there you have it. The antiscience bigotry is now out in the open for all to see. Experts with decades of total experience in the field, studying teen habits, observing and testing their reactions to abstinence-only programs versus other methods… they’re elitist. Wow. Someone ought to tell the Congressman to face it: these experts do know more than most parents. That’s what studying does: it makes you learn. That’s why they’re experts.

I almost have to admire Representative Duncan. Such obstinance and stubborn refusal to look reality in the eye, to even admit reality exists… it’s so pure and unadulterated adherence to dogma that it’s almost artful.

Is it too much to ask that one of the governing bodies of the United States of America be occupied by people who understand how reality works? Maybe if I say please?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Politics

Comments (120)

Links to this Post

  1. You're an expert, so you're clearly an idiot | cephyn | April 25, 2008
  1. BigBadSis

    May I remind the good Representative that most likely a good majority of these “elitist” scientists have children of their own?

  2. CGM3

    Does it also seem “rather elitist” to Rep. Duncan that people with academic degrees in medicine are the ones allowed to diagnose, prescribe, perform surgery, and so forth, while those without such degrees aren’t?

  3. tsg

    Ah ain’t never had no use for that thar fancy book larnin’

  4. David

    Why is elitist such a bad word now? Elitism is the belief we should value the opinion of people who are the best at what they do (the elite) more than others. Elitism kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

  5. Phil, you know as much as I do, this will never happen. As long as religion reigns as #1 around most parts, science, or even common sense, will always take a back seat.

  6. Daffy

    Rich Republicans always refer to their opponents as “elitists.” The amazing thing is, their gibbering followers always believe them. Always.

  7. Well, playing Devil’s advocate for a moment here… the representative does have a point. Where does the right of a parent end and the right of the state begin? Perhaps it is elitist to suggest that educated people might know better than parents what type of sex education is appropriate.

    The question is… So what?

    The state should be funding a broad, accurate cirriculum. Parents who want tailored cirricula or a cirriculum that teaches outside main-stream should send their children to private schools.

    It’s elitist insane to think that any yahoo, by virtue of successfully operating their genitals, might know better than educated people what type of sex education should be supported by taxpayer dollars.

  8. defectiverobot

    Yes Phil, it is too much to ask. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go phone in my American Idol vote.

  9. Quiet_Desperation

    I really hate the “parents know better!” meme.

    I’ve seen so parents that I wouldn’t trust to raise a hamster much less a child.

  10. meeeeeeeeee

    Wouldn’t the same logic make it “elitist” for the government to create rules for society to follow? Or the MPAA / FCC to decide what people’s children can and can’t see on television without the parent’s involvement?

    Just plain silly.

  11. tsg

    I really hate the “parents know better!” meme.

    Parents would know better if they would listen to the people who know better, like the “elitists” who have figured out that ignorance-only sex education doesn’t work, instead of those who don’t, like these idiots with an agenda.

    Parents are like drivers: you can’t tell either one of them they’re doing it wrong.

  12. Ragutis

    These are, after all, the same people who used “intellectual” derogatorily in 2000 and 2004.

  13. Navneeth

    Such obstinance and stubborn refusal to look reality in the eye, to even admit reality exist

    Looks like he had an obstinance-only education. ;)

  14. drew terry

    Parents raise their kids in largely the same way as their parents raised them. If the parents were raised and accepted in an abstinence-only household, they will believe abstinence to be best; if they suffered from abstinence, they will interpret their experience as what they deserved ‘for their own good.’

    To the extent they believe it was truly for their own good, they will be obstinate about abstinence for their own kids.

  15. MarshallDog

    tsg,

    “Ignorance-only sex education” … I love it! I’m gonna start calling it that from now on.

  16. tito

    It doesn’t matter if the “elitists” know better than the parents. Parents, not the government, should decide what values to teach their children, and as long as this does not conflict with the law the government should leave them alone. I for one do not want the government to tell me what I should and should not teach my children. So, the parents should be educated on sex and they should decide how best to talk to their kids.

  17. Michelle

    You know what I hate the most about it? They usually don’t say “hold back your urges until you’re 18.” They usually say “Hold back your urges until you’re married.”

    That is terrible. They are literally imposing a way of life on you. THEIR way of life. Trying to drill it in your brain as a kid. There’s just one way to go in their books.

    And why can’t they understand this simple thing: forbid a kid from doing something and they’ll just want to do it more! Think it up… We all acted that way when we were brats. Made things WAY more thrilling!

  18. infidel

    Gee, a Republican from a Bible Belt state pandering to the fear of conservative parents that liberal academia is corrupting their children’s morals. I’m shocked.

    Are you a parent, Phil? I am. Looking at this from the perspective of a parent wanting to protect my children, I can empathize with the “abstinence only” thinking. The idea that your minor children might become sexually active is a pretty jarring thought, one which probably strikes fear into a lot of parents. It’s really hard to get your mind around it.

    I see a lot of parallels between this and teaching ID in public schools. There is some percentage of parents who will never be happy with what the schools teach.

    We all know, or know of, people whose parental skills/judgement is questionable or sorely lacking. But there seems to me a slippery slope if we start down the path of letting the ‘village’ make decisions for every family.

  19. Jim Shaver

    tito said:

    Parents, not the government, should decide what values to teach their children, and as long as this does not conflict with the law the government should leave them alone. I for one do not want the government to tell me what I should and should not teach my children.

    But knowledge about sex, sexually transmitted disease, and contraception is not a value, it’s useful information for individuals of sexual maturity and for society as a whole. Why is that so hard for many people to understand?

  20. Matt Garrett

    Point in fact ABSTINENCE DOES WORK. But if you’re being abstinent and you decide to have sex, you’re not really being abstinent anymore are you?

    The immaculate conception has only happened once.

    And I noticed that you make this grandiose statement that abstinence doesn’t work, but you offer NO EVIDENCE. What has happened to you, BA? You used to be all about the EVIDENCE!

    As for Tito … HAZZAH!

  21. If the sex-ed curriculum actually worked, then there would have been a noticable decrease in teen pregnancy since its introduction, rather than an enormous increase. And guess what? The teen pregnancy rate has dropped by about 33% over the period of the last 20 years, which corresponds with what change in the curriculum?

  22. KC

    Warning: Rant Ahead.

    Having had a front-row seat of education issues, I can honestly say there’s no shortage of “experts” in the upper levels of administration who cannot teach yet presume to tell those who do how to preform their jobs. That, in a nutshell, is elitism.

    Career teachers are a bit jaded about “experts.” So are parents. Especially about “experts” who act like parents should have absolutely no say in their children’s curriculum.

    That, people, is elitism. And if these “experts” had a clue, they’d realize that the one sure-fire way to generate resistance is to adopt an attitude of condescension.

    Having, in another field, gone several rounds about an unworkable idea with an “expert” who couldn’t pour water out of his boot with instructions on the heel, I’ve been there, done that. There’s no quicker way to develop a very large chip on your shoulder.

    In my own unscientific observation, the ones who don’t come across as elitist are the ones who’ve come up “through the trenches,” who approach not with an attitude of “I’m so much smarter than you that you must bask in awe in my presence” but one of “You know, I’ve tried that, too, and this is what works.”

    This is what Rep. John Duncan is referring to. Call that anti-science if you like. The fact is that there is an air of elitism from “experts,” and that holds whether their information is valid or not. And if “experts” think they can dismiss the concerns of parents or cut them out of the process, then the charge of elitism is dead-on.

    If experts were to sit down and say “Look: abstinence is the best policy both psychologically and physically and we support that, but we also need to let them know how to prevent SIDS and pregnancy,” then that’s going to go over a whole lot better than “Abstinence only doesn’t work so we’re going to ditch it and concentrate on preventing SIDS and pregnancy, and we don’t care what you think.” The latter is elitism; the former is not. And the experts need to be aware that there has indeed been decades of elitism where education is concerned that must be overcome before people think this isn’t just more of the same.

    And that’s my rant for the day.

  23. Matt Garrett

    I also can’t help but notice that the liberals here want all options discussed and taught as long as it pertains to SEX. But when we’re talking about the origins of the universe? Only one point of view will be tolerated.

    I think Webster called that HYPOCRISY.

  24. Gonzo

    It seems to me that the forces of anti-science have long been out in the open sir Phil. Keep up the good work though.

  25. Gonzo

    @Matt: You may think that you think Webster called that HYPOCRISY, but you’re not thinking.

  26. bigjohn

    Abstinence is a good ideal. Abstinence-only is idiocy. Kids need to know everything about their potential activities(even though they think they know more than anyone teaching them ever could). Explaining the hows and whys of sexual activity might make some of them think twice about what they are doing. There are activities available to them which could alleviate their natural passions with little or no chance of pregnancy or disease transmission, but, of course, these are forbidden by the Bible. So, in the name of religion, the spread of teenage disease and pregnancy will continue unabated. Thank you, Jesus!

  27. aiabx

    Are you a parent, Phil? I am. Looking at this from the perspective of a parent wanting to protect my children, I can empathize with the “abstinence only” thinking. The idea that your minor children might become sexually active is a pretty jarring thought, one which probably strikes fear into a lot of parents. It’s really hard to get your mind around it.

    I am. An while I’m not happy about the notion of my teenage kids having sex, I know that teens often do stupid things no matter how well they’ve been raised, and I hope my kids have the sense to protect themselves from unwanted side effects. Keeping them ignorant is going to make things worse for everyone.

  28. The immaculate conception has only happened once

    Well, there’s a story about it happening once, to a human.

    However, it happens in nature all the time.

    Google: Parthenogenesis

  29. Rob Zombie

    I come here to see some awesome exploding things in the sky. Not this AMERIKKKA SUX stuff. Not that I disagree, it’s just annoying.

  30. If being a reality-based elitist is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right!

    Also, I’m a parent. I think arming my child with as much useful and correct information as possible is in her and our (society) best interests, and that with correct information she will make correct choices.

  31. I also can’t help but notice that the liberals here want all options discussed and taught as long as it pertains to SEX. But when we’re talking about the origins of the universe? Only one point of view will be tolerated.

    I think Webster called that HYPOCRISY.

    I don’t think i’ve ever been accused of being liberal, and I don’t want sky-fairy stories told in science classes. Discussion of the origin of the universe in a science class should absolutely be limited to available, supportable evidence, and well sprinkled with logic and reason. It is not hypocrisy to support science and not religion.

    Sky-fairy stories belong in literature and comparative religion classes. In those classes if you want to talk about the origin of the universe described in some ancient text or how the universe originated according to the Sky-Fairy of the Desert versus the Ground-Fairy of the Mountains, that’s cool with me too.

    But those two classes are by no means equivalent in any way. One is evidence and reason based, the other is philosophy and story based.

    I’m a big supporter of comparative religion classes in school. I think that getting a good look at the major world religions, presented on equal footing (i.e not presented as Christianity = true, everything else = myth) is part of a well-rounded education. I highly doubt that such a class would fly in many parts of the USA or middle-east, however.

  32. Doc

    I just love the recent trend among politicians of using the word “elitist” to describe others.

    These people earn way over the average income in the US (some by a factor of 1000), most of them attended very exclusive universities, they routinely fly back and forth to D.C. in first class, they regularly attend $1000/plate dinners (usually as guest of honor), they rarely (if ever) have to do their own cooking, cleaning or shopping, they have their own health club, they have great health insurance, and if they decide to leave their job after a few years they get an incredibly generous pension for the rest of their lives.

    But they’re all just average guys, right?

    It was especially ironic hearing Senator Clinton call Senator Obama elitist. Back when there were a half dozen candidates still in the running, he was the only one with a net worth of less than $2 million. All of the rest of the candidates had a net worth of more than $30 million.

    I’m seeing shades of “Atlas Shrugged” again. Should we start referring to Rep. Duncan as “Cuffy Duncan”?

  33. Matt Garrett, how about actually reading what’s written, and the articles referenced?

    The issue isn’t abstinence. It’s “abstinence-only education”, a program where, like the creation-only education which is the true goal of ID, reality is ignored and fairytale is prefered.

    Even if it did make more people wait until marriage, it leaves the ones who don’t in the dark about the dangers (except for “it’s bad, don’t do it) and how to protect yourself. But the research shows it doesn’t even lead to increased rates of abstinence. It’s an attempt to fight biology with ignorance. And guess what, ignorance always loses.

  34. nvt2125

    While there are parents that do teach their kids all the information they’ll need to make responsible dicisions about their sex lives, most people will do anything to put off or avoid “the talk.” They may even give, intentional or not, misinformation or just have a “don’t touch your coo-coo” attitude.

    Abstinence education WITH comprehensive sex education is vital for kids who are not fortunate enough to have parents they can go to for the accurate information they WILL need when they make the decision to become sexually active.

    If you want to leave it up to the parents to teach sex ed, then how can we make sure that the kids who don’t have responsible parents receive the accurate information they will require?

  35. Nindubsar

    What’s worst about abstinence-only sex ed is that much of it is blatantly dishonest. There’s a lot of emphasis on how often condoms fail (with exaggerated statistics; most of the time when contraceptives fail it’s because they are being used improperly), so kids end up with the impression that condoms don’t work so, hey, let’s not bother to use them at all! Then they end up having oral or anal sex (because they think it doesn’t really count, somehow) without protection. Crud.

    Back in the day, Planned Parenthood gave little lectures at my old high school on issues like peer pressure, drinking, sex, and yes contraception. And to all you frightened puritans: they DID mention abstinence. They stated, several times, that “the safest sex is no sex”. BUT, if you are going to go out and have sex, here is how to avoid pregnancy and AIDS. It’s perfectly reasonable. My parents raised my brother and I to be educated about contraception: one was a doctor and the other used to be a social worker, so they didn’t have any illusions about life. Hell, my mother convinced my brother’s girlfriend to go on the Pill! And guess what? My brother and I are cautious, responsible, respectful to the opposite sex, and in terms of sexual activity we’re practically nun-like in comparison to our friends!

    Refusing to educate people about contraception for fear that they’ll have sex is like refusing to tell people the location of the fire exits for fear that they’ll play with matches.

    Abstinence-only education in third-world countries, now… Grr. That just makes me angry. People are dying of AIDS. In droves. For god’s sake, put your hangups aside, face reality and do what’s right!

  36. Why the surprise? Ever since the first election of Andrew Jackson in 1828, anti-intellectualism has been a strong force in American politics. Am I the only one here who remembers the elections of 1952 and 1956? Hell, am I the only one here who remembers that the election of 2000 involved states other than Florida?

  37. John Kusters

    I believe that this is what happens when people get told that all opinions must be treated equally. I think the start of this was the whole “everyone is special” movement in childhood education. We’re now seeing the consequences of that.

    JOhn.

  38. Nindubsar

    …Oh, and I forgot to add a few things. Here are some of the results of abstinence-only sex education. My mother, currently an English teacher, has had students who honest-to-god believe the following things:

    You can’t get pregnant your first time.

    You wont get pregnant if you jump up and down afterward.

    You won’t get pregnant if you douche afterward.

    You won’t get pregnant if your boyfriend before he orgasms.

    You can’t get pregnant if you’re on top.

    You can’t get STDs from unprotected anal or oral sex.

  39. Doc

    @Matt,

    “I also can’t help but notice that the liberals here want all options discussed and taught as long as it pertains to SEX.”

    Actually, I’m fine with abstinence being discussed along with methods of birth control and disease prevention (and it was thoroughly discussed when I had sex ed class back in the stone age). I do not want some zealot telling my children that sex is immoral, evil, or sinful – those are religious viewpoints which have no place in public education.

    Of course, I’m not sure I qualify as a “liberal”. Depends on your definition, I guess.

  40. Nindubsar

    Err, that should be “pulls out before he orgasms”. Whoops.

  41. Adrian

    Doesn’t “Immaculate Conception” refer to Mary’s conception (void of “original sin” or whatever), not Jesus’s virgin birth? You’d think Matt would know that…

  42. Doc

    Adrian, you are correct.

  43. Matt, maybe you missed the entire point of the article. Experts, one after another, testified before Congress on why abstinence-only education does not work.

    Also, I never said abstinence is bad. In fact, I quoted an expert who said that it should be taught along with other methods and said that’s a good response.

    Sheesh.

  44. Itzac

    Where the hell did this idea come from that knowledge corrupts values? I find that notion personally insulting. I’m always striving to learn more, as are most of the people here, I think. The insinuation that somehow that makes me bad or evil is entirely offensive and extremely tired. Just quit it. Seriously. It’s not helping.

  45. I’m going to have to thank Rep. Duncan the next time I’m debating the issue of “violent media” like games.

    “… it seems “rather elitist” that people with academic degrees in mental health think they know better than parents what type of media content is appropriate.”

  46. Refusing to educate people about contraception for fear that they’ll have sex is like refusing to tell people the location of the fire exits for fear that they’ll play with matches.

    It’s strangely apropos that I never had any serious desire to play with matches until I was told not to do so.

  47. Ian

    I admit that I am 1337.

  48. Michael Lonergan

    I guess Rep. Duncan was never a 15 or 16 year old boy sitting in his car with his girlfriend parked down a very dark dirt road by the river at night making out… OK, I need to stop and go take a shower…

  49. justcorbly

    It seems to me that a good case could be made for the schools teaching the “what” about sex and parents teaching the “should” part, whatver they think that is.

    Teaching abstinence as a way to prevent the complications that often follow sex doesn’t exactly require much effort. We all pick up on that pretty quickly.

    But, the schools should not receive tax funds to advocate abstinence to students.

    Frankly, the notion that GOP ideologues can forcefeed kids about abstinence and expect to change the behavior of teenagers with hormones is ludicrous. After all, it is sex were talking about,

    And, @Matt: No, liberals aren’t being hypocritical. ID and creationism belong in a religion curriculum, not in science class, because, well… they’re matters of faith, not science. If you let them in, them I think I’ll start demanding that Buddhist ideas of reincarnation are taught in science class, etc., etc.

    Opinions like Matt’s come from people who have more trust in their faith than in reality.

  50. Robert

    The odd thing is, if the Republicans had been running the hearings, they could have dredged up just as many “experts” to say that abstinence education works.

    The problem here, my friends, is in the phrasing of Liberalism.

    In other words, some people propose teaching evolution AND ID, and the Liberals go insane. They only want the LIBERAL viewpoint taught.

    Other people propose teaching sex ed along with abstinence, and of course, the Liberals go apoplectic and screech about “abstinence only” when nobody actually said that, because obviously they only want the LIBERAL viewpoint taught.

    Liberals make statements like “Frankly, the notion that GOP ideologues can forcefeed kids about abstinence and expect to change the behavior of teenagers with hormones is ludicrous…” when it so obviously worked up until, oh, the past 40 years or so. Actually, when I was in High School in the late 1970’s, the vast majority of high school students were still virgins.

    So, perhaps some of you high minded liberals can explain something to me: Why is it so important to you that children have sex and have children before they graduate from High School? Because, ultimately, that’s the result of LIBERAL dogma!

  51. peaches

    “Where the hell did this idea come from that knowledge corrupts values?”

    Well, back when I was a Christian I remember being taught specifically that all of humanity’s trouble started when Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The name of the tree is important there, especially the knowledge part. Knowing of good an evil was supposed to be for god alone and we were supposed to remain blissful in our ignorance, not trespassing on god’s turf when it came to understanding the universe. Our ignorance would have kept us innocent and pure. It’s important to note that the only knowledge that tree is said to have granted is that good and evil exist. But once humanity found out that evil existed, we couldn’t keep our grubby hands off it. Knowing about it’s existence caused us to want to partake in it.

    A few chapters later and we get to Noah’s ark. God decides to wipe out humanity because man’s imagination is evil. One of the things I was taught was that this ‘evilness’ was caused by humanity’s greatly increased knowledge about the world around them. It seems that ever since man was banished from Eden he’d just been learning stuff left and right and that caused him to abandon god.

    Then there’s the tower of Babel, wherein god punished the world with different languages because he was afraid that if humanity worked together we could accomplish anything we set out to do. Gen 11:6: “now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.”

    Long post short (too late) I was taught repeatedly that when people learn too much they begin to rely on their own wisdom and not god’s plan. Too much knowledge results in people thinking they don’t need god anymore, or that they can be his equal. In this framework knowledge DOES corrupt values because values are defined as following god, the bible and your religious leaders without question and not thinking critically about any of it.

    Let me make it clear that I realize not all Christians believe this, but I know for sure that at least a few denominations actively preach it. I think that’s where the idea comes from.

    Thanks for the site Phil. Normally I just lurk but I had to put my two cents in on this one.

  52. Let me check that language a little:

    … it seems “rather elitist” that people with elected seats in this assembly think they know better than parents what type of sex education is appropriate.

    We ignore experts and call them elitist, but the elected representatives who actually get to decide what’s taught aren’t?

    In what universe does that make sense?

  53. justcorbly

    Robert, I was in high school in the 60’s and most of us were virgins. It had nothing to do with anything taught in the schools, because my school had no sex education curricula at all, period.

    What I object to is using the public schools to advocate religious or ideological positions to kids. Abstinence is obviously a part of any sex education class. But, you don’t need billions of dollars in tax moneys to tell kids that you won’t get pregnant or catch a bunch of STD’s if you avoid sex. Frankly, I think they already know that.

    I don’t want public schools advocating abstinence, any more than either you or I want schools advocating to kids that they should buy a bunch of condoms and have a good time. And, note that advocating something differs from teaching abou it.

    As much as conservatives go on and on about family values and such, you’d think they’d trust families to talk about sex with their kids. Odd, isn’t it, that they’d have to resort to using tax funds to shove partisan religious notion onto our children.

    Maybe that’s because the conservative agenda is not about family values, but really is about a partisan religious agenda.

  54. justcorbly

    Peaches, it’s worth remembering that, in Old Testament times, there was little, if any, difference between the men who ruled the state and the men who ruled religion. Convincing people that knowledge of good and evil was only for God and God’ priests was a great way of enforcing and maintaining secular power.

    There’s a lot of that still going around.

  55. SLC

    Dr. Plait doesn’t realize that the abstinence only curriculum has nothing to do with preventing pregnancy or the spread of HIV or venereal diseases. The effing born agains who push this crap couldn’t care less less and haven’t the slightest interest in preventing them. They consider that these complications from unprotected sex are gods’ punishment for engaging in it. This is the result of the domination of religious horse pucky in this country.

  56. Richard H.

    Well, now we know that abstinence-only programs were a mistake.

    Oh, well, even God makes mistakes.

  57. zeb
  58. KC

    Teaching abstinence-only is not quite the same thing as not teaching the birds and bees. I’m old enough to come from an abstinence-only era, yet we knew of contraceptives and STD. We knew where to obtain these contraceptives legally and discretely. We knew the consequences if we didn’t. In those days one of the consequences was marriage.

    Accidents happened.

    Then the emphasis shifted to contraceptives with scarcely any mention of abstinence. Accidents still happened.

    Then it shifted back to abstinence. Now they’re wanting to shift back to contraceptives.

    Guess what’s probably going to remain a constant. And it isn’t from lack of information.

    What outraged a lot of parent in the period of stressing contraceptives is that the lessons looked like it was encouraging the behavior in opposition to what the parents were teaching at home. And that is the fear of abandoning the abstinence-only approach.

  59. Jeffersonian

    And this is how my hatred of Democrats became so much less than my hatred of Republicans. In a nutshell, the GOP is th eredneck the party. the party that maintains supporters by letting them feel OK about their stupidity. Why would you want somebody inteeligent (i.e. elite) in a position of decision-making when you could have somebody that’s “only as smart as me”? “Hell, Vern! that guy’s just like me! tahts’ better than somebody smart! The heck with smart people, who says they should run things?” Ignorance remains popular by mere majority decree.

    The elephant in the room:
    Abstinence education is xtian-based rhetorical agenda that promotes unwanted preganacies and the spread of STDs. It doesn’t spring from physical-based logic or fact. It’s an hysterical agenda that fails biology and causes large problems for society. It’s the sneaking in of those trying to end separation of church/state.

    “The idea that your minor children might become sexually active is a pretty jarring thought, one which probably strikes fear into a lot of parents. It’s really hard to get your mind around it.”
    No, it was hard for YOU. This is because of your background. If you were raised that bowel elimination was wrong, you’d raise anal retentive kids.

    There’s plenty of research available that proves where/how in our history society adopted the “sex is bad” rhetoric. What are the two things the church has to control at all costs after it successfully controls the physical self? Liberty over one’s own sexual practices is a penultimate freedom. Nature simply does NOT say this occurs at legal marriage (which only recently has jumped past the age of early teens) or at the exact age of 18.

    @Matt Garrett
    Look up what the term immaculate conception means. It does not mean what you think it does.

  60. Ut

    “Where the hell did this idea come from that knowledge corrupts values?”

    Genesis Chapter 2 is pretty easy to read that way.

  61. nvt2125

    Robert
    “So, perhaps some of you high minded liberals can explain something to me: Why is it so important to you that children have sex and have children before they graduate from High School? Because, ultimately, that’s the result of LIBERAL dogma!”

    I don’t know of anyone, liberal or otherwise, that would want their kids to have sex before they are ready. Teaching comprehensive sex ed ALONG WITH abstinence doesn’t give kids permission to have a quickie during lunch hour. It’s supposed to arm them with the knowledge they need to make responsible decisions about their sexuality and how to explore it safely. One of those decisions is knowing when they are ready to have sex.

    Will teaching comprehensive sex ed along with abstinence stop every kid from having sex before graduation? No way in hell. But if they have been taught accurate information about contraceptives and their use, the chance that their lives will be completely upended by that encounter would be less than what it would be if they don’t have the knowledge they need to protect themselves and their partners.

  62. peaches

    justcorbly,

    Absolutely right, I don’t doubt that at all. But I also think the rank and file folk have really internalized that message. In my time at church I knew several people who really embraced the idea that ignorance=purity.

    You’re right that scaring folks into ignorance is a great way to maintain power. But there are also a lot of people who seem to happily follow right along. For some people relying on an authority they don’t constantly question and reevaluate is a very comfortable way to live.

  63. LaCreption

    Reminds me about ‘Harmful for minors’ by Judith Levine. Both the author as the university that published the book were threatened and ridiculed by all means.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmful_to_Minors

  64. Weaver

    Here’s another addition to the falacies promulgated in today’s “abstinence-only sex ed”, from my personal experience.

    My wife was asked to procure a pregnancy test kit for a woman with 3 kids in Louisiana (where we were stationed with the Army). The woman was “educated” in the LA public school system through 11th grade. She was quite upset when the test kit came back positive, and estimated she was ~3 months pregnant. When my wife asked her why she was so upset, surely she knew she was pregnant after missing her period a couple times, she replied “But I made him start using condoms after I missed the first one! I don’t understand why I’m still pregnant!”

    This is a classic case of confusing knowledge with values, and thinking that suppression of knowledge will lead to ethical behavior. Unfortunately, in the real world, populated by people whose hormonal drives will outweigh loosely held values, knowledge is indispensible.

  65. Liz

    can I say “the world’s a dress” -tmbg

  66. Kate

    I was taught, from a very early age, the differences between men and women and how people are made. Why would my parents do this?

    I asked, when I was three, what my mom’s breasts were. She explained, which prompted more questions and more accurate, truthful answers. This began a dialog that continues to this day, even though it’s thirty years later.

    I was given a wonderful education in both private and public schools in Canada, where we were taught about human reproduction and armed with information about abstinence, contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and its prevention as well as regular discussion about peer pressure, self confidence and choosing your own path.

    Thanks to these very important lessons and discussions I became an adult who does not feel shame about her sexuality and because of that lack of shame and a solid foundation of knowledge I am respectful of my partner’s feelings, health and safety, as well as my own. I am not promiscuous, I have never had an STD or gotten pregnant despite becoming sexually active at 16 and I have been in a healthy, loving, committed relationship for the last thirteen years.

    Open discussion about our bodies, our sexuality, our feelings and the consequences of our actions is important. One can not and should not close an avenue of discussion for all simply because they find it uncomfortable. This is important, critical information about ourselves and it needs to be discussed. I refuse to see our basic humanity as something that is icky or needing to be covered up the way a cat covers up it’s mess. It is who we are. Ignoring it won’t make it go away and fearing it will only lead to unhappiness.

    If it makes me “elite” to think that all human beings deserve to know everything they can about themselves and others, then I’d rather be “elite” and be laughed at than be a “regular joe” and be trapped in the mire of ignorance, fear and self loathing.

  67. Sergeant Zim

    Kate, it sounds as if you had a very enlightened set of parents I hope you continue those discussions with your own children. If only more parents would take the attitude yours did, STD’s teenage pregnancy, and teenage abortions would probably significantly.

    Or, as I read somewhere, “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free”.

  68. Sergeant Zim

    Sorry, missed a word. I meant to say “…and teenage abortions would probably DROP significantly.:

  69. Mike J

    Phil,

    I believe you are mistaken in the false media driven claim (by media I mean CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and the like) that abstaining doesn’t prevent pregnancy or STD’s as you put it..

    Phil, this is simple logic and physics.. if you cannot grasp the concept that if a man doesn’t put his you know what … you know where… then babies will not be made… and STD’s will not be transmitted…

    While I agree that in the secular atheist world, kids will still have sex and come down with sexually transmitted diseases— even if you tell them to abstain…

    However before you make the claim that “it doesn’t work”, you should look into the Amish community, or the Jewish orthodox community… last time I checked, these groups… that actually practice what they believe, don’t have high (unwanted) pregnancies, and also don’t have high rates of STD’s ..

    Abstainence DOES work… but unfortunately for the general population at large… it requires WILLPOWER and the ability to say NO to something that feels good.

    I agree kids today, mostly in public schools, are apathetic– and don’t really take the good advice of adults seriously— so when you tell a kid (who has only secular values) that abstaining is THE ONLY 100% foolproof way of not getting pregnant…… they’ll take their chances—

    But again, phil, to claim that by NOT having sex, there is somehow a chance that a person can get pregnant— well, er… its dumb!

    The only other methods I know of… are spermicide (which doesn’t stop STD’s) or condoms.. which can (and do) break, or leak, and also doesn’t protect the base of the penis — so you can still get herpes, AIDS (through open razor burn etc..), scabies, or a plethora of other diseases—

    Again, it must be said, that ABSTAINING, although it is ‘boring’ compared to wanton sex– is the only 100% foolproof way of not getting pregnant or getting an STD…

    Everything else is a bunch of misinformation put out by people such as Phil Plait, who, for some reason, want everyone to falsely believe that condoms are 100% safe, and that condoms and spermicide can stop pregnancy and STDs… Which they obviously haven’t.

    I would like to also note that when the population generally practiced ABSTAINING until marriage, that STD’s were low, and unwanted preganacies were low… only in areas where people didn’t practice (or have) moral standards— such as ports of call, red light districts, Frontier towns etc… there were spikes in STDs and preganacies..

    So basically, throughout history, abstaining has proved to work as the 100% method to not have babies, or get STDS— only in today’s world do we have “brilliant” idiots who think that a .01 mm piece of plastic is a surefire “safe” way for KIDS to have sex…

    OMG… what is happening in this world… Phil is advocating young people using condoms as opposed to NOT having sex… that’s sick!

  70. KC

    Kate:

    That’s not elite. To be elite you have to adopt an air of arrogant superiority. Back in my era that wasn’t swept under the rug. What sets most parents teeth on edge is when the “experts” crawl out of their ivory towers with a how-to curriculum that glosses over the consequences.

    The thing is, just because the information is taught and is available doesn’t mean it’s going to be learned. The complaint about abstinence-only education also holds for one that stresses contraceptives. How many sit there in class and think, “Oh, that’s never going to happen to me,” or daydream about the dance after the football game instead of paying attention?

    It’s mighty danged hard to think that a student could take High School biology and not put two-and-two together about her own nature (as was the case described by Weaver). More if they’ve also taken Human Physiology. Even more when it’s covered in Health Education. But it happens. Time and time again.

    I guess these gloomy thoughts are to point out that there’s no magic solution. Contraceptive-only education got blamed for teen pregnancy and STD. We shifted to abstinence-only and now that gets the blame as well. We have to keep in mind that presenting the information isn’t enough: The student must pay attention to it and retain it. And that, unfortunately, is entirely up to the individual.

  71. Mike J

    Also, it will be intersting to see if Phil practices what he preaches…

    Let’s get hypothetical with something that has a little more weight w/ phil than the “abstract” notion of “adolescents”…

    Suppose a few years from now, when Phil has children that are about 12 to 15, he can buy them a huge box of condoms… and then, when the little astronomer brings home a dirty boulder hippy who has been sleeping with every teen guy around town— phil can sleep easy at night knowing how safe the lil’ astro is….

    That would be much better than raising your children to NOT have sex until marriage—

    Advocating that children should be allowed (and taught in school no less) to have “safe” sex is a well, how can I say it nicely…. a sicko atheist no-morals type idea.

    Following your logic phil, since a large majority (something like 50-60% according to D.A.R.E) of children will use drugs like X, LSD or Pot… we should give them safe places to trip out, and THC patches to wear on their arms…

    Because, you know, er… they’ll do it anyways….

  72. StuartVO

    I address this to no poster in particular – I address it to all “Conservatives” and “Christians” who reject Reality:

    ===

    “The evil Liberals and their ‘science’ are so dogmatic! – Whereas we Conservatives and our unshakable faith in our Bible are much more open-minded.”

    Hypocrisy, thy name is Republican.

    Oh wait, you claim to be the fair ones because you want both “theories” (Supernatural Creation and Big Bang/Abiogenesis/Evolution) taught in class, while it’s the Evil Liberal/Commies that want only one theory to dominate?

    Well, if you claim that, then you are a lying intestinal parasite.

    Given half-a-chance, these sneaky, sleazy, cynical, underhanded, lying bastards would gladly and instantly remove all references to any science that contradicts their particular interpretation (which is only one of many) of their holy book (which is only one of many).

    The biggest problem I have with being an atheist, is that I can’t console myself by thinking that these walking scum-piles (who manipulate many honest, sincere, moral people into following them) are going to Hell to suffer for eternity (or the length of one Pauly Shore movie, whichever feels longest.)

    Final note: There are quite a number of conservatives and Republicans (several in this very discussion) that do not reject reality. It’s just that their party has rejected them, in its utterly selfish lust for money and power.

  73. StuartVO

    Erm, KC: Was contraceptive-only education ever taught in America? Weren’t both abstinence and contraception taught?

    I find it hard to believe that there were ever teachers going around saying “No, abstinence doesn’t work. You can get pregnant even without ever ‘doing it’. You’d better take The Pill anyway.”

    Whether or not you intended it so, it nonetheless sounds like a Fundamentalist straw-man / white-black fallacy.

  74. StuartVO

    I know my first post in this thread will probably get me in hot water with Phil. So, in my best butt-kissing style, let me say

    “Dr Plait, before banning me, please consider the half-a-dozen times in the last month that I wrote scalding, insulting, virulent and obscene posts railing against fundamentalists, but didn’t post them in the end. This one just slipped through.”

  75. Mike J.

    Since we’re talking about “reality” here… let’s get real..

    Robert said:
    “So, perhaps some of you high minded liberals can explain something to me: Why is it so important to you that children have sex and have children before they graduate from High School? Because, ultimately, that’s the result of LIBERAL dogma!”

    ———————————

    It’s becuase the people who advocate kids/adolescents/teenagers having “safe” sex, and being “informed”— these adults ALSO had sex as teenagers most likely.

    But dude, I hate to break it to you, its not just liberalism… its conservatives too… its our whole society… debauchery is being sold in bulk, and the absence of general morality fuels the ultimate outcome of it all.. the outcome in this case are STD’s and pregnant kids…

    But dude, Robert, If you’re still stuck in the Lib vs. Con trap— then you’re hopeless.

    It makes your arguement part fallacy.

    There is a good case to make that “safe” sex is NOT actually safe and shouldn’t be marketed as such by “professionals”— but to then mix in Liberalism as if politics somehow controls human sexual cravings— it doesn’t help you’re case.

    If you ever want to get out of this political trap, the first step is realizing that these ideologies were CREATED (lol) by bad people the founders of the Democrat party were racists, and the founders of the Republican party were fascists (i.e. abe lincoln having fascist axes adorning his monument, or fascist axes being displayed in the halls of congress on each side of the bench where the VP sits)

    — lib or con… they all worship a freakin’ 40 foot stone owl in Northern California at the Bohemian grove— and they sacrifice a human effigy to it, while performing a goddess worship ritual— for real.. Video of the ritual is on Google video if you want to see it for yourself.

    Helmut Kohl (german chancellor former) talked about the Bohemian grove at length in his auto-biography… bill clinton, ronald regan, richard nixon… all admit to going to the ritual and being members of the Grove.

    If you still buy into Lib and Con after seeing that video evidence, then you are helpless.

    I still don’t understand why the “skeptologists” are ALL OVER the bohemian grove rituals that our leaders perform… it should be troubling to an atheist— that the NASA funds are decided by pagans at a 2 week long human sacrifice ritual once a year—

  76. Mike J.

    Oh, the irony…

    # StuartVOon 26 Apr 2008 at 9:10 am
    I address this to no poster in particular – I address it to all “Conservatives” and “Christians” who reject Reality:

    ===

    “The evil Liberals and their ’science’ are so dogmatic! – Whereas we Conservatives and our unshakable faith in our Bible are much more open-minded.”

    Hypocrisy, thy name is Republican.

    —————————

    I say the same thing to you, oh liberal, that I said to Robert the mega-conservative…

    You guys need to watch the Bohemian Grove, pagan ritual mock human sacrifice ritual– that Libs and Cons BOTH take part in…

    There ARE people who control both parties, and they are just sitting back laughing at people like you and Robert, you guys are so busy doing the “left” and “right” , “this” or “that” routine, that you never get ahead.

    I never dawns on either side to let your fellow american do their own thing… you know… to let your fellow citizen be a free person. Don’t decide anything for them, or on their behalf.

    Just like the creationism and evolution debacle… Phil is SO busy trying to refute this, or reject that, or convince creatioist that they are wrong, or preach to the choir they they are “right”… that he never makes any discoveries one way or the other…Same for PZ, Kent Hovind etc…

    “they” have got you guys jumping through hoops, and you don’t even see it—

    Jump monkey! jump!

  77. Kate

    KC:
    By your logic, because some kids might not pay attention in class we should abandon safety demonstrations in shop class as well. After all, some kids won’t pay attention, right?

    I’d also like to point out that there has never been and will never be “contraception-only” sexual education. Your straw man won’t stand up to even the lightest puff of wind.

    I will ensure my children have the best education possible, both at home and at school. I am lucky in that I live in a place where education is not seen as a battleground between religious believers and non believers or political parties, but as the way we as a society ensure our children become well rounded, intelligent, well adjusted adults.

    I think the difference in my view lies in the fat that I do not see children as clones of their parents, but as human beings in their own right who deserve to have nothing in this universe hidden from them because someone else has an agenda, political, religious or otherwise.

    Perhaps I’m in the minority. I sincerely hope not.

  78. Mike J, where, ever, in the history of the Universe, do I say that kids will get pregnant by not having sex?

    The fact that you think that’s what I’m saying makes it clear to me that even after all this time, you are still able to completely mistake everything I say. It’s incredible.

    The entire point of this is that experts have done the research and shown that teaching kids abstinence-only methods does not work. Whne that’s all they get they still have sex, they still get diseases, and they still get pregnant. It cannot be made any clearer.

    I am not saying that schools should give them condoms (unless the research makes it clear that that’s a good idea). I am saying that kids need to be taught about sex, and they need it to be taught to them clearly, intelligently, and without the guilt/shame/horror that our society has made it out to be.

    Now to the next, far more unpleasant thing.

    This comment of yours is way, way over the line.

    I will make this clear to you now, as clear as I can possibly make it.

    Mike J, go away. I asked you nicely once before, privately, and yet you have still decided to come here and not only grossly misinterpret what I wrote, but to make a comment about my personal life that is hugely inappropriate.

    You have had multiple chances to clean up your act, but you refuse. So I don’t want explanations, or even apologies. I want you to get gone.

  79. Rich

    KC

    “‘experts’ crawl out of their ivory towers with a how-to curriculum that glosses over the consequences.”

    I am curious, what comprehensive sex-education programs gloss over the consequences of sex? None of the ones I am familiar with. Not the ones I was taught as a student at a Catholic High School, not the ones I sat through as a student teacher at the end of college (not a teacher btw just trained to be one), and not the ones I have reviewed as a citizen concerned with the debate on the topic.

    “The thing is, just because the information is taught and is available doesn’t mean it’s going to be learned. The complaint about abstinence-only education also holds for one that stresses contraceptives. How many sit there in class and think, “Oh, that’s never going to happen to me,” or daydream about the dance after the football game instead of paying attention?”

    My problem with this line of reasoning is two-fold; (1) You won’t know the consequences of unprotected OR protected sexual activity unless you actually learn about it. (2) You won’t know how to reduce your risks of pregnancy or STDs unless you actually learn what the risks are and how to mitigate them. Abstinence only education that lies and misinforms about the risks of sex and the reliability of methods of preventing pregnancy and the spread of STDs is counter-productive. If a teenager is going to engage in sexual activity (and a great many do), they should have the knowledge of how to do so in the most responsible manner.

    Further, I know of no comprehensive sex-education that encourages kids to have sex and relies ONLY on contraceptive training as you seem to contend. To assert that comprehensive sex-education actively encourages teenagers to engage in sex (protected or not) is either a gross misunderstanding or a knowing lie. I do not accuse you of lying here, but I know of a good number of abstinence only advocates who have been repeatedly shown to misrepresent what comprehensive sex-ed is really all about. This is behavior that those of us in the reality based community are familiar with when it comes to topics as wide ranging as the moon landings, ghosts and goblins, or immunizations. Present uninformed or misunformed talking points once or twice and I understand, but after being shown where they are wrong they trot out the same debunked stuff, at that point these individuals are engaging in deliberate deception.

    With that said, there is ample evidence demonstrating the comprehesive sex-ed reduces teen pregnancy and STD rates, while abstinence only education results in riskier behaviors by those who do enage in sex leading to higher pregnancy and STD rates. A teenager who does not learn how to protect him or herself likely will not. One who does learn may or may not, but the evidence clearly shows that those who participate in comprehensive sex ed and engage in sexual activity engage in safer sex than those who do not learn. The bottom line is that grossly misinformed people make poorer decisions than people who have recieved a proper education. This is as true for sex education as it is for personal economics. We do our children and our communities a diservice by teaching them poorly.

  80. KC

    Kate:

    Actually, my line of reasoning is fatalistic. It’s a danged-if-you-do-and-danged-if-you-don’t kind of thing. It’s interesting that you brought up safety demonstrations because I’ve put them on for both children and adults. And in more than once has someone, right after the demonstration and right before my very eyes *tried to do exactly what I’ve just demonstrated was dangerous!* Now *that’s* frustration.

    My point is that we have folks running around screaming “Argh! This isn’t working! We’ve got to try something new!” and back and forth we go. Meanwhile, those that didn’t listen before don’t listen now. Fatalistic? Yes. Srawman? No.

    I’m all for children learning about their own bodies, about why it’s best to wait and why it’s important to use certain contraceptives. Just don’t be shocked when changing the emphasis from abstinence-only back to contraceptives-only doesn’t accomplish a whole lot.

  81. justcorbly

    KC, I don’t think this fuss is really about teaching contraception only to see kids still getting pregnant and then turning to abstinence only, again, to see kids getting pregnant.

    Instead, it is, I think, a contest between one side that sees abstinence as a moral positive and wants to use the public schools to advocate this position to children, often to the exclusion of other methods that they, for their own reasons, consider immoral. On the other side are people who don’t want the public schools to be used as platforms for advocating any religious or ideologic position to children.

    From that perspective, it is just as unacceptable to advocate a gay lifestyle, for example, as it is to advocate abstinence. Or to advocate vegetarianism or libertarianism, for that matter. Teaching about gay people or abstinence or vegetarianism is one thing, advocating them to children is another.

    The role of the schools is to teach, not advocate. The role of a parent, on the other hand, is to do both: teach and advocate.

    Clearly, though, some people want to use schools to advocate partisan political and ideologic perspectives to children.

    Not having sex is obviously the most effecctive way to avoid the results of having sex. Teaching that to adolescents is a legitimate role for a school. Advocating abstinence as the morally preferrable tecchnique is not an appropriate role for a school.

    Parents have the role of advocating morally preferrable behavior to their kids, not the schools, especially with regard to areas, like sex, in which there is no general consensus about the morally preferrable approach.

    If parents abandon that role, they do not have the right to demand that the public schools advocate their own individual notion of morality to everyone else’s kids.

    In any case, someone whose goal is the elimination of STD’s and unwanted pregnancies – by any method — is doomed to failure if he’s counting on the willpower of teenagers with hormones.

  82. KC

    Rich:

    Interesting. You say that the classes you were exposed to covered the consequences. Very good. Maybe things have changed from the days when the attitude was “They’re going to do it anyway, so let’s just talk about contraceptives.” There were some . . . interesting programs in those days to try to encourage the use of contraceptives, the descriptions of which border on bad taste.

    Now, you say you know of know program that encourages sex and stresses only contraceptives. Actually, I do know of a few oddballs that did just that, but they were quickly drummed out of education. What I do know is that back in the days of “They’re going to do it, anyway,” there was little talk of the consequences other than to use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and STD. That was about it. You may not have heard of such. I have.

    I’m also aware of parents discovering where their children was taught this and having their concerns dismissed as unimportant or “backward.” That’s elitism. Again, you may not be aware of such instances. What I know of it I’ve encountered only in news accounts over the years.

    My reasoning in supporting abstinence-only is both religiously and secularly based. If a student is only told wait until marriage, with no discussion of STD and ways to prevent it, and none about family planning, then yes, I agree that’s a bad idea. It’s also a bad idea only to stress contraceptives and convey the idea that they never, ever, fail, and to never cover why it’s best to wait. And while I’m sure you’d never advocate such a thing, that has, unfortunately, happened before in days gone by.

  83. Al

    Some people seem to have incredible difficulty with what the word “only” means…

  84. KC

    justcorbly:

    Perhaps because I can see secular reasons for abstinence-only, the religious aspect doesn’t occur to me. I’m not saying that no one who advocates abstinence-only does so only for secular reasons. Just I can see some very good psychological and physical reasons while it’s better to wait.

    What I see as elitism isn’t pointing out that kids need to learn about preventing STDs and pregnancy with ways over than abstinence, it’s a specific attitude toward both parents and teachers by those in higher levels of education administration. It can happen on any issue, not just sex education. That attitude will generate a very sizable chip on one’s shoulder, and very quickly.

    You make a very good point about parents who by default advocate that role. Yet here is a very slippery slope. Some parents have advocated a role in teaching their children basic morals. Do the schools then have a right to teach those morals? And if so, who’s morals? This gets into a very huge can o’ worms.

    I will observe that those parents are probably the least likely to get upset by what their children are taught in school, because they don’t keep up with much of *anything* that happens academically. Unless they get called to school about something their little darling’s done to another child or to a teacher. As a rule of thumb, those that get upset are those who get involved to some degree in their children’s education.

  85. justcorbly

    KC:
    >>”What I see as elitism isn’t pointing out that kids need to learn about preventing STDs and pregnancy with ways over than abstinence, it’s a specific attitude toward both parents and teachers by those in higher levels of education administration.”

    I know that kind of snobbism happens, but I think in this context charges of elitism are often used as a club to beat on the opposition. People acquire advance degrees in education and years of experience because we recognize that teaching and running public schools requires that level of specialization and learning.

    >>” Some parents have advocated a role in teaching their children basic morals. Do the schools then have a right to teach those morals?”

    No.

  86. BaldApe

    Abstinence-only education does not work.

    Sure it works. It increases the teen pregnancy rate, increases the abortion rate, increases STDs.

    Oh. Wait a minute.

    Oh OK, now I see what you mean.

  87. lorna

    The issue of the political right appealing to their voting base (poor or working class white males and dependent, obedient women attached to those males) by insulting education and intelligence is a fascinating phenomenon and developed sometime in the 1980’s. Sometime over my lifetime, intelligence and education went from being admirable qualities to being despicable ones. When Bill Clinton first ran for president, you’d hear Republicans sneeringly call him a “Rhodes Scholar,” as if it were a bad thing. This that you cite is just another piece of evidence, but there are thousands. Why did this happen? When did it become a better qualification for President to be an Alzheimer’s patient with a wife who consults astrologers than to be a Rhodes Scholar?

    I don’t know all the answers to why this began, but I do know that stupid and ill-educated people feel bad about being stupid and/or ill-educated. They hate to have to confront that smarter and more educated people in fact do think better and do in fact know more than they about many things. It makes them feel bad, shamed, guilty. They are frustrated, for instance, when you try to explain why radiometric dating techniques are reliable because they don’t yet know what an atom is. They don’t know when you say, “this study shows that X has no correlation to Y” what a correlation is or how those numbers are achieved and what might be right or wrong about them. But instead of embracing their ignorance and saying, “Gee, I don’t know much about that. Would you explain it?” they just get angry. Angry people cannot make rational policy decisions. They vote with their bruised egos, out of their fears (like booga booga a woman president—ooh, hide under the covers!)

    But we must have done something wrong in educating people since WWII, must have made education unattainable to too many people, must have explained the simple concepts poorly, or must have insulted them into loving their ignorance rather than saying “ignorance is the necessary beginning of all knowledge.” Also, to some extent, I agree that mainstreaming uneducable children and talking too much about a false sort of equality is part of the problem we created for ourselves.

    The truth is, every “opinion” is not equal. Opinions based in ignorance are just prejudices. Intelligent people hold conditional conclusions based on the evidence they’re aware of to date. Ignorance people have prejudices based on irrational premises. These are not equal “opinions.” This is not to say that the person holding prejudices should not have as many rights as say a gay person, or is not of value at all as a human being, but that their prejudices are not good bases on which to base policy decisions.

    To allow those who cannot understand the biological imperatives behind human sexuality, the preponderence of the evidence on the failure of this sex-ed policy, or the reality of evolution deciding curricula is like letting your dog decide how to invest your retirement funds by if he wags his tale at the name of a corporation of not. Some days, I look at this county, and don’t feel at all like a cheerful democrat. I think maybe Plato had it right.

  88. KC

    justcorbly:

    True. Education, like any other profession, requires study and training. I have several teachers in the family with Masters degrees and one with a Doctorate. All are/were actively involved in teaching rather than administration on the state level. And now you know what I mean by a front-row seat. I’ve heard years of gripe sessions, many times over state administrators who have a degree but little practical experience telling those who have both how to do things. And now you know one reason why I feel so strongly about the elitism issue.

  89. Fauxnetikz

    I don’t know if anyone’s still reading this, but I wanted to just throw something in:

    A lot of people seem to be missing the word “only” while they are scanning it. They didn’t take the time to read every word, but they sure as hell took the time to write a big heated response.

    Read again: “Abstinence-ONLY education does not work.”

    That doesn’t mean “abstinence doesn’t work.” Don’t write a big huge response saying “you’re an idiot, abstinence DOES work, it’s so simple.”

    They’re not saying “abstinence doesn’t work.” It’s plain English, you just have to read it.

    OK, resume the arguments.

  90. BaldApe

    “but I do know that stupid and ill-educated people feel bad about being stupid and/or ill-educated.”

    Actually, I have found the opposite to be true. You can’t make an idiot feel like an idiot.

    The response to a well-reasoned argument that shows they are wrong is most likely to be “Well that’s your opinion” or “What makes you think you’re so smart?” To them, someone who knows more than they do is “acting like they’re better than us.”

  91. Elin

    If we can’t make the abstinence-only education people go away, maybe we could propose a kind of compromise: teach abstinence, but abstinence until adulthood instead of abstinence until marriage.

    I know the most right-wing Christians will not go for this.
    But the more moderate people might, and it might help undermine the claim of “elitism” and also the “hot-tub liberal” image that the right often paints non-Christian people with.

    Shouldn’t be necessary, I know. But maybe it is.

  92. Parents, not the government, should decide what values to teach their children

    You are aware that sex education isn’t about teaching your kids that they must have sex?

  93. So, perhaps some of you high minded liberals can explain something to me: Why is it so important to you that children have sex and have children before they graduate from High School? Because, ultimately, that’s the result of LIBERAL dogma!

    Indeed, that’s why the teen pregnancy rate is higher in super-liberal Canada!…

    er wait, Canada’s rate is much lower.

    (84 per 100000 in US, 38 per 100000 in the liberal-land)

  94. oops keyboard bounce. that’s per 1000, not per 100000

  95. justcorbly

    Squid:

    Well said, but I’d argue that schools should not be about the business of teaching values of any kind. That’s the proper role of parents.

    If parents want to teach their kids that sex outside marriage is a sin, that’s their business. So it is if they want to teach their kids to fornicate-at-will.

    When someone exclaims that parents, not the government, should decide the values taught by schools, he always means he wants the schools to inculcate his values in other parents kids, not the other way around. The schools must not be used as tools to further political agendas, from the right or the left.

  96. Mod

    Me: Killing incompetent governmental idiots is legal.
    Rep John Duncan: No it isn’t.
    Me: … it seems “rather elitist” that people with academic degrees in law think they know better than constituents what type of punitive system is appropriate for killing government officials.

  97. LaCreption

    @ zebon 25 Apr 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Excellent cartoon.

    As someone from the Netherlands it’s quite weird to see all the controversy about sexuality. Although we have our own conservatives our society is quite open. Everything about sex is taught before hormones kick in. We don’t have high rates of teenage pregnancy. Most young people who do get pregnant do it intentionally. To acquire a status, to ‘lock’ their boyfriend, to get an income from state, things like that. A sad thing. We now have programs in sex education where responsibilities in parenthood are taught within the teenage perspective. Teaching that you do not get an income from state if you’re 15 with a baby, that you don’t get your own house, that you don’t have time for education since the baby requires 24/7 attention, that a baby is not an relationship insurance, things like that. And it works.

    Amongst immigrant groups we see far more problems, where people have been raised in families where sexuality is taboo. It’s the same with Dutch biblebelt people. More unwanted pregnancies (people getting pregnant without the intention!), more abuse, more ignorance and myths.

  98. StuartVO

    justcorbly: Allow me to be the umpteenth person to tell you this, and thus the umpteenth person you will ignore or (deliberately?) misunderstand:

    Teaching comprehensive* sex-ed is not about teaching “values”, it is about imparting knowledge. If people want to insist that their kids learn that sex outside marriage is sinful, they can. The teachers aren’t saying that it isn’t, they’re just telling the kids what the consequences are if they do it, and how, if they insist on doing it, they can mitigate those consequences.

    Teachers aren’t running around naked telling teenagers to bonk everything that moves! How many more times do we have to say it?

    And don’t try to tell me that kids won’t do it if they don’t know anything about it. I will laugh in your face and call you a lot of names that Phil won’t allow here.

    And any “philosophy” that relies on people’s ignorance to get them to behave, is more doomed that all the “X-state is doomed” states put together. That there would be a serious case of reality denial.

    Relying on ignorance, and denying teens the knowledge or means to mitigate consequences, is what leads murderous old men (i.e. Republican congressmen) into trying to stop mandatory inoculations for HPV, because HPV is sexually transmitted, and they’d rather have their little girls (and everyone else’s) DIE rather than have sex!

    ===

    * I suggest calling it “comprehensive” sex-ed, to try to get around the offensive straw-man that states “Anything other than ‘abstinence-only’ is ‘contraceptive-only’ and is thus also fallacious.”

  99. StuartVO

    And now, to no poster in particular, I address this:

    Well, that’s it. I, too, am “leaving” this blog. Not because I disagree with its politics*, but because my blood-pressure can’t stand having to deal with that all-too-large portion of the American electorate who are deliberately ignorant, outrageously disingenuous, immovably stubborn, and utterly reality-deprived. Why don’t you all decide that your holy book** tells you that gravity doesn’t exist (it’s just a theory, after all), and prove it by jumping off a tall building, without a parachute?

    The idea that a country infested with such degenerates has a vast nuclear arsenal scares me. And you hypocrites have the cheek to say that the Iranians are too religious and unstable to be allowed to develop their own nukes!

    ===

    * When someone whines that he hates the amount of political argument on this board, he is really whining that he disagrees with the brand of politics espoused by Phil.

    ** While the topic here wasn’t explicitly religion, anyone who claims that his pro-abstinence-only stance isn’t fundamentally based on religion, the he is just fooling himself, no-one else.

  100. justcorbly

    Hey, Stuart, if you’re still here, I think you’ve misread me. I’m all for the schools teaching kids about sex. I’m against using the schools to teach kids when to have sex.

    It’s the difference between teaching facts and teaching morals. The abstinence-only fuss happens because a politically motivated group of people want to use the schools to propagandize their own sectarian views. I don’t agree with their views, but what is wrong is the effort to use the schools to tools to push their beliefs on others. Whatever the belief in question, it’s wrong.

  101. Disinfo Agent

    Ask those people why not teach both sides of the abstinence controversy. ;-)

  102. justcorbly

    Disinfo:

    I don’t know if there are two side of abstinence. After all, avoiding sex is guaranteed to avoid the consequences of sex.

    The political forces demanding an abstinence curriculum are primarily motivated by a compulsion to use the public schools to indoctrinate other peoples’ kids in their own partisian morality, to the exclusion of other points of view. They think teaching facts about contraception, for example, is tantamount to encouraging kids to have sex.

    In short, they think it is a sin to have sex outside of marriage. Not content with living by their rules in their lives, they want to impose their rules on the rest of us. It’s the attempted imposition that’s the crime here.

  103. Disinfo Agent

    The two sides would be those who believe abstinence-only sex education is effective for preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs, and those who say it’s not enough. :-)

  104. justcorbly

    Disinfo:

    I think the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and STD’s is of secondary interest to many abstinence-only proponents.

  105. Hey, Stuart, if you’re still here, I think you’ve misread me. I’m all for the schools teaching kids about sex. I’m against using the schools to teach kids when to have sex.

    Where is it that schools are teaching kids when to have sex?

  106. do you really want

    Do you really want to succeed?

    Yes you want truth in all things. Humanity don’t run on truth. Humanity runs on lies, war, and poker.

    Safe sex education causes babies. That’s good. If you win, we’ll end up like Japan, the United States of America will be an old folks’ home.

  107. Disinfo Agent

    “justcorblyon 27 Apr 2008 at 2:07 pm
    Disinfo:

    I think the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and STD’s is of secondary interest to many abstinence-only proponents.”

    Perhaps, but they will never dare admit that in public, if they’re smart. ;-)

  108. justcorbly

    BigDumbChip:

    I’m trying to focus on the difference between teaching the facts about sex and advocating a particular strain of morality to students. The former is a legitimate activity for the public schools, the latter is not. And, the latter would encompass telling kids when having sex is “good” and when it is “bad”.

    I don’t agree with abstinence-only advocates, but I don’t care what they believe or practice in their private lives. But, they don’t have the right to use the public schools to propagate those beliefs. And I don’t have the right to use the schools to propagate my beliefs. No one has a right to use tax funds to tell school kids when sex is “moral” and when it is “immoral”.

  109. dhawk

    @justcorbly

    And, the latter would encompass telling kids when having sex is “good” and when it is “bad”.

    A good comprehensive sex-ed program doesn’t say when sex is “good” or “bad”, it says when sex is safe or unsafe. And safety is something that can be objectively determined, it isn’t moralistic. Disseminating important safety information is not propagating a particular belief.

  110. justcorbly

    Dhawk:

    Go back and read my comments here. I’m for comprehensive sex-ed. I’m against teachers in public schools telling students that one form of sexual behavior is morally preferrable.

    Geez, how difficult is it to understand me when I say that teaching is not advocacy.

  111. Crux Australis

    I would like to add my support for abstinence-only education. If my mother knew of other forms of contraception, I wouldn’t be here!

  112. A very welcome post Phil.

    ‘Tis a common theme raised by moral conservatives who seem intent on animating science as a malignant force bent on regressing us to “godlessness”. “Arrogant”, “elitist”, “ammoral”, “immoral” are used to describe impartial objective observers.

    It follows more what progressive thought, discourse and policy do not represent: scripted morality with mortal superstition inhibiting free-thought and responsible choice. And it’s shaped by Creationist propaganda and Wedge Strategy contrariness.

    One adviser to Bush referred to those unwilling to have conservative values forced upon us as, “the reality based community”.

    I think the type of rot seen in “Expelled” hints at the inherent claims on “evil” and “immorality” specific to many areas of science, and perhaps the pathological rejection of evidence that is still to come.

  113. Ade

    John Duncan obviously doesn’t get laid enough ;)

  114. Dunc

    OK, which is the more elitist institution: the American Academy of Pediatrics or Congress?

  115. Irishman

    Matt Garrett said:
    >Point in fact ABSTINENCE DOES WORK. But if you’re being abstinent and you decide to have sex, you’re not really being abstinent anymore are you?

    Matt, you missed the point. Sure, actually abstaining from sex (including all sexual contact) prevents pregnancy and passing STD’s. No one is denying that. Abstinence Only Education is a failure, because it teaches the only policy is avoiding all sex and does not teach other practices that can reduce or eliminate risks if one chooses to have sex. And Abstinence Only Education does not convince teenagers (much less adults) to refrain from sex. Plus, it has been shown that many Abstinence Only programs include false and misleading information. Lying is bad, getting caught lying is a sure fire way to lose any trust you had.

    KC said:
    > In my own unscientific observation, the ones who don’t come across as elitist are the ones who’ve come up “through the trenches,” who approach not with an attitude of “I’m so much smarter than you that you must bask in awe in my presence” but one of “You know, I’ve tried that, too, and this is what works.”

    That’s ironic, given that the experts in question are citing exactly “abstinence only education has been tried, but it doesn’t work, this is what does.”

    >What outraged a lot of parent in the period of stressing contraceptives is that the lessons looked like it was encouraging the behavior in opposition to what the parents were teaching at home. And that is the fear of abandoning the abstinence-only approach.

    Amusingly, I was taught comprehensive sex education at home, didn’t help me get laid.

    >The thing is, just because the information is taught and is available doesn’t mean it’s going to be learned. The complaint about abstinence-only education also holds for one that stresses contraceptives. How many sit there in class and think, “Oh, that’s never going to happen to me,” or daydream about the dance after the football game instead of paying attention?

    True observation. But access to the information for the ones that will pay attention is better than no access.

    >Contraceptive-only education got blamed for teen pregnancy and STD.

    I don’t hear anyone advocating “contraceptive only” sex education. You say you have seen it, but admit it was spotty, not consistent, and the advocates were stopped. So why do you keep referring to anything but abstinence only education as “contraceptive only”?

    justcorbly said:
    >Well said, but I’d argue that schools should not be about the business of teaching values of any kind. That’s the proper role of parents.

    I disagree. Schools should teach values like fair play, discipline, respect for others, respect for self, etc. What I don’t think is that schools should teach a sectarian religious set of values.

  116. Irishman

    And now a post just for Mike J.

    Mike J said:
    >I believe you are mistaken in the false media driven claim (by media I mean CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and the like) that abstaining doesn’t prevent pregnancy or STD’s as you put it..

    >Phil, this is simple logic and physics.. if you cannot grasp the concept that if a man doesn’t put his you know what … you know where… then babies will not be made… and STD’s will not be transmitted…

    Once again, Mike J, you demonstrate an uncanny ability to misrepresent statements and create strawmen. No one has stated that abstaining from intercourse prevents pregnancy. What has been stated is that teaching that the only method of birth control and STD prevention is abstinence fails to recognize that a certain amount of people (whether it is teens or young adults or old adults or whomever) are going to have sex anyway. For that segment of the population, telling them that not having sex prevents pregnancy and disease is like telling someone that the way to avoid car accidents is to never get in a car.

    Oh, and technically STD’s can be passed even without “intercourse”. Sexual contact is sufficient for some diseases.

    > But again, phil, to claim that by NOT having sex, there is somehow a chance that a person can get pregnant— well, er… its dumb!

    False statement, misrepresentation, straw man. Given your history, it’s clear this is intentional rather than a case of misunderstanding.

    >Advocating that children should be allowed (and taught in school no less) to have “safe” sex is a well, how can I say it nicely…. a sicko atheist no-morals type idea.

    That’s your opinion. Others feel differently.

    Your posts would be amusing if they weren’t so malicious and spiteful. But in the end, they say far more about you than they do about the Bad Astronomer. You won’t be missed.

  117. Sultan

    So the most educated should run the world? Honestly that’s a frightening mantra you are promoting. I personally think “Science” has proven to be wrong, if not dangerous enough times that, it should only be considered a part of decision that affects humanity. No matter how much you hate it you do have to share this little old world with us “lowly” folks who don’t think just because it adds up we got the right answer.

  118. Neil

    Sultan:

    A “frightening mantra?”

    This is the level of B.S. we’re up to, is it?

    Neither you, I, or anyone else has ever lived in a world where the most educated had much power. Even at our best, the U.S consistently elects people to office who fall well below the intelligence and education level of a college professor. The decisions to build bombs, go to war, economic decisions, education policy…all these are decided by people who often have no background in the issue at hand, and rely on public ignorance to get re-elected.

    I am a college dropout. But living in California, I know more about economics, education, history, science, and art than my state’s Governor.
    I will never get his office, though, because I don’t look like the Terminator and I certainly won’t be backed and funded by the Republican Mafia anytime soon. Nobody’s going to fake an energy crisis and stage a coup to get me into office. More and better education for our leaders would be the best thing we could hope for, but it doesn’t sell newspapers, and it doesn’t put a big stupid smiley face on unpopular wars, flagging economies and lost jobs. That’s what the Governator is for.

    Nobody is complaining about sharing the world with you “lowly folk.” By most people’s definition, I am one of the “lowly folk.” But don’t ask people to play stupid just so you can feel justified in your self-imposed ignorance.

    That’s my two cents, and if it’s elitist and offends any of the “lowly folk,” I couldn’t care less.

  119. J. Marie

    I wonder who he calls when his child is sick. Surely it’s not the elitist experts in pediatrics…

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