Sunday, June 10, 2007
Sex, Science And Secular Society
I think KM is right on that, and here's why. Our current society has made it clear that people find it easier to ignore science than God, the Great Unknown and Great Undependent. Therefore, groups of people that follow at least the teachings of traditional faith are going to come out better over timescales of more than one generation.
Dead wrong, you say? Hahaha, I reply. Look at our current society, which is literally infected by a growing range of serious sexually transmitted infections (almost 1 in 4 of the people carrying incurable diseases?). Look at what science tells us, taking HPV as an example. (HPV is not just implicated in cervical cancer, but also in breast cancer, and HPV is spread skin to skin, not just by genital contact. Look at doctors advocating anal PAP smears!). Now a number of these diseases were not nearly the problem when I was young that they are today. It is my generation which has unleashed this ever-growing legion of disease upon an unsuspecting group of young adults who are at least as randy as my generation, but now at a much greater danger from their own randiness. We did it by the theory of free love, which turns out to be very costly indeed for the next generation.
What can I say to a twenty-year old today? You have to pay our unpaid bills in so many ways - not just in the matter of the federal budget deficit. Because my generation slept around, it is unsafe for yours to do so. If you continue to do so, each individual among you has a much higher chance of getting sick than we ever did. You also get the thrill of knowing that you are bequeathing an even greater danger to your children.
And our supposedly scientific society has not been able to summon up the strength to get the message across that anal sex is an unhealthy practice and that promiscuity is a cause of severe disease in humans. Biologically speaking, the more people sleep around the more these diseases spread, mutate and interact. Microorganisms breed far more quickly than humans, so one human body can literally experience harbor millions of generations of pathogens. In short, they will always out-mutate us. Everything that is being done to combat H5N1, for example, is focused on trying limit the spread by suppressing the disease through culling and vaccination campaigns, and lastly through simple hygiene. It's now clear that vaccinations are failing, and may in fact be causing the virus to mutate into new and more lethal forms. Culling, as I hope we can agree, is not a tactic to be used in humans. What does that leave us with?
Evolution of pathogens is a reality. Parasite theory (introduction; google using these terms if you are interested) indicates that parasites living in conditions of low transmission/vertical transmission must evolve towards benignity to the host (severe sickness kills the host and prevents transmission, so less injurious strains win in the parasite reproductive war for hosts), so it's rather clear that to curb and control human pathogens the best weapon is to control conditions for low transmission, and only vertical transmission if possible. In conditions of high transmission, it is the most fast-growing parasitic organism (closely corresponding to host lethality) which wins, because it literally will swamp the numbers of slowly growing organisms and be more likely to be transmitted. (Note, there is an interesting anthropological application to religion and other beliefs in humans, see this.)
I am completely certain that God exists. This matter should be of little importance to an atheist, and I am sure that it is of little importance. But even atheists cannot afford to ignore human pathogens; it is scientifically demonstrable that they do exist and seem to be gaining on us. TB was basically eliminated in the West through not just antibiotics but also segregation and treatment to control active infection. In societies in which coverage was not sufficient, TB is back, and it is a more vicious pathogen than ever, which now threatens our own society. In the end, the only weapon we will have against the new developing strains of TB will be universal testing, detection, and quarantine with treatment. Everything old and outmoded is new again.
So why is science unable to guide us in using our rationality to control our sexuality and create a healthier future? I don't know, but it is probably related to the fact that we not just rational beings, but instinctive beings, and that these instincts control us in very deep and non-separable ways. It now appears wildly unlikely that science will eliminate sexually transmitted diseases, due to our instincts.
The last irony here is that the so-called secular and scientific society seems intent on treating humans as brains without bodies and the instincts to go with those bodies. Furthermore, in light of what modern science has to say about the evolution of bacterial and viral organisms, the moral justification for the Christian and Buddhist teachings about the appropriate uses of sexuality now suddenly has a scientific basis. Sex can kill you and contribute to the creation of diseases which result in death and suffering on a grand scale; only sex in marriage has an equal potential to create life, so when Buddhists and Catholics advocate celibacy or monogamy, they are advocating the best and highest RATIONAL AND SCIENTIFIC calibration of our personal and societal needs.
Occasional failures are a relatively low threat to society as a whole; this strategy to control disease transmission and evolution of new disease will work as long as most people follow it and as long as no vectors of disease remain within society. Prostitution is condemned because it is a disease vector. Sacred prostitution is a very sick concept indeed, when considered in light of modern medical knowledge.
But we're not following the light of modern medical knowledge, and we're seeing the result en masse. We're becoming neither a scientific nor an Judeo-Christian culture; we are reverting to paganism, complete with the killing of sick children and diseased adults. So it's back to instincts, temple prostitution and human sacrifice for the non-religious or the non-scientific among us. Unfortunately, many of the scientific among us are climbing on the human sacrifice bandwagen as I write this. (As an aside, there is a common form of temple prostitution which includes a strict prohibition on all non-temple sexual relationships outside of marriage but free access to all the temple prostitutes for the "clean"; the temple prostitutes are given by their families as young virgin children. This is an undoubtedly functional mechanism to prevent the disease vectors produced by non-regulated prostitution, but it is brutally cruel to the children assigned to this societal role.)
Does anyone doubt the advantages over time experienced by populations which follow the great religions? Those Jews, with their neurotic emphasis on handwashing and sexual sin, were on to something after all!
Hitchens cannot win, because our current science is failing to address the whole human being in the whole human society in the way that religions do. Pagan societies fall of their own weight; as soon as they develop a high density population, they devolve into disease, superstition and barbarism on a grand scale. The most basic definition of paganism is the belief that the individual fate is not joined to the fate of the whole society. This is expressed by the multiple gods and multiple pleadings of paganism, versus the extraordinarily different concept of monotheism that the fates of all humans are determined by one Almighty God and One Almight Reality.
Our future may be our past, if we're not careful. A careful reading of history shows that it is pox and plague ridden in the extreme, and that the sins of the fathers most certainly do come down to the third and fourth generations of their children.
PS: For some reason not understandable to me, the cultural degradation of our society is accompanied by the degradation of our science. See Photon Courier's post at Chicago Boyz regarding the new physics curriculum in the UK. It's almost as if we have become culturally hostile to all forms of grappling with an immutable reality:
...this past academic year things changed. The Department for Education and the AQA board brought in a new syllabus for the sciences. One which greatly increased the teaching of `how science works.’ While my colleagues expressed scepticism, I was hopeful.
The result is a fiasco that will destroy physics in England.
The thing that attracts pupils to physics is its precision. Here, at last, is a discipline that gives real answers that apply to the physical world. But that precision is now gone. Calculations — the very soul of physics — are absent from the new GCSE. Physics is a subject unpolluted by a torrent of malleable words, but now everything must be described in words.
In this course, pupils debate topics like global warming and nuclear power. Debate drives science, but pupils do not learn meaningful information about the topics they debate. Scientific argument is based on quantifiable evidence. The person with the better evidence, not the better rhetoric or talking points, wins. But my pupils now discuss the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear power plants, without any real understanding of how they work or what radiation is.
Pupils are taught to poke holes in scientific experiments, to constantly find what is wrong. However, never are the pupils given ways to determine when an experiment is reliable, to know when an experiment yields information about the world that we can trust. This encourages the belief that all quantitative data is unreliable and untrustworthy.
The BEST post, bar none, you have ever written (and that's saying something). Not only do the secularists want to destroy faith (what has faith done to them) they want to destroy reason. Only then can their licentious behavior be justified.
The medical profession is complicit in the transfer of disease. They are loathe to proscribe bad behavior. If you'll look closer at the research, a few people are the "super villains" in disease spread. Most people are just useful idiots. In every locus of disease outbreaks there are usually a handful of people doing the most infecting, but they are very busy, indeed. But there is no stopping them, even the ones who know they're infected and purposefully infecting others.
Obey God or obey science, but the politically correct secularist submits to no law.
Understanding how Jewish ideas of "sin" are related to disease and methods of controlling disease is essential to understanding what Jesus was saying. Hitchens can't understand because he hasn't read the Bible. And we don't want to hear scientific reality because it is unpleasant; it requires controlling our instincts to achieve a better outcome for our society.
Nonetheless, reality will always overcome our delusions. What's appalling is how easily science is overridden when it conflicts with our delusions.
The only way one can debate atheism, I think, is with reason and fact. It seems to me that the monotheistic faiths are at least capable of spawning cultures which can take unpleasant reason and fact seriously. If I were debating Hitchens, this is where I would start. Your post started me thinking about this; Ilona's recent post kept me thinking about it, and Kobayashi Maru's post reinforced what I was thinking.
It's that Pesky Christian Sexual Morality (TM). They can't stomach it, so anything (especially "I WANNA!") is better than that.
We're really sacrificing kids to our own delusions. Btw, I got an email from the guy who wrote the article about anal PAP smears thanking me for posting the info. He said we have got to get the word out. People are dying because they don't have good information.
What a remarkable post you have written here! I was thinking as I read this how much more effective this is then simply telling folks not to sleep around. People of all ages need to UNDERSTAND the "reasons" and the "whys" for rules and regulations. If they don't truly understand it, rebellion is inevitable. Sex education in our public schools are a joke to say the very least. Thanks for posting this!
People often misquote Biblical and other sacred texts. If you read them in context, it's clear that Jews especially had a habit of linking the proscription to observation. Their rules of conduct were quite scientific. When Paul is talking about paying the penalty in their own bodies, he's talking about sickness.
Exactly. I try to be very careful on my blog not to start quoting a whole lot of scriptures for that very reason. They must be understood in context.
Mama, I know most of the time you write on economics. But I love it when you write on topics such as this one. You really did a wonderful job and with such clarity.
You never have to worry about oppressive Christian Sexual Morality when you live in an Islamic Republic.
Viola, actually when I write about economics it's from the same viewpoint. I still think that Jeremiah understood economics better than Alan Greenspan. My understanding of Jesus' teachings and the entire Old Testament teachings are that a Christian MUST pay attention to what is happening to other people. And some responses to reality (such as axing the sick and taxing and oppressing the poor) are not biblically acceptable.
If I quote Jeremiah, no one's going to get it. If I succeed in showing people how these things actually work, maybe I can have some small positive effect. I do not see the commands of faith as being divorced from reality; I see them as being an embrace of reality. But it is a painful embrace and one that we wish to avoid.