A friend just sent me this interview of Gov. Rick Perry …
I’ve cleaned up the relevant parts of the interview, scrubbing Perry’s horrible speaking style so that it’s somewhat understandable.
Interviewer: … Why does Texas continue with abstinence education programs when they don’t seem to be working … ?
Perry: Abstinence works.
Interviewer: But … we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country. … It doesn’t seem to be working.
Perry: It works. Maybe it’s the way it’s being taught or the way it’s being applied out there, but the fact of the matter is, it is the best form to teach our children.
I should preface this by noting that Perry is not talking about the act of abstaining from sex. Yes, of course that prevents STDs and pregnancies in teenagers. The question is whether or not abstinence-only education works. Perry clearly answers in the affirmative.
The problem here is not that Perry has the wrong answer. Abstinence-only education does not work. The reasons are well-known, and almost gobsmackingly obvious to anyone that can remember their own hormone-driven teenage years. The temptations of the flesh, directed through billions of years of evolution, compel us to behave in specific ways.
The problem here is not that Perry wants more pregnant or STD-positive teenagers in Texas. Attributing such motives to Perry does little more than paint him as a devil, a person that wishes to make others suffer for making choices he finds distasteful. It’s far too easy to dismiss him as a bad person, for in doing so we reject his position when it is at its weakest. Perry thinks, so I conjecture, that his policies will work to solve a host of plagues in his state. What these problems are, however, are up for debate.
Perry seems unable to go through the process of problem-solving. If a proposal does not, as far as we can tell, work, then we must either reject the proposal or produce some iteration of the proposal that explains why it failed. This is the basic trial and error process: We accept our mistakes. Perry will have none of this. He starts with a proposal (“Abstinence works”) and then when confronted with conflicting data, ends with the proposal!
Here we have an individual that will not change his position even with the world against him. Possibly this is for religious or moral reasons. He might think that premarital sex is sinful. Since Perry think his religion’s position on sinful acts is true, endorsing condom use would do little more than beget sin. Perry has a duty to follow his dogma come what may, otherwise it would not be dogma any more. Any possible consequences, such as a high level of teen pregnancy in Texas, the untold suffering of others, and the spread of STDs, is tolerable when souls hang in the balance.