Scientists as Sex Counselors
To what extent should scientists presume to offer advice about sexual matters?
Beyond providing descriptions of body parts and how they work, science exits its domain when telling people how they should behave or think about sex. Yet repeatedly, editorials in journals and articles on science news sites engage in advocacy about sexual morality. Except in rare cases, it’s usually slanted from a leftist, libertine viewpoint.
Disparaging virginity pledges: Some conservative Jewish and Christian parents and religious institutions have encouraged their young people to take “virginity pledges” in recent years out of respect for the sanctity of marriage and obedience to Biblical commands to abstain from fornication and remain sexually pure. As with any human commitment, there are bound to be temptations and issues for the individuals involved, but is that science’s business? The American Psychological Association issued an alarming press release, noting that these pledges can lead to what they apparently consider a serious malady: “sexual confusion” after marriage. Tia Ghose, an occasional apologist for sexual license (e.g., 2/14/13), seemed gleeful to poke one at evangelical churches with her report on Live Science, alleging that “Men who make virginity pledges struggle with sex once married.” This was the conclusion of a “study” by Sarah Diefendorf, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Washington (who only interviewed 15 young men from one non-denominational megachurch called “The Message of Truth”).
Whether or not the concerns of the young men are real, one should ask why this is any of science’s business. The press release begins with, “Bragging of sexual conquests, suggestive jokes and innuendo, and sexual one-upmanship can all be a part of demonstrating one’s manhood, especially for young men eager to exert their masculinity,” as if those traits are preferable to whatever “sexual confusion” means. What about the victims of “sexual conquests”? What about the long-term consequences of self-centered, destructive behaviors? Nothing in the articles portrays it masculine to exercise self-control of one’s passions and be a gentleman, respecting the purity of the opposite sex. Instead, Diefendorf seemed focused on pointing out flaws in the church’s counseling methods. And she had more in mind than dispassionately presenting “scientific” findings: “She hopes that her study leads to more positive discussions of sex and how it is healthy, especially within the context of abstinence-only sex education,” the article ends. Did her attitudes influence her “science”? By empirical standards alone, it seems grossly unscientific to draw conclusions from one small sample of one gender from one church; other churches or institutions might be doing a far better job. And why didn’t Diefendorf follow scientific protocol by designing a control group or presenting a null hypothesis? Why didn’t she query fornicators about their marital issues, or ask wives what consequences their husbands’ premarital dalliances had on their relationships?
Promoting abortion: A “research” study at the University of Cincinnati, in the guise of taking a “survey” about “knowledge of abortion,” actually graded respondents’ “correct answers” according to left-leaning, pro-abortion positions. Example: one “correct” answer is that a woman has a “greater health risk” when giving birth instead of aborting in the first 3 months of pregnancy. Another “correct” answer is “somewhat disagree” or “strongly disagree” to the question, “A woman who has an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy is more at risk of a serious mental health problem than if she were to continue that pregnancy.” Aside from the blatant subjectivity and undefined terms in the question, the Family Research Council and a number of other conservative or pro-life organizations would most certainly take issue with the “correctness” of that answer! The concluding statement in the press release suggests a political agenda for the survey: “Based on their findings, the researchers conclude that men and women making sexual and reproductive health decisions may not be well informed about the relative safety and consequences of their choices, highlighting a need for the provision of better, more comprehensive and evidence-based sexual and reproductive health education.” But are those “findings” or self-serving confirmations of the researchers’ biases? What if the sex education promotes the idea that having an abortion is safe, fine, and legal, with no health consequences? How about the “safety” of the baby and its own right to life?
The article was echoed uncritically on “Science” Daily, and by Laura Geggel on Live “Science,” who seemed somewhat appalled that “only about a third of respondents knew that having an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy carries fewer health risks for women than giving birth, or that women who have abortions before 12 weeks of pregnancy do not face an increased risk of serious mental-health problems”—the “correct” answers dictated by the U of Cincinnati “researchers.” The political agenda reared its head again in Geggel’s paraphrase: “The findings suggest that people in the U.S. are not well informed about the relative safety of abortion, or the laws surrounding it, the researchers said,” clearly hopeful that better sex education could correct the public’s ignorance of the “correct” answers. This was another gem from the American Psychological Association.
Promoting government-mandated contraceptives: It would seem a very private and personal issue whether couples wish to use contraceptives; for many, it is also a religious issue. The recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court protected the religious freedom of owners of privately held companies. Hobby Lobby offered its employees 16 forms of contraception but refused to pay for 4 abortifacients that violated their views on the sanctity of human life. Had the company lost, they would have been punished with steep fines that would have put them out of business. Never before had private companies been required to offer contraceptives at all, or even health insurance for that matter. But when Obamacare went into effect, all company-offered insurance plans had to comply with federal requirements, including the abortion-inducing drugs (despite the president’s strong statements before passage that abortion would not be part of his signature health-care plan; that had been a make-or-break issue for certain pro-life Democrats whom Obama assuaged with an executive order to get their votes, garnering just enough to pass the bill without a single Republican vote; see WND update).
None of this history is evident in articles on “science” news sites like this one reproduced on PhysOrg, “The Hobby Lobby Case and What It Means for U.S. Health Care” (a pretty “unscientific” title for its extrapolation). The article focuses on alleged hardships the ruling puts on women. “I think there will be a significant number of women who will wind up being unable to get contraception because they may not be able to afford contraception on their own,” one spokesman is quoted as saying, ignoring non-employer sources that could fill the need, if there is one. There is also a fear-mongering quote suggesting that more companies may use the decision to deny contraceptive coverage “perhaps for ideological reasons masquerading as a religious belief.” Such a statement implies those in support of mandates have no ideological reasons for their beliefs. Reporter Dennis Thompson gives some quotes to religious leaders, but ends with a sad story about how a woman whose nurse thinks an IUD would be best for her might have to foot the $600 to $800 bill for it—all because her company is no longer forced to offer it under Obamacare. Is there a right to a company-paid IUD in the Constitution? The reporter didn’t seem concerned about that, or why it wasn’t tragic that millions of women since the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock never got freebie contraceptives before Obamacare forced employers to offer them.
Promoting Obamacare contraception: Another article on Medical Xpress promoted the leftist view with a bold headline, “Women will benefit from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage.” It didn’t say “non-Catholic women” or “non-conservative women,” just “women.” That’s a pretty broad brush for a “science” site to paint with. The first sentence leaps right in, with “Women could benefit greatly from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for contraceptive coverage, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers” (“researcher” in the science media is often used as a synonym for “scientist”). The “study” celebrates the fact that more women will get free IUDs and other controversial devices in spite of some employers’ objections. “At whose expense?” was not asked by the researcher. IUDs don’t grow on trees. Somebody must pay. Actually, employers who objected to offering some contraceptives in their company’s benefit packages will be forced to pay for them anyway, through their taxes and insurance premiums. To “researcher” Carol S. Weisman at Penn State, the only problem remaining is how to educate women about all the freebies they can now get under Obamacare.
Down with men: It’s hard to know what this article by “Rainbow Murray” is doing on science site PhysOrg: Forget quotas for women MPs – time to limit the number of men.” The whole article is Murray’s personal rant about sexism in “boys'” occupations and positions of leadership. “It is time to reframe gender quotas as quotas for men,” she preaches, with no pretense of scientific objectivity. “We should introduce quotas to limit the number of men in power, ensuring that only the best and brightest of both sexes prevail. This would mean placing much more scrutiny on the credentials of men, rather than taking their competence for granted.” Her article from The Conversation was printed verbatim on PhysOrg.
Promoting gender confusion: “LGBT Advocacy Within Companies Works” shouts a headline from the University of Connecticut that was reproduced on PhysOrg uncritically, complete with photo of man with a rainbow tie. What “works” may be a matter of definitions; did the university take into account the sincerely-held beliefs of religious businesses and churches that might not work with “advocacy” of LGBT lifestyles, no matter how compassionate they might be toward individuals so described? The “sociologist” at UConn is apparently pleased that company-initiated advocacy programs “often effective at changing a company’s social policies – even before government mandates bring about change.” Policy is not the domain of science. Mary Bernstein clearly stepped out of empirical science to characterize LGBT advocacy as “best practice” (using the leftist buzzword “diversity” several times). Apparently “best practices” for LGBT advocacy are measured by things like “domestic partner benefits, health insurance coverage, employee recruitment, and philanthropic support” which, undoubtedly, connotes donating company charitable funds to LGBT organizations.
Any conservatives out there in Scienceland? Every once in a great while, a “study” appears to support a non-leftist viewpoint about sex. A study at University of Michigan, for instance, found that women who read the steamy “Fifty Shades of Grey” novels tended to have abusive, unhappy relationships; soaking up the books “leads to unhealthy behaviors,” the headline says. “The study, which appears in the Journal of Women’s Health, is one of the first to investigate the relationship between health risks and reading popular fiction depicting violence against women,” researchers at the university found. “Past research has tied watching violent television programs to real-life violence and antisocial behaviors, as well as reading glamour magazines to being obsessed with body image.” Science Daily reproduced this article. Medical Xpress posted a report that links violent video games to risk-taking sexual behavior. Science Magazine shed light on the pre-natal influence of parents, even before conception. In another less-than-leftist report, Gordon Parker on The Conversation gave some rarely-heard warnings about psychological counselors and psychotherapists, whose scientific credentials are questionable, and whose talk therapies can do more harm than good. A study from Grand Valley State University posted on Science Daily was actually fair to Hobby Lobby and Chik Fil-A for a change, concluding that customers and employees are likely to be favorable to a company’s policies if backed up by religious convictions, no matter what the religion. While none of these articles are openly pro-conservative or pro-life, they at least raise cautions about unfettered licentiousness and abstain from portraying conservatives or religious people in a negative light.
Look; it’s a free country. If someone wants to advocate their pet viewpoint in the open marketplace of ideas, that’s fine. But don’t call it science when it is an ideology pretending to be “research” or a “study” at a “university” by a “scientist.” Scientists are not doing science all the time, when they have lunch or go on vacation, for instance. Science is supposed to be about empirical data gathered with unbiased methods about repeatable natural phenomena, drawing tentative conclusions wherever the evidence leads. As you can see, in actual practice, it is often far from those ideals. We have shown a number of times that scientific institutions have become bastions of leftist ideology (5/31/14, 1/02/13, 12/05/10, 10/14/10, etc.). Just count the ratio of Republicans to Democrats at a typical university and it’s clear: academia is overwhelming leftist.
Ideology is no more dangerous than when it pretends to be “science.” For a chilling example, see the Discovery Institute’s new online video, The Biology of the Second Reich: The Untold Story of WWI. It shows how infatuation with Darwinian ideas by German scientists turned them into active promoters of total war to prove German superiority. That’s a particularly grotesque example, but here we see alleged “scientists” (clearly leftist ideologues) using the noble banner of “science” to promote ideas that are morally abhorrent to conservative Americans and Christians. Just like leftists, the ideologues pretending to be scientists don’t want real “diversity”.* They want to mandate their views on everyone, forcing uniformity like some kind of Shariah state. Maybe that’s how scientific institutions should be characterized now, as a leftist caliphate: convert, pay, or off with your head!
*Anecdote: When NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab started a new “Diversity and Inclusion” department in 2007, every employee was required to take a quiz illustrating (with cartoons) social situations requiring respect for “diversity.” The “correct” answers were all pre-programmed, as could be expected, to fit the liberal view (e.g., don’t call it a “Christmas Party” but a “Holiday Party”). In the first iteration of the quiz, there was a situation about how to handle a fellow employee who believed in “intelligent design” (yes, that actual phrase was used). The correct answer hinted that his views should be respected anyway. There was such an outcry by certain employees of the predominantly liberal lab, the D&I department took out that question and replaced it with a more politically-correct one (probably, how to act tolerant of a bearded man wearing a rainbow dress, or something). Good grief, what’s the point of “inclusion” if you shun someone whose views you strongly disagree with? Where’s the “diversity” when everyone must think alike about origins? Where’s the “tolerance” when it’s intolerable to think of someone believing in intelligent design? As many of you know, your CEH Editor was humiliated and punished two years later at JPL for that very thought crime.