Huckabee, Sex Ed., and High Energy Particle Physics

What’s the connection? Huckabee is for real. He probably won’t win the nomination (here I agree with David Brooks otherwise risible defense of Huckabee as the candidate with the right values for a revived conservatism), but he’s in witha chance.

He is also a scientifically illiterate defender of stupid ideas known to be false. Lots of them, but for now, let’s look at one that has profound consequences for people who buy his brand of snake oil. Abstinence “education” instead of real information about sex, human biology, and contraception. He’s for it: quoted in a usually reliable source of revealed “wisdom,” the CBN’s Brody File, he said:

“Abstinence education provides a valuable counterweight to peer pressure and the message young people get from the popular culture encouraging casual relationships and separating sex from love, commitment and marriage. I do not believe in teaching about sex or contraception in public schools. That is the responsibility of parents.

(Empahsis in the original).

I’ll not mention that most of us would think that lessons about sexual choices — i.e. abstinence is in fact the responsibility of the parents, and not a nanny state. (Funny how “conservatives” are all in favor of an intrusive state in defense of bad causes, isn’t it? Surveillance, unchecked detention, invasion of your bedroom, but not any where else. I know – an old point.) Instead, just consider the basic point.

Huckabee says abstinence “education” is valuable — and he’s right. It’s valuable to the modern Marjoe hucksters who make a good living off telling teenagers not to screw. It’s valuable to the Christianist welfare kings and queens who have learned that there is good money to be made fleecing the government and misleading kids. According the Washington Post, the federal government spends 176 million a year on abstinence “education,” including but not limited to the Title V grants reauthorized in the last minute budget deal passed just before the new year.

What’s the problem with all this? Most of you will have guessed this already: abstinence “education” is a fraud. It doesn’t work. Kids still have sex. (This comes as a great surprise, of course to everyone who was ever a teenager, or the parent of one.) From the fact sheet on the HHS report released last spring:

Findings indicate that youth who were assigned to the Title V abstinence education “program group” were no more likely than youth who were assigned to the “services as usual” control group to have abstained from sex. Those who reported having sex had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same mean age. (Link to the complete study here.)

Reported unprotected sex was the same for both groups, for which we may be grateful. See the San Francisco Chronicle’s marvelous Violet Blue’s Open Source Sex column (from whom the inspiration for this rant derived) for more gory details. Worst of all: official US government agencies spread lies about condom use and its public health significance.

Each of these assertions turns up in federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs: Condoms fail to prevent HIV infection 31 percent of the time during heterosexual sex. The chances of getting pregnant while using a condom are 1 in 6. And condoms break or slip off nearly 15 percent of the time.

And each of them is wrong, says John S. Santelli, a pediatrician and a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Bottom line: GOP “values” politicians, as a group seemingly more sexually incontinent than bunnies in a hutch, use the terror of children having sex to funnel cash to favored folks, who then achieve nothing of any public purpose.

But we all knew that, right? So what’s the connection to high energy physics.

Well, the same budget deals that saved tens of millions for GOP buddy welfare, essentially killed research funding for new high energy physics research in this country, just as the most important HEP experiment in years is about to turn on at the Large Hadron Collider. Here’s hoping we see something like this:

The federal budget as passed in the last grim days of 2007 cut 90 million dollars from high energy physics, including 52 million dollars from Fermilab. 200 layoffs, unpaid furloughs and all the usual pain will follow. Two new American experiments are scrubbed, at least for now, and the ability to take advantage of whatever the LHC comes up with will be degraded for years to come, if not permanently.

So: there you have it: the current victor on the Republican side of the fence supports spending millions on a “feel-good” (for some) program that serves the interests only of Christianist fat cats, while no money is available to advance American research in a field we used to — but no longer dominate.

There is a separate argument to be had about the best way to spend research dollars, choices between, for example, particle physics and cosmology; physical chemistry or neurobiology and so on. We could, and should, point out that the budget shenanigans above required the acquiesence, at least, of Democrats in Congress who should know better.

But the point is that a frighteningly prominent segment of the right side of the political spectrum is absolutely committed to spending millions of dollars in defense of stupid, failed ideas, and not one cent for good science.

Back in the day, Cato used to end each speech with the tag line “Carthago delanda est” — Carthage must be destroyed. Let me update: this kind of nonesense must be destroyed. Huckabee is presented in coverage today as a kind of outlier in the Republican party. He’s not. He stands for what a large segment of that party believes to be true. If we want a smart, safe, secure society, 2008 becomes ever more important. These guys cannot have another run in power.

Images: William-Adolphe Bouguereau, “A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros,” 1880. Source: Wikipedia Commons

A diagram of one possible way in which the LHC may observe a Higgs Boson. Used under a GNU Free Documentation licence.

Explore posts in the same categories: abstinence, bad ideas, bad science, Huckabee, physics, Politics

17 Comments on “Huckabee, Sex Ed., and High Energy Particle Physics”

  1. […] about all kinds of health and science related issues, like the deception about condoms discussed in this post below. For a proper treatment of all the different ways that science has been the punching bag of […]

  2. […] blog adds another level (and a lot more audience) to the argument I was trying to make in this post. (Whatever else may be said about the two posts — mine has much sexier illustration.) I said […]

  3. […] in response to my post below, author and MIT professor Thomas Levenson has two well-written posts on the central failure of Republican […]

  4. MonkeyBoy Says:

    That painting is at the Getty Museum. I was given a gorgeous (but inexpensive) poster of it years ago from their gift shop but they no longer seem to offer it.

  5. redfish Says:

    Of course if the culture is filled with sex, including people arguing for sexual expression and experimentation, a teacher suggesting abstinence won’t make a difference to the kid. Kids are more influenced by mass media and their peers than authority figures.

    But I still think the culture of talking about sex to kids needed to change. I don’t believe in spending millions of dollars trying to promote abstinence, of course, but I don’t think people are taking these conservative policies in the right historical perspective. Before the 90s there was sort of a rah rah attitude towards sex by adults and intense pressure to have sex among peers. In some ways there still is. But since our culture has become more conservative, abstinence has actually gone up overall, and teen pregnancy rates have dropped.

    Many people are sort of blind to the fact that on the other , extreme, side of the spectrum, a lot of liberal activists want schools to talk about homosexuality to kindergarten kids, want schools to hand out condoms, in later sex education courses bring in transsexuals to have talks with kids and talk about fetishes like fisting, and have classes in universities on pornography where students are assigned to make porn.

    The conservative solution of ‘abstinence education’ is in fact a reaction to real excesses on the liberal side. The truth is that it isn’t more healthy than repression if authority figures almost encourage kids to have sex.

    People often talk as if conservatives started the war of stupid policies and the liberals who promote these things are on the margin, but if they are on the margin they’re only there because they’ve been marginalized over time. Clinton’s Secretary of Education supported a lot of the type of liberal sex education policies I described here that Republicans reacted to.

    And it would be more honest to debate that than firebranding against conservatives: which sex education policy is stupider — abstinence, or handing out condoms

  6. […] home: high energy physics got whacked even more severely than I had first realized and blogged. SLAC as well as Fermilab faces lay offs, major experiments are […]

  7. […] war last year, and it now trails only World War II) funding for such “luxuries” as basic science research and especially the education of scientists will end up on the cutting room floor when the final […]

  8. […] abstinence education work? Not in this country. See this post for my earlier take on that issue. In Africa? Not so much there either. From Britain’s The […]

  9. jjjjj Says:


  10. […] that abstinence education does not work. See here for one recent take on this, and see this for my earlier whack at Mike Huckabee on this same issue.  Cruise the blogosphere to find as much more as you would […]

  11. […] for  abstinence education as the proper form of sex education for American teenagers, despite for all the evidence, some close to home, of the inadequacy of that approach, is the tell that reminds us how much […]

  12. vishal ratnawat Says:

    very good image thanks…….

  13. behzad Says:

    hi i love sex
    plaesse send video sex to my email
    tank u

  14. kett Says:

    best image

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: