We’re often told that our faith is unthinking and unquestioning, and that – if we’d just look at the evidence – we’d agree with our disputants.
Leaving aside the breathtaking familiarity of the argument – we Catholics tend (particularly when we are young) to make precisely the same assumption that others would agree with us if they’d only be reasonable – I’d like in this post to look at a few of the common misconceptions that pass for received truth in today’s Western world.
I don’t expect to shake anyone’s faith. But perhaps examining the evidence may open minds to the possibility that other people also believe they have reason on their side.
Overpopulation is a myth
I’ve been hearing since at least the 1960s that the world is overpopulated. This is how the party line goes: there are too many people; we can’t feed them all now, and with the trends in population increase, in a few years there will be standing room only.
What a surprise then to find that scientists who track demographic trends are now worrying about population decrease. Not just in the Western world, either. In Europe, North America and Australasia, as you’ll already know, the drop in birth rates is such that there are insufficient babies being born to replace those who are dying. There is a bit of variation between countries, but overall, the citizen population is shrinking.
The new piece of information is that the same trends are beginning to show up all around the world. As early as 2003, the UN revised its population growth rate as a result of the startling drop in births in the developing world. The latest figures suggest a peak world population of as little as 8 billion just after 2200, and after that, fewer people every year.
Human hunger and poverty is a greed problem (some people wanting more than their share), not an overpopulation problem. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out. Here’s a place to start.
And here’s an article about two studies that say we can feed double the current population.
Artifical contraception is not good for women
Contraceptives have to be one of the biggest cons of all time. They are still touted as a benefit to women, despite the experience of the last fifty years. ‘Freeing women from an endless round of pregnancies,’ goes the party line. Though statistical analysis of birth rates at different social levels in every society I’ve ever looked at – on every continent and in every age – supports the alternate theory that birth rates drop when women are educated and have opportunities other than motherhood.
Contraceptives don’t prevent conception
No contraceptive is 100% effective even when used correctly. And the number of reported pregnancies per 100 pregnancies from people who say their contraceptive method of choice failed is much higher than the ‘manufacturers’ statistics from controlled testing. People just don’t follow the instructions all the time! One large scale study showed that one in every three conceptions occur in a month when a couple was using contraceptives.
Examine the evidence. Here’s a starter.
Barrier methods of contraception don’t prevent disease
Condoms are promoted as ‘safe sex’. But they don’t reliably prevent many sexually transmitted diseases. The theory that they do is based on the size of the pores in the latex, and the size of the virus. However, this only works:
- if the transmission method is sperm or seminal fluid – if it is other body fluids or skin to skin contact, then obviously condoms are not going to be effective
- if condoms are used consistently, effectively, and don’t ever break. Which expectation is contrary to human experience.
A July 20, 2001 report from the National Institutes of Health, Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention, concluded there is insufficient scientific evidence to support condom use as a means to prevent infections of genital herpes (HSV), human papillomavirus, chlamydia, syphilis, chanchroid, and trichomonas (pages 20, 26, 17, 23, 21, 18 respectively). There is evidence of protection for men against gonorrhea, but not women (p.16).
Later studies have shown that there may be moderate protection for some of these diseases – that is, instead of a 35% chance of catching, say, HSV, you might have a 20% chance.
The NIH report did say that consistent condom use decreased the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission by about 85 percent (p.14). So only 15 women in 100 will catch HIV from their promiscuous partner.
Examine the evidence. Again, here’s a place to start.
Contraceptives promote an attitude of disrespect
It is hard to figure out cause and effect in this, as in any other major demographic change. But certainly we can look at the changes in society since contraception became widely available and accepted.
Stereotypes of women have certainly changed. In the 1950s, women were expected to be nurturing, supportive, and virtuous. This wasn’t an easy role to play, and the social costs of failing were high But at least as you aged, the role was easier to play. In 2010, women are expected to be ‘hot’. This expectation fuels depression and mental illness, quite apart from its other social costs. And as you age, the role becomes harder and harder (and more and more expensive) to maintain.
I’d like to live in a society that didn’t stereotype. Failing that, I’d prefer a stereotype that helped me to be the best I could be, and that lasted me a lifetime.
There is a bit of information that is at least indicative.
- research that shows couples who practice NFP are less likely to divorce
- research that shows high rates of clinical depression among women – indicating at least that they have perceived no improvement in their status
- stories about the bitterness of women who feel they’ve been sold short by the contraceptive revolution
- life – just look around. Ask a woman.
The Church’s teaching on condoms does not make the AIDS crisis worse
Come on! This one should be obvious!
What the world media would like us to believe is this.
People who disobey the Church’s teachings that forbid having sex outside of marriage suddenly obey the Church when it teaches that contraceptive devices should not be used within marriage? Please!
This theory seems ridiculous on the face of it, and it looks even sillier once you realise that none of the commentators quote statistics showing that Catholics are any more likely to be infected with HIV. I have checked the statistics – and in all countries except South Africa and Angola, they indicate the opposite – countries with higher numbers of Catholics have lower incidence of infection. (In South Africa and Angola, there is no statistically significant difference between those identify as Catholic and the general population.)
But by all means check the evidence. Here are some question starters.
In countries with high Mass attendance, is AIDS more or less prevalent?
Where studies have looked at HIV infection rates by religious conviction, which religious groups have the highest levels of infection?
Has any third-World country succeeded in reducing its HIV rates solely by promoting condom-use?
In third World countries that have reduced their HIV rates, what messages have succeeded – and what two religious groups are most strongly represented?