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Friday, November 17, 2006

Moral Strategies

Yet another example of how philosophy directly effects the lives and well-being of people: In an article at titled "Fairy-Tale Failure" [link HERE], Esther Kaplan explains how AIDS cases in Uganda were decreasing until the U.S. began emphasizing 'abstinence-only' programs. After that, HIV infections doubled in two years.

The article itself is not long and I hope readers will click the link above and take a look. But there is one point I wanted to note. Uganda's AIDS commissioner, Kihumuro Apuuli, says at one point:

"There must be evidence-based strategies—not moral strategies—if we are to break the cycle of infections."

How sad that the twisted notions behind abstinence-only philosophy have so consumed the moral spotlight that sensible programs are not even seen as 'moral strategies' - as if morality were some sort of extraneous concern independent of practicality or effectiveness.

More people should be aware that evidence-based strategies (not only here, but in life) are moral strategies. It is precisely because of the harm the abstinence-only philosophy does that makes it immoral.

People who proclaim morality and then proceed with willful ignorance of facts and ideological rejection of reason - to the detriment of innocent people - are not moral at all, but rather immoral charlatans. Ethics are to be judged by their effect on human happiness and well-being. Just a hint: anytime you're doing something and you notice millions of innocent people are suffering and dying - it might be a clue that something you're doing is immoral. The struggle of organizations like Planned Parenthood to give people full information to make informed choices is not merely a strategy - it is a moral cause.


  1. I balk at calling Abstinence-Only a philosophy. I think it's better described as the failure of a philosophy. That is, the separation of church and state that ought to be held sacrosanct is increasingly abandoned as the right-wing moralizers proselytize from public office.

    There's actually a new Abstinence-Only campaign directed at adults in the US. It's hard to imagine the kind of ignorance that goes into such a policy.

  2. Thanks for the comments Greg. Sounds similar to the debate over whether something is 'bad art' or 'not art at all'. :)

  3. This is no different than the ban on gay marriages. Can anyone think of a reason for gay marriage to be illegal, other than a religious reason? There is not one, just as there is no such reason for promoting abstinence.

  4. True Stevarino. Opponents of gay marriage have yet to ever make any sort of argument (even a poor one) for exactly *how* gay marriage harms man/woman marriage or families.

    Of course, abstinence and promiscuity are two different things. I go into detail in my thoughts on this on my philosophy site in "Principles of Socio-Personal Humanism" Section 2.15. Specifically paragraphs 2.15.7 to 2.15.11.

  5. *sigh* This all reeks of such ignorance, I just ... can't even really comment. Would you be willing to post on Nicaragua's president's recent decision to sign a bill banning completely all abortions, including any cases where the mother's life is in danger? That seems highly immoral to me.

  6. Hi Flashcat,

    I'm afraid I'm not up to speed on Nicaragua, but I'd agree such a thing is immoral. Unfortunately, it seems that many people are led into doing immoral things because of mistakes and errors in reasoning. By that, I mean that *IF* it were the case that abortion were murder, then of course it would have to be outlawed. But to think such a thing is philosophically baseless without the incorporation of superstition, it seems to me.

    The fact that a lack of good thinking policies can lead otherwise good intentioned people to evil acts is why I consider Reason to be the second of the three Primary Virtues, and a lack of Reasoning skills (and the will to improve them) to actually be a *moral* character flaw.