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The Scientifically Inept Crowd

Posted by Condomologist on March 27, 2009

Decided to go perusing some of the conservative blogs and came across American Thinker, self-described as “devoted to the thoughtful exploration of issues of importance to Americans.” On this site is a piece by Ben-Peter Terpstra entitled “Condoms don’t protect souls.” Leaving aside what that title means (because I have no idea), I think it important from time to time to understand what I’m up against in the fight to promote condoms from a sex-positive perspective that says condom use is actually a healthy choice to make if one engages is penetrative sex. It’s fair to make the argument that abstinence is the best policy, that condoms are not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy or STDs — and certainly some infections are transmitted more easily even with a condom on, because they can be passed through skin-to-skin contact — but the dishonesty is so scary when you stop to read what kind of supposed evidence is put forth to support the anti-condom stance.  The money quotes are too many to number, but here’s a taste, and note the underlying homophobia:

Some rational logic: “You’ll notice that liberals embrace the Don’t Theology when their precious political cushions are at risk. “Don’t. Don’t.  Don’t. Don’t watch Fox News. Don’t Read Ann Coulter’s Guilty. Don’t drive to work.” Miraculously, though, the Don’t Theology becomes simplistic when Evangelicals, Catholics or Mormons encourage their daughters to abstain from sleeping with street gangs.”

Apparently I represent lefty celebrities: “Hollywood thinks it knows better than us — and can afford the pills. How? By rarely, if ever, acknowledging that Jesus Christ knows more than Elton John. By rarely, if ever, questioning the condom industry. By rarely, if ever, admitting that that Christians are right. (Newsflash: Sexual promiscuity and poverty are lovers.)  By rarely if ever, thinking outside their studio boxes.”

Oh, those silly gays: “And, if after millions of dollars, quilting workshop marches, embarrassing propaganda movies, and street booty exhibitions, thousands of San Francisco’s gay men don’t know how to put on a condom, then doesn’t that suggest the Pope is right?”

But aside from the empty rhetoric, it’s willingness to twist evidence to fit one’s point of view that is so egregious. He quotes Dr. Judith Riesman (doctorate in communications), who tells us that a 2001 NIH report on condoms reveals “it turns out that while STD infections are a principal cause of women’s sterility, chronic disease and early death, condoms afford girls and women categorically no protection from seven of the eight STD’s studied, even when used faultlessly 100 percent of the time [and] [c]ondoms may curb gonorrhea in heterosexual intercourse – but only for men!” She goes on with more misleading shenanigans, failing at any point to footnote her sources, but the point is that people take her for her word; she is a doctor after all. And while we on the left fall victim to the same amateur willingness to only quote sources that support our underlying belief system, we must realize that these are matters of life and death and thus deserve serious investigation and scholarship.

The Guttmacher Institute takes a bit more thorough look at this same report and while they acknowledge that data was insufficient to prove that condoms prevent transmission of 6 of the 8 STDs studied — and their attempts to prove the effectiveness of condoms are dubious at best — they note that the report states that “the absence of definitive conclusions reflected inadequacies of the evidence available and should not be interpreted as proof of the adequacy or inadequacy of the condom to reduce the risk of STDs other than HIV transmission in men and women and gonorrhea in men.” Most importantly, they tell us that “..the inadequacy of the data should not be interpreted as indicating the inadequacy of condoms. Deliberate attempts to characterize the evidence as demonstrating the ‘ineffectiveness of condoms’ constitute a misunderstanding of what the report states. Moreover, such misrepresentation can undermine the public’s confidence in condoms, thereby leading to nonuse and to further spread of STIs and HIV.”

Both sides make grand conclusions because they’re so scared of the opposition scoring points in the battle to win over the general public. But this case is one example where the efforts to twist the evidence have much more serious consequences when the anti-condom crowd infers that lack of data supporting the effectiveness of condoms essentially renders them useless, all in order to promote their abstinence agenda. And in the process, they make some pretty ugly remarks about those of us who simply aim to improve the sexual health of our fellow citizens. 



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