Scientific American Blogs, Bering In Mind, Hey, Andrew Sullivan, Stop Calling My Penis “Mutilated” , September 10, 2012
|Science Denialists and Illogicals Storming |
The Citadel of Logic
Anyhow Jesse presents much evidence of the wonders of circumcision. OK, and he also states that the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) revised their policy statement on circumcision which according to Jesse:
"The consensus regarding this cascade of new datasets—all of which, they claimed, they went over methodically with a fine-toothed comb—moves the AAP away from its historically noncommittal view and towards a clear stance that the benefits of infant male circumcision now unambiguously outweigh its minimal risks when performed under sterile conditions by properly trained physicians."OK so gee I guess I am wrong, circumcision is a really good thing. Jesse claims that there is a 60% reduction in HIV transfer. I have read some things about that 60% but OK, I'll give Jesse his 60% reduction. Then in an ever rising crescendo of hysteria Jesse ends the article with this pearl of wisdom:
"I don’t need someone else to tell me what I should be outraged by, Sullivan, thank you very much. It’s certainly not going to be in response to already stressed-out parents acting sensibly as their child’s health advocate and appealing to the ethical directives of professionals, rather than online blowhards who think that repeatedly referring to an act with an amygdala-fuelled term like “mutilation” makes it so. If you want your child to be at an increased risk of urinary tract infections, herpes, genital ulcers, HPV and HIV, that’s entirely your choice, and feel free to celebrate with other science-denialists sharing similarly misplaced passions. But spare me your righteous indignation over those parents today that fail to see their benevolent, educated decision to circumcise their infant sons as an 'attack on their sexual pleasure at birth.'"
In case you haven't guessed, the emphasis is mine. So now I am a science-denialist using amygdala-fuelled terms like mutilation, but good Ole' Jesse here is a paragon of emotional stability. So let's take a look at what the AAP said in their revised policy statement. From:
Again of course the emphasis is mine. So does the import of this paragraph warrant Bering's accusation of those who would refuse circumcision as science-denialists? I really have no interest in Bering's and Sullivan's spat but I do resent being called a science-denialist just because I don't agree with Bering. But OK I'll concede, I am a science-denialist, but grant me this Jesse, I am a science-denialist with a mutilated penis and a well fueled amygdala.
Incidentally I have been counseled by people who are against circumcision to avoid the M-word because it is inflammatory. But because 1) I am a little pissed at moment, 2) I am only using it in reference to myself, and 3) that is exactly the word that I feel best describes my condition, I believe that I shall use it for one more day.
OK I said I would give Jesse his 60% improvement in preventing HIV transfer. From a practical standpoint what does that mean? One only needs a condom 40% of the time? In terms of HIV transfer what real value is attained by circumcision? HIV is no longer a problem? Ohhh? Why did we ever have a problem to begin with in the US? What about Europe? The best I can gather Europe and the US have about the same rates of transfer. Shouldn't the European rate be much higher with the 60% reduction in HIV transfer garnered by circumcision? Circumcision is relatively rare in Europe.
Regarding HIV transfer, in a practical sense, being circumcised means that on the average it will take you longer to get infected than it would if you are not circumcised. But the fact remains that if you engage in continual risky sexual behavior and do not use condoms you will eventually become infected with HIV. So what exactly has circumcision done for you? You can get circumcised and have to use condoms all the time, or you can stay intact and have to use condoms all of the time. The choice is yours. Oh wait, no. I am sorry, it's not your choice, it is your parents choice. I apologize for the confusion.
Note: I posted comments 16, 19 and 43 at Bering's Blog at the link above.
Well my second foray into the world of circumcision blogging resulted in two of my comments not being published. Now we all know that I ain't too smart, intellect has never been one of my claims, but wouldn't that qualify as censoring? Of course the blog belongs to an individual and it is hers to publish or not as she sees fit, but gee, post a note that comments from illogicals will not be posted. I could go waste my time else where. Well here are the two blog posts:
SquintMom, Resources For Evidence Based Parenting, What The Science Says About Circumcision: Part 1 — The Benefits
Her conclusion for the benefits:
"Science Bottom Line:* There is no scientific evidence that strongly supports circumcision in the United States for the sole purpose of preventing disease.**
**Obviously, this is not to say that there’s no reason to circumcise, nor is it to say that there’s no SCIENTIFIC reason to circumcise in areas with epidemic HIV, etc. The point here is that the argument FOR circumcision in the U.S. can’t be made on the basis of scientific evidence, and must instead be made on the basis of values and beliefs."
SquintMom, Resources For Evidence Based Parenting, What The Science Says About Circumcision: Part 2 — The Risks
Her conclusion regarding the risks:
Science Bottom Line:* There is no scientific evidence that strongly links routine infant circumcision with appropriate analgesiato physical or psychological harm.** Because there are many options available for managing pain during infant circumcision, however, there’s simply no justification for medical circumcision without analgesia.
**Obviously, this is not to say that no one is ever hurt by circumcision, or that there are not individuals who wish they hadn’t been circumcised. However, the SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE does not provide support for the argument that routine infant circumcision is harmful. As such, the argument AGAINST circumcision in the U.S. can’t be made on the basis of scientific evidence, and must instead be made on the basis of values and beliefs.
So I thought, cool! This person did what appeared to be a fair assessment and arrived at the conclusion that the evidence neither supports or refutes circumcision. OK I can buy that. So then I started reading through the comments, and I ran into this inquiry by a mother to be:
"Hi. This is my first time commenting, but I’ve been reading your blog for a while. I am pregnant with a boy and am trying to decide whether to circumcise. I posted on the Mothering.com forums, and the women there are very anti-circumcision. It seems like they make a lot of unsupportable claims, though. For instance, they say that there’s no reason for a boy to look like his father, since they won’t be sitting around with their penises out. I think (but I don’t have the scientific evidence to back it up) that children probably get a lot of their early sense of sexual identity from comparing their bodies to those of their parents. A little girl knows she’ll GROW breasts, and a little boy will get a bigger penis like his father’s…but an uncircumcised boy knows his penis won’t look like his (circumcised) father’s penis when he gets older. Also, my understanding is that the majority of white, middle-class boys in the US are circumcised. What would be the effect on a boy’s psychology of looking around the bathroom or gym and realizing his penis is different? Also, what if he’s in high school or college and hears girls making fun of the way an uncircumcised penis looks?"
So we are not talking about religious circumcision, HIV, HPV, penile cancer, cervix cancer, sensation, child rights, wishes of the adult, or any other issue than appearance. Is appearance a valid consideration for circumcising a child? In my mind no. Appearance does not exceed the right of the individual. But let's put that aside. I can understand this woman’s concern. So I wrote the following reply concerning appearance:
"Let’s turn your question around. Immigrants from Africa move in next door. They are nice people and they are going to have a ritual circumcision of their daughter. You have been invited to the ceremony. How much weight will the argument hold with you, that if they fail to circumcise their daughter, she will not look like her mother, her grandmother, her aunts, or her older sisters? Valid argument? Would you object, or simply agree that this girl should physically resemble her relatives?I am circumcised. I have no idea if my father was circumcised. My son was born in 1983 and he was circumcised. Why wouldn’t he? Its what we do. A decision I deeply regret today. I have not seen my son’s penis since he was 5 years old, and I don’t believe that he has ever seen mine. We don’t exactly lounge around in the buff comparing our goods.In any event if we are going to use the argument of the importance of appearance, then we should actively support female circumcision in Africa because we don’t know how much damage may result by a generation of daughters not resembling the mothers. If that sounds a bit absurd, and I hope it does, then think again about how that argument sounds for the perpetuation of routine male circumcision in the US."
I wrote another comment (which I did not copy) at the end of the comments. I complimented her on research and presenting a balanced view on circumcision. I then went into a rant but a well behaved rant and simply asked why it was that I was circumcised in 1949, and I replied with "Well ah you know ah hygiene, prevention of phimosis, ah err ah he will look like his father." In other words nobody knows. I then went on to provide a rushed, brief, and admittedly not terribly well written history of circumcision in the US. The point that I was trying to make was that I was circumcised in 1949 because Victorian zealots 60 to 100 years earlier were convinced that masturbation was going to be the downfall of the Western world and some how the practice not only caught on but became medicalized. The root historical reason for medical infant circumcision in the US is to blunt sexual pleasure for both masturbation and coitus.
So I posted both comments on SquintMom's blog Thursday night. They were awaiting moderation for about 24 hours. I checked last night, the comments were still waiting. I checked this morning and my comments had vanished.
SquintMom posted the following comments last night to another person's post. Normally I would not copy a reply to another person, but in this comment she also indicates, indirectly, why my two comments were censored: