Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Values-Neutral" Sex-Education

Last night on the PM Programme on Radio 4 there was a discussion on the Government's latest plan to make sex-education compulsory. The idea is that the parental opt-out clause should be abolished. There was a furore in some quarters that "faith schools" would be allowed to give the instruction in accordance with their beliefs.

In all of this it appears to me that no-one in government has actually bothered to ask a fundamental question - what is the point of sex-education? Is it viewed merely as a subset of biology, a matter of the mechanics of reproduction, or does it include questions of right and wrong?

Of course, what underlies this confusion is the half-formed (and half-baked) idea that the two are one and the same. As a natural science graduate, I think I am better placed than some to say that natural science can only describe what is, not what ought to be. Morality is not derived from biology. A moment's thought should be enough to demonstrate this. Child-abuse is. Rape is. These are facts that we cannot deny. Now, on what solely biologial principle can we say these things are wrong? It is simply not the place of natural science to make decisions about right and wrong, yet this is what many people expect natural science to do! As a society, we have come up with this inexplicable idea that if we merely give the science to people, they will know what to do with it.

Hence the idea of "Values-Neutral" sex-education. Tell kids how to do things, but never tell the certain things are wrong and others right. The result? Girls not yet out of primary school becoming pregnant! And on what biological principle can we say that is wrong? After all, according to biology, when an organism can reproduce, it should.

Morality is the province of religion and philosophy, not natural science. We all have values, and we believe our values to be good. These values by their very nature cannot be simply private matters, because they effect our relationships with others. Yet there are only three options here:
1. Morality is private. I decide for myself what is good or bad. This is the philosophy underlying 'values- neutral' sex-education, give children information, and leave them to develop their own values. This doesn't work, it means that values will be picked up from other sources.
2. Morality is a societal construct. The boundaries of morality are decided by the majority. This actually means that, if applied consistently, there can never be any moral criticism of the majority. Wilberforce, on this model, was wrong. We also face the problem of where to draw the lines between societies. National boundaries? Which majority? It all ends in confusion.
3. Morality is transcendent. There is only one moral law that is true for all people in all places and all times. A transcendent morality requires a transcendent principle, in other words, a single God and creator of all, who is also the law-giver and judge of all, and finally the standard.

That God has revealed Himself in the Bible, and in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came don to earth from heaven to save sinners. His standards are absolute. Incidentally, no-one who holds to a merely personal or societal moral authority is actually equipped to express moral outrage against the Bible.

Unless we start teaching an absolute moral authority, we will be stuck in the quagmire of a subjective morality, and the result can only be moral chaos.

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