31 March 2009

Stats never lie, the Media usually do

Commenting on the post, More Condom Lies, reader Mark makes the following observations:

And the condomaniacs get away with it because John Q Public doesn't understand that probability is multiplicative, not additive; the odds (of preventing infection) go down as he continues his risk-taking.

NIH advertises an 86% effective rate for condoms in preventing pregnancy. Lets put that in terms we can understand:

Would you jump out of a plane with 99 others skydivers, knowing that 14 parachutes wouldn't open? then get in and do it again and again and... the probability of surviving 10 jumps is only 22%, 20 jumps and its down to 4%, and there is only 1% chance of surviving 30 jumps.

The probability of surviving 100 jumps is .0000282%.

Now, no one will tell you the probability of a condom's effectiveness preventing HIV infection (because to run a test would be highly immoral and even considered unethical by the secularists), so the only thing we can go on is the high failure rate of condoms in preventing pregnancy.

I deeply appreciate this sort of analysis because I need a calculator to add together more than three double-digit numbers. Sad, I know. . .but true.

What's also sad but true is the consistency with which the Old Media lashes the Church for its stubborn refusal to emerge from the dungeons of medieval alchemy and embrace the enlightened wisdom of postmodern scientism. That these very same squawkers repeatedly choose to ignore the facts that their much-vaunted science provides them in favor of politically-correct propaganda is telling. What does it tell us? It tells us that we can safely ignore their self-serving homilies extolling unbridled condom hedonism and pay attention to the facts.

And those fact are these. . .

--from Edward Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies:

“The pope is correct,” Green told National Review Online Wednesday, “or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments. He stresses that “condoms have been proven to not be effective at the ‘level of population.’”

“There is,” Green adds, “a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.”

Green added: “I also noticed that the pope said ‘monogamy’ was the best single answer to African AIDS, rather than ‘abstinence.’ The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates (the other major factor is male circumcision).”

To summarize both the Holy Father and Professor Green:

+ Condoms are not effective in preventing the spread of HIV at the level of populations.
+ Greater availability and use of condoms increases HIV-infection rates.
+ Monogamy reduces HIV-infection rates.

Our Betters in the Old Media (and some in the Church) would have us believe that monogamy and abstinence are impossible. Condoms are the only answer. These, of course, are the same people who tell us that abortion is perfectly moral and should remain legal. Why? Isn't it obvious? When the condom fails--and it will--they don't want all those cute, chubby little kids running around reminding the Great Unwashed that the Condom Gospel they have heard preached from the pulpits of the NYT, CNN, the White House was really just self-serving propaganda. Better to just get rid of the evidence. . .


  1. Anonymous7:13 AM

    I'm actually going to debate some of that. Condoms are 84% effective over a YEAR when it comes to preventing pregnancy. It's not 84% effective for every instance of sexual union. So yes, over 30 years there is only a 1% chance that you didn't get pregnant using condoms. They're not quite as ineffective as Mark implied.

    Also, you can have sex at infertile times and not get pregnant if the condom fails. If a condom breaks, however, you can always contract a sexually transmitted disease. You can get pregnancy 5-7 days out of a month. You can get AIDS any day, so a 14% pregnancy rate due to condom failure would translate to a much higher rate for HIV exposure.

    But still, did anyone stop to think that perhaps sending latex to Africa was a bad idea? Latex degrades in heat. How much of Africa can keep condoms consistently below 78 degrees? So, condoms are far more likely to rupture exactly when people feel "safest." Gee, what a great idea... And let's infantilize the poor African people, because they couldn't POSSIBLY be responsible for themselves and it's unreasonable to think that they could abstain (has no one else seen the underlying racism here?)

    This topic always drives me up the wall. That and women's ordination. I do NOT need to be ordained in order to be the equal of any man.

  2. Anonymous10:06 AM

    1. You are conflating a number of moral issues here, which I can't think will help people overall sort out the wheat from the chaff.

    2. Use pregnancy failure rates for condoms as a proxy for the risk of HIV infection is not necessarily reasonable and there are experiments that can be done that do not require the (unethical) human experiments you (correctly() deride.

    I don't necessarily disagree with you - I am saying that you are inflaming (as you claim the media are) not teaching.

    You might begin by breaking down the moral issues - for example -- is it licit for a couple now in a monogamous relationship, with a number of children, to use a condom to prevent the infection of the mother? if they did not have children? if the children were not young?

    Is it licit to use a condom to prevent pregnancy when having extra marital sex? (Well, duh, no - but that is a different moral question I believe than the one posed above.)

    Are there are any licit uses for a condom? (It's a trick question - yes.)


  3. In his Introduction to Moral Theology, Romanus Cessario quotes an article written by J.D. Robinson, a physician in D.C.:

    Two fundamentals have been forgotten in all this [discussion about AIDS]. One is that the biological purpose of the sexual act is not only to transmit a body fluid. That fluid must be capable of carrying living elements from one individual into a receptive environment in the other. The full weight of evolution bear down upon sexual union to make it maximally effective in so doing. Any living agent other than sperm gets a first-class free ride in a nutrient medium. There is a long list of venereal diseases that testifies to the efficiency of this mechanism.
    The second element is that there is simply no historical precedent for so many individuals sharing body fluids. Even polygamous societies typically restricted the number of wives to that which a man could support economically, and those women had no additional sexual partners.
    The complex matrix of biological relationships set up by intravenous drug use and the multiplicity of sexual partners is the modern analog of a contaminated water supply. Anyone who dips into it is at risk of becoming infected. This huge reservoir of disease in so many individuals becomes a common source of infection for those who engage in the few behaviors known to transmit the disease. Biologically, humankind cannot safely sustain this kind of activity.

    He wrote that in 1988.

  4. Anonymous12:46 PM

    MD, I would argue that "no," it is not licit for the couple to use a condom to prevent transmission of disease between eachother. The reason why I would say this is that contraception is an offense to the unitive meaning of sexuality before you even start talking about the procreative meanings of sexual love.

    Human sexuality makes present the love between Christ and the Church. Sex is the consummation of all that is vowed in marriage, such that you give over all that you have, all that you are, and all that you ever will be because the person you love is worth all of that and more. Commitment in marital love is like jumping off a cliff, and you can't do it in part or take it back.

    Such love demands a total gift of self, or you don't have love: you have commerce where the partners involved negotiate exchange of only those goods that are mutually desirable to exchange. I don't mean to be harsh or cruel in saying that, but rather to point out that you can't separate out what aspects of your spouse you will accept and what can be withheld or rejected. The dignity of the person requires more respect than that.

    If a condom was a TREATMENT for HIV, it's a different story, but a condom to keep the spouses away from eachother to prevent disease I do not believe could be ok.

    Fr. Philip, if I'm wrong here either in that there's been a statement to the contrary or if you can find a flaw in the argument, please let me know. This is one issue that I struggle with even though I believe this is the right answer.

  5. Certainly the discussion of the moral minefield is imporant, but only to those for whom morality plays a significant role in their life; in this case, in the realm of public policy and personal responsibility (where policy is irresponsibilty), it has little to no penetration.

    Granted the perspective of a one year period, that's still greater than a 50% chance of pregnancy in 5 years, a fact born out in this article:

    The Condom Controversy - Safe Sex or Russian Roulette?

    Here's the National Institute of Health's conclusion:

    Longitudinal studies of HIV- sexual partners of HIV+ infected cases allow for the estimation of HIV/AIDS incidence among condom users and condom non-users. From the two incidence estimates, consistent condom use decreased the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission by approximately 85%. These data provide strong evidence for the effectiveness of condoms for reducing sexually transmitted HIV.

    from Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Prevention

    The question is in applying population probabilities to individual acts; probability of a population is calculated in order to apply to the individual. This failure in the realm of comprehension is what the gambling houses depend on, as do the sellers of death. As Fr. Powell points out in this post and his prior post, the results do not match the advertised expectations.

  6. Regarding "risk escalation"

    when I was much younger I bought my first 4x4. An older friend dryly noted that "4x4s get stuck the most," an observation that has been validated over the years. The false sense of security in a 4x4 on snow evaporates as soon as you touch the brakes...

  7. I have an old "Statistics for Foresters" text which opens with "There are two ways to lie. The most direct form is the bald-faced lie. The more subtle method is to use statistics without confidence intervals."