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Monday, March 28, 2005

Rapture Monday: Taunt-tastic

Posted by: Hammer / 8:35 PM

The Rapture Index stands at 149 ("Fasten your seat belts"), up 1 from last week. 3WN suggests writing a taunt-tastic Rapture letter rather talking to loved ones about your end-of-life preferences.

On to the week's news as told to the religiously correct:

Abstinence only education

Jane Jimenez reminds us:
Abstinence is an idea as old as the hills. We know abstinence works. It prevents unwanted pregnancies. We know you won't come down with any of the 25 common STDs if you abstain from sex. So what's wrong with abstinence?

Everything? That's right. Some people are working to convince parents that abstinence education is unpopular, unrealistic, and unsafe. ...

Abstinence education embraces the same no-nonsense, truth-telling approach we use in teaching young people about drugs, tobacco, and drunk driving.

Has there been a more dishonest, less successful education program than the war on drugs? Maybe the war on terror, but that's a hard measurement to make.

I don't know what is actually said in abstinence-only classrooms, but Pandagon has an anecdote from Ms. magazine:

Your body is a wrapped lollipop.

When you have sex with a man, he unwraps your lollipop and sucks on it.

It may feel great at the time, but, unfortunately, when he’s done with you, all you have left for your next partner is a poorly wrapped, saliva-fouled sucker.

These words were actually uttered by Darren Washington, an abstinence educator, at the Eighth Annual Abstinence Clearinghouse Conference, an informational three-day trade show for abstinence educators, anti-abortion pregnancy care centers and medical professionals.

Washington was giving examples of how to teach abstinence. He then called up volunteers from the audience and used an actual lollipop to help deliver the metaphor.

The abstinence-only education movement is big business. Its product is the promotion of chastity through speaking engagements and the selling of curricula and promotional materials. There is underwear emblazoned with “No Sex” on the crotch, T-shirts, pens and bookmarks — you name the tchotchke — but the serious money involves large federal and state grants. The movement is growing and gaining influence.

I wish I had great answers for preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs, but I don't. I don't think telling girls they are saliva-fouled lollipops does anybody any good. New reports suggest abstinence education doesn't really accomplish much, anyway:
Young people who make pledges of virginity begin having sex later and have fewer sexual partners. But oddly they are infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) just as often, a new study found. ... Because virginity pledgers are less likely to use condoms compared to others, they increase their risk of contracting disease. They are also less likely to seek health care for an STD, according to Bruckner and colleague Peter Bearman, professor of sociology at Columbia University.

The pledgers, not diagnosed or treated, may pack disease longer than other people, the researchers say. ...

Other findings in the study:

* Among virgins -- those who have not had vaginal intercourse -- male pledgers are four times more likely to have anal sex

* Male and female pledgers are six times more likely to have oral sex than non-pledgers.

Apparently, teaching abstinence turns our kids into dirty, dirty Sodomites. An ironic achievement, at best.

It's odd, though, that every time I read about today's high schoolers, I learn that they are meth freaks with their thong underwear showing over their obscenely low jeans who bang each other indiscriminately in bathrooms between hands of high stakes Texas Hold 'em. But every time I actually talk to today's high schoolers, they seem just about the same as I remember.

Clearly, I need to hang out with different high schoolers. My nieces and nephews are obviously not cool enough.

Student freedom

Some things -- many more than I care to admit -- are behind my comprehension. You'll recall an item from last week, where Agape was promoting a student's right to wear a t-shirt featuring the Marine Corps creed ("This is my rifle; there are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life....). Now Agape is promoting the right of senior Blake Douglass to be pictured in the year book carrying a shot gun.

Clearly, it's a bad time to be promoting a student's right to express his love for his gun at school. I don't think that keeping a picture of a kid's shotgun out of the yearbook makes schools the slightest bit safer, so I'm sticking by my original position supporting the student's freedom of expression.

I urge Agape to join me in this principled stand for expression. We'll make Douglass and Kelli Davis our test cases. Davis, a young woman, elected to wear a tuxedo for her senior picture because she didn't like the other choice. (Two choices? Sometimes schools really are conformity factories.) Davis is a lesbian, but I'm sure Agape will look past that and focus on the real issue -- free expression of individuality.

I'm even willing to expand our crusade to tackle RFID in schools:

A school district in Sutter, California, briefly implemented a program that had students carry tags containing what is known as "radio frequency identification" technology, or RFID, in order to help monitor student attendance. The program was a pilot project for a small start-up company called InCom, which had developed its "InClass" system to help elementary and secondary schools automate attendance-taking.

Along with the passive RFID tags attached to student ID card holders, the InClass system uses ultra high-frequency "readers" mounted in the doorways of school classrooms. As students pass through the a doorway, the reader sends the tags' unique ID numbers to a central computer server. A software program installed on the server then collects the tag data and wirelessly uploads a list of present, absent and tardy students (based on when each student enters the classroom) to a personal digital assistance (PDA) device that is issued to the teacher.

I have two problems with this RFID implementation. One, if counting to 25 is too much for an elementary school teacher, it's time for a new teacher. Two, any predator with a high frequency reader can track a child's every movement. That doesn't sound like enhanced safety to me.

Freedom of and from Religion

Nutty, nutty stuff that could never, never happen here:
Haderer published a 40-page book titled, The Life of Jesus. The book contained a cartoon of Jesus, depicting him as "...a binge-drinking friend of Jimi Hendrix and naked surfer high on cannabis."

Unbeknownst to him, the book was published in Greece. He found out when he received a summons to appear in court in Athens in January, having been charged with blasphemy.

Everyone agrees that a theocracy is bad. Islamic theocracy, for example, is another form of slavery:
...A former Iranian Shiite Muslim who converted to Christianity believes the people of his homeland are tired of Islam and are ready for freedom. He says he is confident Iran is moving toward regime change. Donald Fareed is chief executive officer of Persian Ministries International, which broadcasts the gospel into Iran via satellite. He says 70 percent of Iran's population is composed of people who are 30 years old or younger and do not want a government based on Islamic law. "They want separation of mosque and the state," the evangelist explains. "There is a conflict between Islamic laws and human rights -- so having Islamic law as part of the constitution eventually is going to cause problems. They just don't want it; they are done with it. They want it to be separate."
Heaven forbid we would allow a few religious fanatics to overcome the rule of law:
At a news conference across from the White House, Schenck made an impassioned plea, begging, "For God's sake, take pity, have mercy, save Terri Schiavo's life, and do it now." He urged the state and national leaders to "deploy the police services at your disposal to protect Terri Schiavo, to restore her food and water, and to threaten arrest of anyone who fails to comply." ...

According to AP, President Bush suggested yesterday that Congress and the White House had done all they could to keep the brain-injured 41-year-old alive. But the National Pro-Life Action Center spokesman insisted that more could be done and that sending in police to save Terri's life would not be an illegal use of executive authority. "No branch or agency of government that steps in to protect an innocent individual from harm -- and in this case, killing -- has ever overstepped its bounds," the minister said.

Of course, in the Schiavo case, the rule of law has plainly been usurped by judges more interested in facts relevant to Terri Schiavo's personal wishes rather than in accusations that her husband has had sex with someone else since his wife was permanently incapacitated.

Facts, the saying goes, are stubborn things. But not as stubborn as an evangelical clinging to the literal truth of the Bible like grim death. Groups like Answers in Genesis (AiG) assert taht recently discovered soft dinosaur tissue is proof that dinosaurs lived just a few thousand years ago:

[A] recently discovered dinosaur bone has dealt a stunning blow to the scientific establishment's "age-old" claims about fossil dating and the evolution belief system. Nevertheless, the biblical creationist group doubts that mainstream scientists will discard their entrenched beliefs in light of this new fossil evidence. A few years ago, a Tyrannosaurus rex bone was unearthed containing soft, fibrous tissue and complete blood vessels -- including red blood cells and tissues that should have dissolved millions of years ago according to the evolutionists' timescale. According to AiG, the remarkable discovery by evolutionist Dr. Mary Schweitzer of the University of Montana strongly supports the idea that dinosaur fossils are not millions of years old at all, but were mostly fossilized under catastrophic conditions a few thousand years ago at most. However, AiG-USA president Ken Ham notes that "the deeply entrenched idea of long-ages is so dominant in most of the scientific establishments that facts will not undermine the evolution belief system."
I respect any person's right to believe whatever crap they want. So the Answers in Genesis folks can go right on making fools of themselves. But this story from Jambo proves that it's hard to fight a narrow mind with a microphone:
Big-screen Imax theaters typically offer lavish visual spectacles with bland and uplifting scripts. Their films are seldom the stuff of controversy. So it was a bit of a shock to learn, from an article by Cornelia Dean in The Times on March 19, that a dozen or so Imax theaters, mostly in the South, have been shying away from science documentaries that might offend Christian fundamentalists. Worse yet, some of those theaters are located in science centers or museums, the supposed expositors of scientific truth for public education.

Some of the documentaries whose distribution has been affected by religious controversy include "Cosmic Voyage," a journey through the far-flung universe, and "Galápagos," about the islands where Charles Darwin made observations that played a crucial role in his theory of evolution. "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," depicting the bizarre creatures that flourish near hot, sulfurous vents in the ocean floor, is the current focus of controversy. It was vetted for accuracy by a panel of scientists and was sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation, a government funding agency, and Rutgers University. It raised hackles by suggesting that life on Earth may have originated at these undersea vents.

It's a fight worth fighting. Once Cosmic Voyage and Galapagos are banned, the anti-thought police will only be bolder. Next, they'll be coming for Oxy, Hydro and Hydra:
A children's museum near Albany is debuting something new on its big-domed screen they call a "Molecularium" show. The 20-minute digital animation piece reinterprets the traditional planetarium experience for kids as likely to stick their nose in a Game Boy as a book. The subject isn't outer space this time, but atomic space. The movie tells the story of an oxygen atom, Oxy, and her nano pals exploring protons and electrons — a sort of science meets Shrek story for the early grades. ...

Rabbits and ducks as easy to animate. But how do you make oxygen cute? Their answer was Oxy, a long-lashed, squeaky-voiced character who resembles an orange with a face. She and her hydrogen sidekicks Hydro and Hydra (H20, get it?) take thrill rides through different colorful atomic realms.

Atomic characters form molecules by bonding cheek-to-cheek, bounce around and break out in song verses like: "We make yoooouuu! We make all of you!" They also meet Carbon, a Hispanic atom who pronounces his name like Ramon.

Atomic theory is advanced by efforts to replicate the Big Bang, you see. Therefore, it only follows, that teaching kids about atoms and molecules will only encourage them to reject the literal interpretation of Genesis. Science is all fun and games until someone gets left behind at the Rapture.


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