Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Another scientific study that shows what only cognitive dissonance would try to disprove

From the annals of the science of "Well, duh!", we have another study to add to the overwhelming evidence that... wait for it... abstinence only sex eduction does not reduce teenage pregnancy, and is - in fact - correlated with increased teenage pregnancy.

Via Physorg:
States that prescribe abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools have significantly higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states with more comprehensive sex education programs, researchers from the University of Georgia have determined.

The study is the first large-scale evidence that the type of sex education provided in public schools has a significant effect on teen pregnancy rates, Hall said.
But what about social effects like education and socioeconomic status? I mean, if you believe in the stereotypes, then only the unintelligent poor girls are going to get pregnant. Well, like good social scientists, the team actually did account for these things.
Along with teen pregnancy rates and sex education methods, Hall and Stanger-Hall looked at the influence of socioeconomic status, education level, access to Medicaid waivers and ethnicity of each state's teen population.

Even when accounting for these factors, which could potentially impact teen pregnancy rates, the significant relationship between sex education methods and teen pregnancy remained: the more strongly abstinence education is emphasized in state laws and policies, the higher the average teenage pregnancy and birth rates.
I can hear the cognitive dissonants chanting, "Well, correlation doesn't mean causation!" True, but remember, the saying holds for both sides of the argument; you cannot say that this study's correlation does not mean there is a causitive effect, but for the same reason you cannot say that abstinence only education's (imaginary) causitive impacts exist when there is no correlation to support your claim:
"Because correlation does not imply causation, our analysis cannot demonstrate that emphasizing abstinence causes increased teen pregnancy. However, if abstinence education reduced teen pregnancy as proponents claim, the correlation would be in the opposite direction," said Stanger-Hall.

The paper indicates that states with the lowest teen pregnancy rates were those that prescribed comprehensive sex and/or HIV education, covering abstinence alongside proper contraception and condom use. States whose laws stressed the teaching of abstinence until marriage were significantly less successful in preventing teen pregnancies.
(The paper can be found here. )

Of course, as we have seen before, this will not alleviate the dissonance. Why? Because the logic of the false argument makes sense; the position taken is intertwined with a moral stance; or because the position taken is one that is held by a respected authority figure. Merely pointing out that the position is incorrect will not help. Showing relational evidence that the position is incorrect will not help. Showing causational evidence that the position is incorrect will not help. All of these things will merely further entrench those who hold dear the position that abstinence only sex education works. Why? Because more information is not the cure for the condition of dissonance; changing the basis for accepting the narrative will be the cure.

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