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Objectivism and circumcision?

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Try switching the theme to the mobile version (bottom of the forum pages, "Change Theme"). The "New Content" link will then be at the top left of the page, and when you want to quote a post, just click on it for the buttons to appear. It looks like the reply box will be an html/IPB hybrid, but it at least may be consistent for you.

Thank you for the suggestion, James. I've tried switching the theme to the mobile version, yet I am still having the same trouble with the reply/edit module. I'll keep checking over time and see if the problem clears up.
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Mmmm, not very pleasant reading.

So, looks like circumcision isn't all that irrational, after all.

(Something else to thank my parents for.)

;)

Thanks Mandos.

Indeed. Decisions about circumcision in infants should be left to parents, and not to government bureaucrats, or to philosophers or their students who have no medical knowledge, training or expertise in the area being discussed. Laws should not be proposed or supported by Objectivists simply because Objectivist leaders (or those who wish to be Objectivist leaders) who don't know what they're talking about have arbitrarily declared that there can be no legitimate reason for anyone to circumcise a boy.

J

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Of note, they are talking about HPV in that study cited on the last page (causing cancer); something we now have an excellent vaccine for. If you're really that concerned about cancer risks, why not give your child a series of Gardasil shots instead? That way they also end up protecting any future female partners from HPV caused cancers...

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Indeed. Decisions about circumcision in infants should be left to parents, and not to government bureaucrats, or to philosophers or their students who have no medical knowledge, training or expertise in the area being discussed. Laws should not be proposed or supported by Objectivists simply because Objectivist leaders (or those who wish to be Objectivist leaders) who don't know what they're talking about have arbitrarily declared that there can be no legitimate reason for anyone to circumcise a boy.

J

Following that logic then you would have to say that it's a good idea to hack off a child's finger at birth as it will prevent them getting cancer on that finger. Removing their appendix at birth will stop them getting appendicitis. Keeping them in a constant catatonic state will probably prevent them from leaving the house thus preventing them from getting ran over by a car.

The reason for circumcision is not logical - its religion and tradition. For me freedom comes before safety. If the child wants to hack parts of their body off, let them chose for themselves when they are older.

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How about keeping some perspective on this? The question is not amputation, it is losing a small portion - keeping with your unreal example, a fingernail.

If those statistics are credible, an uncircumsized man stands a 22% increased risk of cancer of the penis, resulting in amputation or fatality.

Circumcision at adult stage has its own risks, so is it, or is it not, sane for parents to at the very least consider performing it on their infant?

I get the sense that the rationalizing going on here has more to do with the anti-religious aspects, than practical ones. Of course, religious rituals are irrational - but just think, if it were not for the Jewish custom, medical science would know nothing about the possible benefits of circumcision.

I am not defending it, I'm saying it is not as immoral as it is made out to be.

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According to research it has been proposed that it decreases your risk of getting cancer - that's fine and obviously a good thing. However, it does reduce a persons sexual stimulation and their is a risk in the procedure itself, even though it is tiny.

This is the best way to approach it. Leave it to choice. If you have a child educate them on the pros and cons related to the procedure and when they are at an age were they can make their own decisions - allow them to do that.

What if new medical evidence came out that hacking off your earlobe might prevent you getting a form of a cancer? Would we start cutting off a child;s earlobe at birth? Of course you wouldn't

The only reason circumcision is so popular is because it stems from tradition.

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Why is there no edit function any longer?

I wanted to correct the comparison of circumcized to uncircumcized incidents of penile cancer to 22- TIMES the risk, not 22% as I wrote. Yes, it is off a low base; from 1930 to 1990, there were 50,000 cases of such cancer in the USA, resulting in 10,000 deaths.

@'the rights': I agree with individual choice - naturally.

The point is religion has been the dominant philosophy for ages - and they had to get some things right, even by chance. So, with present knowledge does it make sense to throw out the baby with the bathwater (so to speak:)) only because it had a religious source?

That would be irrational.

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Contrary to the popular expression, a broken clock is not right twice a day. It is never right. By reference to it alone, it is never possible to use a broken clock to identify what time it is.

The same applies to the idea that religion has gotten some things right (in spite of itself). Truth is a correct identification of reality by an individual mind, a mind that grasps that some fact is indeed a fact. A "truth" accepted on faith (religion) is arbitrary, not true.

If the only justification for some activity is religious belief, then yes, it does make sense to throw out the baby with the bath water.

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Trebor,

I thought I made this clear - I'm arguing that, by accident, science has discovered that circumcision lowers the risk of cancer 22-fold.

The accident was an ancient ritual, ridiculous and irrational, by a certain religion.

Otherwise, without a sampling of circumcized people - how would we have known?

What a parent (an atheist) wants to do with that information is up to them - for health reasons.

(Though I probably wouldn't choose it for my son.)

Is it not possible to separate the medical facts from the religious background? obviously, "If the only justification for some activity is religious belief"... is not rational. But then, nothing about being religious in the first place, is rational, which makes it a circular argument.

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Following that logic then you would have to say that it's a good idea to hack off a child's finger at birth as it will prevent them getting cancer on that finger.

You're equating the loss of the foreskin with the loss of fingers? And you're equating the reality of the risk of penile cancer with the non-reality of finger cancer? You're equating removing a little bit of skin with removing skin, muscle and bone?

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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Why are people here assuming that circumcision began as a ritual? Has it entered none of your minds that the rituals and traditions involved in the history of circumcision could have been originally based on health concerns -- that what began as a preventative procedure took on religious significance because of it's symbolic representation of cleanliness and fruitfulness?

J

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Why are people here assuming that circumcision began as a ritual? Has it entered none of your minds that the rituals and traditions involved in the history of circumcision could have been originally based on health concerns -- that what began as a preventative procedure took on religious significance because of it's symbolic representation of cleanliness and fruitfulness?

J

I really don't see how this changes the rightness or wrongness. And as far as we know, it started as a religious ritual. If you have evidence otherwise, it'd be appreciated.

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I really don't see how this changes the rightness or wrongness. And as far as we know, it started as a religious ritual. If you have evidence otherwise, it'd be appreciated.

Um, no, the origination of circumcision in the world is not known, so, no, it was not started as a religious ritual "as far as we know." Your opinions, biases and preferences on the subject don't become the default, assumed truth. Everyone else mustn't provide evidence to the contrary while you provide none to support your assertions and assumptions.

J

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The first recorded acts of circumcision are in fact religious rituals. It began with the Egyptians as a rite of passage One thing we do know for certain is that it was not, as you proposed, for medical purposes. (http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/178_04_170203/dar10676_fm.html). And let us assume it were: that does not justify the practice.

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One thing we do know for certain is that it was not, as you proposed, for medical purposes.

No, we do not "know for certain" that circumcision did not begin for medical or hygiene reasons. We know that certain people claim that there were no medical reasons, and they assert that they're aware of no evidence to suggest that it began as a medical or hygiene measure and that no one proposes that it was based in hygiene (and then later citing and arbitrarily dismissing sources which claim that it may have been based on hygiene concerns, as the Darby piece that you linked to does). It's like hearing Environmentalists claiming that no serious scientists disagree that man-made global warming is real, that everyone agrees, and then forgetting what they've just said and attacking the serious scientists who are opponents of man-made global warming.

J

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@ Jonathan,

No, I've have never thought it originated as religious ritual - but some mystic decided to utilize it after the fact, and it was perpetuated by religion, I'd guess.

Consider what early Jews,Muslims and Aboriginals had in common - plenty of uncomfortable sand.

The article bears it out.

From the article: "...it does suggest that tribal circumcision arose as a hygiene measure in desert environments."

That's what you're thinking, I believe, and I agree. The article supports your argument.

To be reasonable about this, separated from religion,(which nobody appears to want to do) there is no way it can be called "evil." Unless it is the symbolism of religion that disturbs one.

Silly and superfluous, circumcision is, that's all.

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Why is there no edit function any longer?

I wanted to correct the comparison of circumcized to uncircumcized incidents of penile cancer to 22- TIMES the risk, not 22% as I wrote. Yes, it is off a low base; from 1930 to 1990, there were 50,000 cases of such cancer in the USA, resulting in 10,000 deaths.

@'the rights': I agree with individual choice - naturally.

The point is religion has been the dominant philosophy for ages - and they had to get some things right, even by chance. So, with present knowledge does it make sense to throw out the baby with the bathwater (so to speak:)) only because it had a religious source?

That would be irrational.

Again, actually reading that penile cancer paper seems to suggest that most of this increased risk can be attributed to certain types of high-risk Human Papilloma Viruses, and we have a very effective vaccine for now that is already recommended for most girls. If we're really that worried about the cancer risk, it makes a lot more sense to vaccinate against the causal agent rather than circumcise for this reason.

There are certainly medical reasons for circumcising that are valid; my brother's foreskin was so small that there was literally no way it could be retracted. I think in that case it makes sense to circumcise because of hygienic issues; but that is certainly not so common that it makes sense to preemptively circumcise any infant boy.

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No, we do not "know for certain" that circumcision did not begin for medical or hygiene reasons. We know that certain people claim that there were no medical reasons, and they assert that they're aware of no evidence to suggest that it began as a medical or hygiene measure and that no one proposes that it was based in hygiene (and then later citing and arbitrarily dismissing sources which claim that it may have been based on hygiene concerns, as the Darby piece that you linked to does). It's like hearing Environmentalists claiming that no serious scientists disagree that man-made global warming is real, that everyone agrees, and then forgetting what they've just said and attacking the serious scientists who are opponents of man-made global warming.

J

But the claim that there IS evidence that it was started for medical or hygienic reasons is the positive claim that needs to first be validated by providing evidence. You can't expect to find conclusive evidence that no one in the past thousands of years had ever circumcised for medical reasons; it's an impossible claim to prove. If it is so clear that it was started for medical reasons, it should be no problem to dig up an actual ancient text that talks about the medical reasons in favor of circumcision.

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"Hygienic" in the text, referring to ancient peoples, I think is a euphemism for comfort and practicality. Anybody had sand in that sensitive spot? Though come to think of it, left too long the abrasion could suppurate. So we could induce hygienic concerns. No evidence really needed.

(Or probable.)

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But the claim that there IS evidence that it was started for medical or hygienic reasons is the positive claim that needs to first be validated by providing evidence. You can't expect to find conclusive evidence that no one in the past thousands of years had ever circumcised for medical reasons; it's an impossible claim to prove.

Indeed. That has been my point: one cannot truthfully state that "One thing we do know for certain is that it was not, as you proposed, for medical purposes."

If it is so clear that it was started for medical reasons, it should be no problem to dig up an actual ancient text that talks about the medical reasons in favor of circumcision.

Did you bother to read the source that TheEgoist linked to?

J

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"Hygienic" in the text, referring to ancient peoples, I think is a euphemism for comfort and practicality. Anybody had sand in that sensitive spot? Though come to think of it, left too long the abrasion could suppurate. So we could induce hygienic concerns. No evidence really needed.

(Or probable.)

Not every locale where people lived had such huge amounts of sand (and wind) that you had to worry about this issue, though. And in most cases there is the possibility of washing yourself if you really had to. Additionally, even if someone is circumcised it does not remove the need to wash, and sand can still be caught in the smaller skin folds near the base of the tip. It just makes it somewhat easier.

Either way, this has no relevance on our current situation unless you're living in a remote desert without access to water for washing yourself.

Did you bother to read the source that TheEgoist linked to?

J

I did not, as I think what people did thousands of years ago has very little relevance on the practice today. Above I was making a more epistemological argument; that you can't prove a negative (i.e. that there is no medical reason people circumcised back then).

Certainly nowadays, the vast majority of people who choose to circumcise their child do so for nonsensical reasons (or as a default). If someone was honestly convinced of the medical evidence on the subject I would respect their decision (even if they ended up being wrong about it), but many people choose to circumcise because of trivial reasons (tradition, religion, the father is circumcised and it avoids an awkward conversation as to why the son looks different).

I am not opposed to circumcision as such, as there is definitely a time and place for it, but I think it should be given the same cautious thought as any type of surgery and should only be performed when there is a clear cut case to be made for why it is good in this particular instance.

Coincidentally, I don't think anyone has so far acknowledged my earlier point about the "cancer reduction" reason for preventatively circumcising an infant.

Even if today there is not yet a completely ironclad case as for why having a foreskin is important, that certainly doesn't prove there isn't one. There are many examples of biological science initially considering something useless when in fact there is a good reason for why it exists (the appendix, "junk" DNA). Obviously I am not asserting that this means there must be a good reason why we have a foreskin, just that human beings evolved having one and for the most part it provided some evolutionary advantage and that considering it is an irreversible operation, it is better to err on the side of NOT removing something you don't currently understand.

The absence of proof of a foreskin's function is not proof of its absence.

Edited by Maarten
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From G.K. Chesterton:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

This is not usually used in this context (he is talking about the man-made versus a foreskin which is more of a metaphysically given, but considering it did not appear out of nowhere it is still somewhat useful to consider), but I think it is an important reminder nonetheless about not talking too lightly about removing something that we do not currently understand the function of.

Edited by Maarten
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What an unprincipled way to enter into the world, so young and already having the state use force against an individual. Perhaps it is better to get them while they are young, within the first seven years?

The origin, function of, potentiality of, is arbitrary. It is simply a matter of upholding individual rights, by not using force. The alternative is consent.

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