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July 27, 2004

Weasel Words « Social Issues »

You know what I hate about this report from the CDC?

Two things:
First: The phrase, "...latex condoms provide an essentially impermeable barrier..." Well? Is it an impermeable barrier or not? The addition of the word 'essentially' makes it sound like it...but the meaning is the opposite. It's not an impermeable barrier, or they would just say so. 'Essentially' is a weasel word.

Second: Despite lots of words implying lots of knowledge on the performance of comdoms in a variety of situations, they can't seem to offer one, single hard number/percentage for the effectiveness of condoms in preventing any STD. Do they have any actual statistics to look at? If not, then they have no basis for their statements. If so, why can't they tell us? Why can't they share it with us? For all the tax dollars going to support the CDC, they can't tell us whether condoms are generally 97% or 99% effective in preventing Syphillis? Is it far worse? Would the percentage actually make a lie out of the earlier weasel word 'essentially'? What are they afraid of?

Because if we had the statistics, we could make better choices, right?

...but then, if we had the statistics, it might show just how irresponsible extra-marital sex really is, might it not? That might lead to the condemnation of certain lifestyles as inherently risky, and reduce sympathy for people willingly and knowingly playing with their health. Or even more importantly, it might reduce government funding...

Bottom line: Is an attitude political correctness intimidating the CDC from giving us the facts?

Posted by Nathan at 07:24 PM | Comments (5)
» Mind of Mog links with: Around The Sphere

I could be wrong, but I think an "essentially impermeable barrier" ensures that she only gets "a little bit pregnant."

Posted by: McGehee at July 28, 2004 06:50 AM

If you haven't read "How To Lie With Statistics", do so. I picked it up not too long ago, and I'm learning more than I ever thought I would.

Stats in general can be presented and/or collected to say just about anything you want them to. (Esp by less ethical folks.) I have a Mathematics degree - understand that VERY well.
I am seeing more and more junk stats and deceptive comments all over the place, and it's very disconcerting. One thing going on, I believe: Liberals (in general) are IN DENIAL .. about a great many things. This denial infects all discourse.

From my experiences: Following the Ten Commandments to the best of my ability, I have discovered that I then have very few major problems to deal with. My husband and I have been faithful to each other. The result? We have no diseases.
I do my utmost to be spiritually and physically healthy (that includes R&R on Sunday), challenge myself to learn truth and always speak the truth, treat people fairly and with respect, pay for what I use, be grateful for what I have, and defend the rights of all human beings, esp for their right to life.

What is the result? My family is happy, healthy, and doing what we love to do. ... Pretty simple.

Posted by: Gina at July 28, 2004 11:36 AM

Yep. I've noticed the same thing. It's one of the main reasons I believe Christianity to be True: no other work has been so accurate and so succinct in its explanation of the perversity (mix of evil and good) of humanity. The wisdom in the Bible, particularly the New Testament, is equally as applicable today as then. I've noticed that when people reject big parts of the Bible and then try to live their life according to their new "understanding", they tend to run into many problems, which they then blame on God. It would be fascinating, if it weren't so sad...

Posted by: Nathan at July 28, 2004 05:09 PM

The crux of your argument is certainly true in many cases (politicized science), but you are picking a ludicrous example to make a stand. "Essentially impermeable" is only a weasel word in the sense that it allows that condoms made of latex are woven with a mesh that is tight enough to 100% block the larger particles in bodily fluids. "Essentially" accounts for variations in wear-and-tear, storage, strange use and other things that may degrade a condom's integrity.

Also, if you study statistics in medical studies, you'll realize that varying stats are a result of varying studies. What's remarkable isn't the fact that there is a repetitive difference of 1-2%, rather the fact that condoms are so consistently effective in the 97th96th percentile.

I'm not going to beat you up too bad over a blog post, but be careful - you are criticizing the CDC stats over the possibility that they are beholden to some politically correct narrative, but in essence, you are doing the same thing to fulfill your own socially conservative narrative.

"Essentially" is not really that bad of a weasel word, and it's employment does not miscommunicate the impermeability of condoms. This is random sniping, IMO.

A better argument would be to attack health organizations over their total resistance to abstinence education, when recent studies have found that safe sex educational programs were no more effective than the abstinence approach.

Posted by: Bill from INDC at July 31, 2004 03:01 PM

But that's exactly it, Bill: What stats? They don't offer one shred of the data that leads them to say "essentially" impermeable. Sure, the stats of the effectiveness of condoms can be found elsewhere...but shouldn't the CDC provide the basis, especially since they are suggesting condoms as an option? My point is that if they actually provided the statistics, the "essentially" part would have to be fudged toward "sorta/kinda", weakening their point and offending some politically-correct sensibilities.
That's why I consider it "weasel words". They should back it up, or shut up. Since they are getting public funding, the second option isn't really an option.

Posted by: Nathan at August 2, 2004 03:42 PM
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