An Interesting Study In Cognitive Dissonance
[Long time no posting, I know. Been busy]
I’d recommend watching Governor Rick Perry attempt to answer the question, “Why does Texas continue with abstinence only education programs, when they don’t seem to be working? In fact, I think we [in Texas] have the third-highest teen-pregnancy rate in the country right now.”
His response is, “Abstinence works.”
Obviously it doesn’t, or at least relying on it as the only method of birth control we teach hormone driven teenagers doesn’t.
A lot of people have been calling him stupid or dishonest for his comments, and I would have agreed with them until very recently. I read a couple books recently about how beliefs are formed and the cognitive dissonance that happens when those beliefs are challenged, and how our brains are hardwired to resolve it. People will mitigate or ignore evidence that contradicts currently held beliefs.
Now I’m not denying that there is a very real possibility that Perry could be stupid and dishonest. I’m only offering an alternative theory as to why he appears to be struggling for an answer. Now I might be bias because of because of what I’ve read but I think it is more likely that Perry truly believes what he is saying, especially considering his announcement, “I’m going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works.”
That statement reveals a lot. It could of course be a load of crap. But if it is true it makes a lot of sense. If he is as devoutly evangelical as he says, then he may have abstained from sex until marriage.
“Studies of evangelicals show, for example, that the most devout (roughly a quarter of the group) do abstain from sexual activity to a greater degree than other teens…”†
So because it worked for him, it makes sense to him that it should work for others. Taken a certain way, it is sort of humble. A sort of, “If I can do it, anyone should be able to,” logic. Though it could also be something along the lines of, “Kids too weak to keep it in their pants deserve the consequences of their actions.” I’m not trying to make excuses for Perry. He is not anyone I would want sitting in the Oval Office. But unlike Perry, whose certainty causes him to ignore alternative theories, I like to work from a position of doubt. Where Perry uses religion to enforce his certainty, I prefer to use science to guide me through doubt. I can look at the statistics, overwhelming statistics, and see that abstinence-only education can at best only delay sexual activity but after the delay only increases the chances of unplanned pregnancies and spread of STDs and STIs.
So even if I think that Perry could be honest, at least in theory, I wouldn’t want him in the White House. Honesty and conviction can be admirable, but without logical guidance it’s like a gun being fired without proper aim. And I don’t like the direction this particular gun is pointing.