His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Emeritus, invoked a Peltzman Effect accompanying the more widespread distribution of condoms in Africa. For his observation, the oh-so-trendy made, and the Milwaukee Art Center displayed, a work of transgressive art.
The transgressives get their art. The Pope, and Professor Peltzman, get the deep word.
Science, represented by the church, won.Bet on the side of the Law of Unintended Consequences, particularly where a safety appliance changes the incentives to live more dangerously.
The faith, in this case, was ideological, ridiculing Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for saying that distribution of condoms had not stemmed the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and had actually made it worse. The science, brilliantly summarized by Dr. Christine Zainer, consisted of detailed empirical studies and opinions from public health experts showing that condom distribution had in fact failed to stem the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa; and had, indeed, contributed to spreading HIV/AIDS.
Because of the public health phenomenon known as "risk compensation," condom distribution makes people think sex with condoms is safer than it is. They therefore engage in high-risk sexual activity that they would otherwise refrain from, resulting in transmission of HIV/AIDS to people who would not otherwise contract it. Because no condom is 100% effective, and many fall far short of that (especially if they are re-used), the false sense of security generated by condom distribution leads to HIV/AIDS infections that would not otherwise have occurred.
In short, as explained by Edward C. Green, a senior research fellow at the Harvard University School of Public Health and a self-described liberal and pro-contraceptionist, "The pope was right." Benedict's statement was not the mindless assertion of religious dogma over science-based health care that "Eggs Benedict" falsely portrayed it as being. It was, rather, a courageous witness to human dignity based on religious faith but solidly backed by well-informed scientific opinion and empirical data. It was the artist, Niki Johnson, not the pontiff, who ignored the relevant science.
And how fun is it to call for a privilege check from the avant-garde.
The more important point, however, is not the work's insulting falsification of Benedict's position but its flippant disregard of the risk compensation effect and the danger of HIV/AIDS contagion it entails. By recklessly ridiculing information essential to saving African lives, the artist joined a long line of western elitists in viewing an African tragedy through the prism of affluent, First World privilege, without the real world perspective that the church's thousands of HIV/AIDS treatment centers in Africa give it. Like many past efforts, the result is a position that is subjectively sincere, earnest and well-meaning — and objectively racist. MAM was complicit with the artist in demonstrating, once again, that with the possible exception of handguns and tequila, the most dangerous combination on Earth is passion and ignorance.A car with good brakes comes in a distant third.