Mar 22

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”.

Oct 6

So when I last left this topic, I had 3 variations of congratulating people on sucking.  Today I would like to add 2 more.  They are only minor variations, but they have been pretty prevalent lately so I felt they deserved their own designation.

First: Congratulation you used to suck REALLY BADLY, now you just suck a little less.  Your name is Sarah Palin.  Sarah Palin decided to do only a couple of interviews prior to the VP debate.  Apparently this was a good strategy on her part.  First off, she sucked hard core in these interviews.  If you haven’t seen them, I recommend not watching them ever.  They will make you hurt inside.  But the reason this was a good strategy is because they set her bar for intelligent conversation very low.  Then when it came time for the debate, everyone thought “wow she has no chance”.  During the debate she continued sucking by avoiding questions, at one point the moderator actually re-asked a question and said “do you want to respond to my actual question at all? here is your chance.”  I think she only answered one question asked to her, and I mention it below.  Awesome.  When they call it a “debate” Palin thought they really mean “i ask you a question, you spout your pre-drafted propaganda, we all get a little dumber.”  She continued sucking by lying, a lot.  One example: “Palin, will any McCain/Palin promises have to be turned back on due to recent economic developments?”  Here was her chance to say “Yes, we will not veto all pork barrel spending like we originally promised, because we just broke that promise when McCain voted for the bailout, which contained tons of earmarks and pork barrel spending.  Thanks for giving me that opportunity to come clean to the nation and not be a douchebag.”  Instead, first she responded with something not relevant to the question, then she lied and said “Nope, we will keep all of our promises including getting the country back on its feet by getting this bailout passed.”  If you are going to lie to me about not lying, don’t mention something you lied about in your promise to not lie.  So when the debate was all over, what were all the media discussing (at least Middle Eastern, French, British, and American ones that I saw)?  How Palin came off looking good because she sucked less than when interviewed by Katie Couric.  One French reporter hit it dead on when he said “Palin sucked so bad before the debate that anything short of saying ‘I poop on America’ would be a win”.  That is paraphrased.  Another reporter from BBC said “she came out looking attractive with a nice dress and a big smile, she kept smiling the whole time and looked at the camera.  She also held a baby at the end, I’ve never seen that in a debate.”  If the only way you can make it sound like she didn’t perform horribly is by pointing out things unrelated to the actual debate, you just proved she was horrible.  Finally a reporter from Darfur said “I wish these people would stop murdering my entire population so that I could watch the VP debates.  I think Palin relates to me because of her accent and folksy jargon.”  I made that last one up, but I’m sure that’s what they would have said.  So by sucking so badly prior to the debates, and then sucking only marginally less during the debate because she could read from notecards, Sarah Palin tricked several members of the media, and probably half the U.S. population into thinking she didn’t lose.

Second: Self-congratulations we used to suck REALLY BADLY, now we just suck a little less.  Your name is Senate.  Notice the subtle difference.  In this scenario, no one congratulates you on sucking, so you have to do it yourself.  Congress (which includes the Senate, for those who didn’t take government in high school) recently dropped to the lowest approval rating in Gallup poll history (18%) so I think there is no question about the ‘you used to suck REALLY BADLY’ part.  However, they just passed the bailout, err excuse me ‘financial rescue package’ bill.  So are congratulations in order?  According to the senators, they are.  They made a huge deal about how “this is the senate at its best” and “this issue was so important that we rose above party politics for a solution” and “senate rules, house drools”  and “i’m a rich old guy that just gave out a bunch of your money to other rich old guys, yay me!”.  The main problem I have with this is the fact that they are patting themselves on the back for getting one small part of their job accomplished.  That part is ‘passing a bill’.  It’s not even saying they passed the right bill, they just passed a bill.  If this is the senate at its best, then its worst must be on par with the guys from Jackass.  They also seem to think it is a good thing that for once they were able to ‘reach across the aisle’ (could we constantly repeat a gayer analogy for ‘work together with both parties’, no, no we couldn’t) and get both parties to agree on something.  So senate, you are saying that usually you don’t give a shit about the country or the issue, as long as you vote opposite the other party?  Awesome, please represent me.

So here is a thought, maybe instead of getting all excited over sucking, we could do things a little bit differently.  First, McCain could have put his country first (which is a good trait in the job he is running for) and chosen a running mate that isn’t a slap in the face to america, instead of just trying to play politics to win the election.  I don’t know if it is more disconcerting to me that he chose Palin, or that almost half the country doesn’t mind that he chose Palin.  Second, our elected representatives could come down one notch on the douchebag scale and actually try to get results instead of just passing blame when nothing is accomplished or even worse, giving themselves false congratulations to pretend something is accomplished.