March 27, 2009

Lancet Scolds Pope's Idiocy

Pope Benedict XVI during visit to São Paulo, B...Image via Wikipedia

In this era of American culture wars, a commonly heard refrain is that one is entitled to one's own opinion but not to one's own facts. This is often directed a politicians and media pundits, but it applies as well or better to the purveyors of religious delusion. The Pope has received considerable criticism for making erroneous statements about the transmission of HIV/AIDS. He is every bit as entitled as any of us to spout nonsense, but when he makes demonstrably false claims about the natural world, he better expect to be called out. Fortunately, this is exactly what the British medical journal, the Lancet, has done.

When the Pope recently announced that condoms "increase the problem" of HIV transmission in Africa, he found himself in direct opposition to considerable evidence from medical science. According to the Lancet, the Pope "publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue." They also were ready to head off the sort of objections commonly expressed by believers in the supernatural.
When any influential person, be it a religious or political figure, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record.
The time for politeness and respect for religion must come to an abrupt and unapologetic end when religious pronouncements create a clear and present danger to human welfare. This is precisely such a case, and it was reassuring to see the Lancet address the issue directly.

H/T to Pharyngula

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