Abstinence, a new fragrance from Sex Panther

If you peruse the internet, or tv, or any other information medium, you have heard recently what the pope said regarding condoms, AIDS, and Africa.  Depending on which source you read, or actually what day you read it, you heard anything from the pope saying “condoms were not the answer in the continent’s fight against HIV” to “You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms, on the contrary, it increases the problem” to “The traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids.” (if that source was quoting him from back in 2005).

Now all of these are problematic given the ridiculous influence the pope has over a significant portion of the world’s population.  Any person filling a post that has the power to say “Don’t eat meat on Friday or you will go to hell, wait for it, wait for it, ok now you can.” and people actually listen, needs to choose his words carefully.  But I want to focus mainly on the last one, what he said in 2005, because it is a view that many organizations share about abstinence.

Abstinence has been touted as the only fail-safe, the only 100%, the only proven way to prevent lots of things.

  • Pregnancy
  • HIV
  • STD’s in general
  • Promiscuity
  • Emotional problems
  • Future marital problems.

We could logically look at each one of these, but all stem from a similar problem with the conclusion that we can examine as a whole.

False Conclusions

Conclusion: Abstinence is the only proven way to prevent X 100% of the time.  How did we get here?  What premises did we use?  I’ll take HIV as my example, since that is what started all of this.

Premise 1: HIV is only caused by consensual sexual intercourse
Premise 2: Abstinence means never having consensual sexual intercourse
Conclusion: Abstinence is the only way to prevent the spread of HIV 100% of the time

This looks ok until we inspect it a little closer.  Of our premises, one is false, and one is a hidden premise that we are completely leaving out.  And of our Conclusion, we have to use faulty logic to extend it beyond its actual scope.

False Premises

Premise 1 is false.  HIV can spread different ways other than consensual sexual intercourse, such as blood transfusions or using an infected needle.  And especially in the area where the pope was discussing, non-consensual sex is a large contributor.  Looking at the other items on my list they also suffer from false premises.

Promiscuity — To make this work we would have to start with the premise that having sex always leads to promiscuity.  We cannot assume that all people who have sex are promiscuous.  The premise that sex always leads to promiscuity is false.

Emotional Problems, Future marital problems — Similarly to promiscuity, any correlation between emotional or marital problems and sex are just that, correlation not causation.

Pregnancy — The premise that pregnancy is only caused by sexual intercourse is false because it can be caused by several other things including IVF, and god planting a jesus in your belly.  I know that is nit-picking, I just wanted to make a jesus joke.  Let’s move on to hidden premises.

Hidden Premises

The hidden premise is the bigger issue.  We are leaving out the premise/assumption that everyone is able to maintain the practice of abstinence.  Now, in coming to a useful conclusion, we should analyze the world as it really exists.  Abstinence is not a practice that is easy for everyone, especially those in the statistically ‘at risk’ category for contracting HIV through sex, to maintain.  So let us rewrite our syllogism:

Premise 1: HIV is sometimes caused by consensual sexual intercourse
Premise 2: Abstinence means never having consensual sexual intercourse
Premise 3: People trying to practice abstinence still have sexual intercourse with a rate of 26-86% (i.e. greater than 0)
Conclusion: In the real world, abstinence does not prevent HIV 100% of the time

Even if we limit our discussion so we only conclude ‘someone able to absolutely practice abstinence reduces their chance of contracting HIV 100%’ then all we have really concluded is that one ideal example of a person won’t get HIV.  If we look at a real population, and assume a failure rate of say 40% for people practicing abstinence, we get this conclusion:

Abstinence: 60% of the time it works every time (for preventing HIV transmitted through sex).

False Logic

And even with either of those conclusions, we never address the point about abstinence being the ‘only’ way to prevent X 100% of the time.  Just because we reach a conclusion about one method, we cannot immediately rule out all others.  Taking pregnancy as my example, I could just as easily, and wrongly, say ‘Anal sex is the only way to prevent pregnancy 100%’.  Following the same ad-hoc reasoning as before, I could safely say ‘someone absolutely practicing anal sex reduces their chance of becoming pregnant 100%’,  which proves that under the same premises, neither anal sex or abstinence are the only way to prevent pregnancy 100% of the time.

Actual Conclusion

So what is my point with all of this?  Obviously I’m not trying to say abstinence is worthless.  I’m just trying to say that when making conclusions, especially people with attached authority (media, pope, president, scientist), you should validate them logically as things exist in the real world.  Where is the real help to humanity in spouting false conclusions that only further your agenda?  If you are in a position of authority, you have an obligation by those who put you there to not espouse something as truth unless it is a truth in our world as it exists.  As a person of authority, people will actually take your conclusions as premises to build their own conclusions on. There is no help in basing things on conclusions for a Utopian world.  And hey, sometimes you can just say “I don’t know”.


2 Responses

  1. Vanweezy Says:

    “I don’t know” coming from a person of religious authority? LOL

  2. terry Says:

    that stupid immaculate conception stuff happens to me ALL THE TIME.

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