Monday, 20 August 2012

Michael Gove, religious fanatics and British schools

Religious organisations have a long history of providing education in the United Kingdom. Under the current arrangement, many religious schools receive subsidies from the state in return for the provision of education.

The first story is shocking because creation theory is the worst kind of anti-scientific mumbo-jumbo. Whilst many of the more progressive Christian organisations have officially accepted the scientific method (you would be hard pressed to find a Quaker that would deny the Theory of Evolution for example), the Creationists are on an anti-scientific, anti-intellectual crusade to confuse people into accepting their abject nonsense as an equal alternative to the scientific explanation of the origins of life.

One of the classic Creationist tricks is to equate the everyday word "theory" (a type of abstract or generalised thinking which requires no evidence or analytical proof) with the scientific use of the word "theory" (a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment). Using this semantic trick they try to claim that Creation Theory should be taught as an equal alternative to Evolution theory because they are both "theories".

The use of this kind of semantic fraud to promote their own warped and irrational views demonstrates that Creationists are dangerous anti-intellectual fanatics that should never be let near innocent developing minds, let alone receive direct state funding in order to indoctrinate kids with this kind of outrageous con-trick. However the Tory education secretary Michael Gove doesn't seem to see the problem, having rubber stamped applications for creationist groups to open three schools in Nottighamshire, Kent and Wearside.

The second story about the activities of pre-existing state funded religious schools is altogether more sinister. To deny children vaccination against cervical cancer in order to pressurise them into not having pre-marital sex is an absolutely abhorrent tactic. Girls are routinely vaccinated against cervical cancer before they become sexually active for a reason. The majority of the 1,000 cervical cancer deaths every year can be traced back to two strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). If girls are vaccinated against this virus before they become sexually active they are significantly less likely to contract cervical cancer.

One of the most damning aspect of this anti-vaccination agenda is that the schools that have denied HPV vaccination to their students, have in many cases not even bothered to inform local health authorities of their agenda, meaning that no alternative provision has been made.

The "religious reasons" for denying this vaccine is that girls should not be having sex outside marriage, therefore they shouldn't need the vaccine and furthermore, if they do receive the vaccine, this is somehow supposed to be an incentive to have under-age sex. These arguments are so easy to undermine it would be laughable if it wasn't so damn serious. To deny the vaccination to girls because sex outside marriage is a sin is basically saying that the "sin" of casual sex is so great that it should carry a potential death sentence. The idea that vaccination against this disease is some kind of incentive to have underage sex is absurd, I'd wager that very few teenage girls factor the potential of contracting cancer into the equation when they are considering how intimate they might be with their boyfriend. Even if they did want to be intimate, the best advice anyone could give them would not be a load of puritanical mumbo-jumbo about abstinence, it would be to say "if you must do it, at least use a condom to avoid STDs and unwanted pregnancies", advice that puritanical religious nutters would certainly not be offering.

Probably the single strongest argument against this anti-vaccination agenda is the fact that unvaccinated girls that do remain celibate until they are married are still at risk of contracting the cervical cancer causing HPV virus, since there is absolutely no guarantee that their husband hasn't contracted the virus from previous sexual encounters. If the unvaccinated woman does remain celibate but contracts the virus through her husband then develops cancer, the religious puritans at her school would have ensured that the "innocent" woman receives the punishment for her husband's "sin" of sleeping with other people before he married her.

If there was widespread knowledge of these issues I'm pretty sure public opinion would be that Creationist nutters should not get state funding to indoctrinate British kids and that at the very least, schools that refuse to vaccinate against HPV must be compelled to inform the local health authorities so that alternative vaccination arrangements can be made. The problem is that Michael Gove is a Bible bashing fundamentalist that actually approves applications from creationists to open state funded schools and has done nothing to prevent religious puritans at state funded schools from giving their warped moral code priority over the health of their students.

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