Thursday, March 26, 2009

Asking the Right Question Matters

Scrambling to the defense of the Vatican's most recent blast of anti-condom idiocy, Ross Douthat has gone and done the unexpected -- demanded evidence:

I think the more apposite response is to ask Rothkopf for his evidence that the Vatican's refusal to promote condom use has contributed to disease and death on a grand scale. Do religious Africans have higher infection rates than the irreligious? Do heavily-Catholic populations contract HIV in higher numbers than Muslim, Protestant, or animist populations? Are frequent mass-attenders more likely to contract the disease than infrequent churchgoers? Do graduates of Catholic schools have higher infections than their peers? Are Africans who seek treatment at Catholic hospitals more likely to pass the disease along than people who get their medicine from secular institutions?
Those are almost, but not quite, the right questions to ask in the course of gathering dispositive evidence. Almost.

Read narrowly, Douthat appears to be demanding that the Vatican's critics provide evidence of whether lay Catholics (and others within earshot of church preachments) actually behave as the church demands they behave vis-a-vis sex and condom use.

But that's not the question. The question is whether, all else held equal, a population of people given ready access to condoms, instructed in their proper use, and educated about the biomechanics of HIV transmission will develop greater or fewer cases of AIDS than a population denied ready access to condoms, not instructed in their proper use, not instructed in how condoms can inhibit HIV transmission, but given sharp warnings about how much Jesus frowns on extra-marital sex. Which of these populations will develop more cases of AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases?

As it turns out, relevant scientific evidence exists on this matter from, among other sources, the Centers for Disease Control. Meanwhile, the Church has spent the better part of the last 2,000 years trying to badger people out of having sex it doesn't sanction, and I think it's time to declare it a complete failure.

1 comment:

larryniven said...

I think this is a perfect case of lolcry. Half of me wants to laugh in his face and the other half of me wants to, in the immortal words of Chris Rock, shake the shit out of him.