The Ongoing Debate of Science vs. Religion
The age of enlightenment ushered in the new age of modernity in which we are now living. It is characterized by a shift away from religion and explaining the world in terms of how God created it, and instead explaining the world in terms of scientific theory. Essentially, God was no longer needed to explain physical phenomenon after this age of enlightenment. Still, many believe in God and live their lives according to the ways of the Bible (in the case of Christianity); there are 1.1 billion people globally who identify as Catholic (http://pewrsr.ch/1iT3eNT). Since the age of enlightenment, though, there have been extreme tensions between Christianity and science. Although we are in the age of modernity where the belief in science is overwhelming, there is still pushback from the religious community where science is concerned.
One such incident of the Catholic resistance to science is happening right now in Calgary. A story published in the National Post on September 21, 2014 is bringing attention to this tension and resistance: . The headline reads, “Debate over HPV vaccine flares up in Alberta after Catholic leaders warn shots encourage pre-marital sex.” The headline sums up the article quite well, essentially, Alberta bishops have said that they believe the HPV vaccine disseminated in schools encourages pre-marital sex, giving the students the idea that “early sexual intercourse is allowed, as long as one uses ‘protection’.”
This letter was originally sent out two years ago, and because of “intense pressure,” the Calgary Catholic School Board lifted the ban they had placed on the HPV vaccine in response to the bishops’ views. However, this year the letter was given to students along with medical information about the vaccine intended for parents. Juliet Guichon is a University of Calgary bioethicist and advocate for the HPV vaccine, says the school board should “disseminate only science-based health information and is misleading parents by pointing them to the Church critique… This letter encourages fear, and undermines a public-health program that’s designed to help children avoid cancer.”
What I find most interesting about this story is the bishops’ emphasis on how premarital sex will be encouraged by use of the vaccine. Here the Catholic Church is attempting to force behavioural habits on children who may or may not even be Catholic; it is assumed that their families are Catholic but I feel that this religion, based on my own anecdotal evidence, has become so engrained in the culture that it no longer constitutes an actual way of life for many. By attempting to control the behaviour of children by suggesting they simply abstain from sex until they are married, the Church is completely ignoring the obvious: because a child gets the HPV vaccine, it does not guide how they will choose to conduct themselves sexually in any way. The bishops should give more credit to those who will grow up to be (or are currently) devout Catholics and realize that this vaccine alone will not cause them to have premarital sex.
Do you think the Catholic bishops’ views are justified in relating their concerns with premarital sex?