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Published on September 8th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


Wishful Thinking about Rape, and Global Warming, Too

September 8th, 2012 by  

Women’s Equality Day came and went in a blur last month, but folks are still celebrating all around Important Media, the network that hosts CleanTechnica, with a series of posts this week on women’s rights and accomplishments. So without further ado, let’s hear what the #1 cleantech site in the world (yes, that would be CleanTechnica) has to say on the subject of women’s rights in the context of our other favorite topic, climate change.

antique lab equipment

Rights, Rape, and the Equal Right to Science

If you want to sum up the consequences of willful ignorance on women’s rights in two words, it’s hard to do better than U.S. Representative Todd Akin (R-Missouri) did when he used the phrase “legitimate rape.”

Those two simple words lead into a labyrinth of twisted reasoning worthy of the Minotaur’s maze, so for now let’s just focus on one aspect, and that is the right to partake equally in the advances of modern science.

Akin brought up the concept of legitimate rape as a matter of settled science while trying to explain why he believes that conception rarely if ever follows from an act of rape.

Vanessa Heggie of the Guardian points out that  “legitimate rape” once did have a firm grounding in science, at least insofar as the scientists of 13th century England were capable of understanding how female reproductive organs function.

Heggie notes that even as recently as 1814, medical texts persisted in linking pleasure (in other words, consent) with conception:

“For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place. So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant.”

A woman gets pregnant after being raped, therefore she consented, therefore no rape occurred. Even Monty Python couldn’t do justice to that argument.

Nowadays, of course, most people know better. For those that don’t, it’s just a matter of wishful thinking: thinking that pregnancy is a condition that women can easily avoid by refraining from engaging in sex for pleasure.

In this formulation, there is no need for contraceptives of any kind, let alone access to routine and safe early-term abortion procedures performed by licensed medical professionals. All that is necessary is for women to not have sex for pleasure unless they really do want to get pregnant. So simple!

That’s what you get when you base 21st-century women’s health policies on 13th-century science.


Wishful Thinking about Climate Change

Would it surprise you to know that Akin applies the same thought process to climate change? Over at Grist, senior editor Lisa Hymes notes that Akin’s website provides a page on global warming that expends a lot of two-dollar words to reach a two-bit conclusion, aptly expressed by Akin on the floor of the House in 2009:

“In Missouri, when we go from winter to spring, that’s a good climate change. I don’t want to stop that climate change, you know. So, and who in the world would want to put politicians in charge of the weather anyway? What a dumb idea.”

Unfortunately, Akin has plenty of company at the upper reaches of his own party, as demonstrated by an article titled Top 5 Craziest Things GOP Contenders Said on Climate in 2011 by Joe Romm of Climate Progress.

Whether they laugh it off as a joke or couch it in science-y (Hymes’s word) language that refers to no science at all, supporters of the denialist position are engaging in the same kind of wishful thinking behind “legitimate rape,” and, for that matter, creation “science” — facts, schmacts.

Facts, schmacts!

It’s one thing to ignore the science of the 21st century as a matter of personal opinion, but for policymakers charged with the well-being of a nation, the bar for professionalism should be set much higher.

Image: Lab equipment. Some rights reserved by Double–M.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • I find the Republicans, who champion small government, to be total frauds on that issue. It’s not that they show “willful ignorance on women’s rights” it’s that they view women as little more than life support systems for their vaginas. They would have government step in and deny a woman any right to her “reproductive rights” or even a right to use contraceptives. And we trust them with the environment?? No wonder they make me crazy…science totally flies over their heads.

    • Ross

      They seem to value life a lot more before its born and would step over it on their way into church.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Republicans and libertarians are both dishonest about “small government” and “less regulation”. Both groups just want the government smaller in ways that don’t aid them and they want to get rid of regulations that get in their personal way.

      Neither group gives a flying fig about others outside of their groups.
      Let one of these frauds start spouting off about getting rid of regulations and doing away with the EPA and ask them if it’s OK if someone opens a meth lab in the house next door to theirs and dumps the left over chemicals in the yard. Maybe starts dealing out of their living room.

      All of a sudden Republicans and libertarians start talking about how “we can’t get rid of all regulations…”.

  • David S. Leaton

    The troll mememine strikes again. Wishful thinking that this robot would come back and defend her/his claims.

    Science will never say it’s going to happen because science doesn’t work in absolutes. However, the chance that it’s happening and will continue to happen is about 99.99999999%. For the basic mechanism to suddenly stop working would require well-understood and well-tested laws of physics to suddenly stop working.

    Oh, and mememine, there are plenty of conservatives and republicans who understand the science and recognize the threat of extremely rapid warming.

    • Andrew Allison

      You’re nothing but an AGW troll and, as I warned you, I’m a troll-hunter. $2,500 to the charity of the winner’s choice says that 5-year average surface temperature will be lower in 2015 than in 2005. Put up or shut up!

  • mememine

    Science has never said it will happen, only that it might happen and this despite the fact that they say we are now on the brink of no return from unstoppable warming. Exaggeration isn’t a crime, yet.
    And condemning the voter’s children with CO2 death threats to the greenhouse gas ovens of liberal climate change crisis will leave the left out of power for decades.

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