Culture: June 2005 Archives

A friend e-mailed asking for comment on the Supreme Court's rulings on the two Ten Commandments cases before it.

Very well.

Were you really expecting coherent jurisprudence on religious expression in the public realm from this Court?

P.O.V. on CPB

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After reading in USA Today about the premiere tonight of the PBS documentary series P.O.V., I made a note to tune in:

High-schooler Shelby Knox who pledges celibacy until marriage spearheads a campaign for comprehensive sex education.

Unfortunately, the sound was out on the local PBS affiliate, and efforts to notify someone about the problem failed.

The gist of the USA Today story was about liberal bias in public broadcasting amidst plans for cutting Federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). I was curious to see if a bias toward left-wing views of sexual morality was evident in tonight's documentary. Now I'll have to find out second-hand.

CPB mainly funds program development -- the operation of your local public broadcasting outlet is paid for by listeners, local sponsors, and state and local government.

Actor Robert Redford isn't happy about the proposed CPB cuts:

The United States "was built on a foundation of diversity and of protecting the rights of all people," Redford said. "When I see any attempts by one group to take all absolute power to corrupt our democratic principles that might be narrow or ideologically driven, then I know we're in trouble. PBS belongs to the public."

How does cutting funding to CPB "corrupt our democratic principles"? Is there a fundamental right to have the propagation of your opinions funded by the government? And if PBS belongs to the public, shouldn't it cater to majority tastes? Somehow I don't think that's what Redford has in mind. PBS doesn't need to cater to majority tastes because the market handles that quite efficiently. The market even does a pretty good job of "narrowcasting" to smaller but substantial minority interests, thanks to cable and the Internet. What public interest is served by government funding for one TV station out of 100?

Cutting CPB funds won't mean the end of NPR or PRI or PBS. No one is going to declare Sesame Street blighted and bulldoze it. Boohbah and Teletubbies will still be there to hypnotize children, annoy parents, and enhance the recreational use of controlled substances. Barney's position is, alas, secure. Click and Clack will still dispense automotive wisdom. You'll still be able to wake up each morning to the reassuring tones of Bob Edwards -- no, wait, NPR fired him for being too old. If a program is good enough to attract an audience, companies and viewers will see value in contributing toward its production and broadcast.

A couple of weeks ago I critiqued Ken Neal's op-ed attack on the pro-life stance on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. I acknowledged that he made a valid point about in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and the creation of "surplus" embryos that are routinely frozen or destroyed. If those embryos are human life, as I believe, then we have to question the practice of IVF on moral grounds. The ends -- having a baby -- can't justify the means if the means involve destroying human life.

Today, Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost examines the ethics of IVF and other means of dealing with infertility from a Christian perspective. He links to an article on reproductive technologies by Daniel McConchie of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. McConchie suggests that by taking certain precautions IVF can be used in a way that does not involve destroying embryos or exposing them to a greater level of risk than would be encountered in nature.

There's a vigorous discussion in the comments to Joe Carter's post, and rather than try to duplicate that here, I'm going to turn off comments on this entry. If you have a comment, please post it over there.

Another stem cell research advance that doesn't require destruction of human life: Australian researchers have harvested adult stem cells from the nose which have the potential to be developed into heart, liver, kidney, muscle, and blood cells.

(See my earlier item rebutting Ken Neal's op-ed in Sunday's Tulsa Whirled for more links and information about the ways adult and cord-blood stem cells are already being used therapeutically.)

A dose of the Sith

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A while back I alerted you to Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's Star Wars-themed lunchtime talk on sexually transmitted diseases, featuring free pizza. The intended audience was young Capitol Hill staffers. Both Washington papers covered it. From the the Washington Times:

Mr. Coburn, a family physician, later said he doesn't do the slide show for shock value but sees it as a way to get medical facts to young people.

'They don't get enough information,' he said. Most new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur among people younger than 25, and if people know the science, they can modify their behavior, he said. ...

Yesterday, as he has done before, Mr. Coburn advised adults to refrain from having multiple sexual partners and engaging in unsafe sexual activity.

'What would happen in this country if the young women would say no [to sex] until they're 20?' he asked. 'Disease would go down, the pregnancy rate for unwed mothers would go down, the social costs for the next two generations would go down.'

Mr. Coburn also encouraged sexually active youth to use condoms.

'Condoms make a difference,' he said, cataloging the effectiveness of condoms in protecting against fluid-borne STDs such as HIV/AIDS and gonorrhea.

The problem is that condoms don't offer much prevention against several other diseases, such as herpes, human papillomavirus and syphilis, that are transmitted by skin contact, he said.

The Washington Post reports the audience reaction when the first diseased body part photo appeared on the screen:

This image was now projected up on a wall of the U.S. Capitol, and the mood shifted instantly. None of the 160 or so audience members shrieked, or giggled, or ran out of the room. They're not 15 anymore, and this is a professional environment. The chatter stopped; everyone looked straight ahead, or down at their BlackBerries. A large number of women crossed their arms over their chests. Most everyone seemed encapsulated in the bit of air around them, afraid to move or touch the person sitting next to them. The half-eaten slices of pizza, now cooling on laps, seemed deeply unappetizing.

Lest you think Capitol Hill staffers are too worldly-wise to need this sort of instruction, the Post piece includes this anecdote from a previous lecture:

"You keep mentioning the word 'monogamy'," a staffer named Roland Foster recalls one young woman asking after a lecture. "What is that?"

"That's when you have sex with only one partner," Coburn responded.

"You mean at a time?"

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from June 2005.

Culture: May 2005 is the previous archive.

Culture: July 2005 is the next archive.

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