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Objectivism and circumcision?

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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.

I don't think anyone here is advocating a law that requires circumcision, so I am not sure what you are referring to when you talk about "having the state use force against an individual".

It is decidedly not arbitrary whether foreskins (or any other body part) have function, because any medical decision concerning said part is a weighing of pros and cons. You can't make an informed decision as to whether any type of medical procedure on a minor is permissible without knowing what the function of that part is. It is ludicrous to put in a blanket ban on any type of initiation of force on a minor. They are minors for a reason and the guardian has to make medical decisions for them when necessary. Many things involved with raising a child properly involve acts that go against the minor's will, but that does not make them necessarily bad in and of itself. Otherwise we couldn't vaccinate or do anything with a minor until they are grown to adulthood, which is clearly not good for them.

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I don't think anyone here is advocating a law that requires circumcision, so I am not sure what you are referring to when you talk about "having the state use force against an individual".

It is decidedly not arbitrary whether foreskins (or any other body part) have function, because any medical decision concerning said part is a weighing of pros and cons. You can't make an informed decision as to whether any type of medical procedure on a minor is permissible without knowing what the function of that part is. It is ludicrous to put in a blanket ban on any type of initiation of force on a minor. They are minors for a reason and the guardian has to make medical decisions for them when necessary. Many things involved with raising a child properly involve acts that go against the minor's will, but that does not make them necessarily bad in and of itself. Otherwise we couldn't vaccinate or do anything with a minor until they are grown to adulthood, which is clearly not good for them.

So if a doctor, a father, and a priest all gather to agree that the removal of the foreskin is a preventative of a potential, the potential of cancer, then it is okay to perform the operation, without the consent of the victim, and considering that this victim is not yet able to consent, then it is a principled, non-forced act? I thought medical procedures were supposed to be pro-life, remedying actual sickness by targeting an organ that is actually proved to be the cause.

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So if a doctor, a father, and a priest all gather to agree that the removal of the foreskin is a preventative of a potential, the potential of cancer, then it is okay to perform the operation, without the consent of the victim, and considering that this victim is not yet able to consent, then it is a principled, non-forced act? I thought medical procedures were supposed to be pro-life, remedying actual sickness by targeting an organ that is actually proved to be the cause.

I don't know what the priest has to do with it unless he also happens to be a practicing medical professional, so I will ignore that part of your post because I have clearly already addressed the fact that religious reasons are not sufficient reason for circumcision in earlier posts. I doubt anyone else on this forum thinks that religion is an awesome reason for circumcising your infant, either, so let's abandon that straw man and focus on the actual discussion that's worth having.

I also already talked about the fact that prevention is a bad reason for circumcising, and that there are other, less invasive ways to prevent penile cancer (or HIV or whatever STD circumcision protects against). I think really the only time you should circumcise a boy is when there is clear proof that their foreskin isn't working as intended and WILL cause problems for the child.

Edited by Maarten
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Maarten, thank you for your response. I agree that both religion and prevention of a potential are not reasons to perform the circumcision.

You're welcome :)

Following a discussion I had in the chat, I'd like to add that probably the best way to handle these situations is after the fact through the judiciary system, rather than supporting a blanket ban on circumcision. Banning the practice outright (or only allowing it in some cases by law) would practically speaking involve quite a lot of government interference in private (medical) decision making, and could very well be a greater violation of rights.

I see it a little like protections against child abuse. Yes, child abuse is bad and a violation of the child's rights, but preventing all cases of child abuse would entail a far greater violation of the rights of innocent parents and therefore is a bad law. It is much better to have a good judicial system where if child abuse is found to be happening, the involved parties are sued and it is dealt with in the courts, than act like every parent is a potential abuser and watch them all like a hawk and have the government involved in many everyday decisions.

With regards to circumcision, I think if someone was circumcised and wishes they hadn't been, they should go ahead and sue the responsible parties in court and prove their case in that manner. That would require a lot of evidence (and I am not sure if it'd go forward), but I am willing to bet that if people started doing that more the number of circumcisions would drop fairly quickly as doctors (and parents) would be less willing to risk the chance of a potential lawsuit.

At the same time, I think it is a good idea to try and convince as many people as possible that it's wrong to circumcise boys unless there is a clear case to be made that it IS medically necessary for that person. But banning it goes much too far for something like this. It is certainly not as clearly wrong as something like FGM, which serves no proper purpose whatsoever.

Edited by Maarten
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Following a discussion I had in the chat, I'd like to add that probably the best way to handle these situations is after the fact through the judiciary system, rather than supporting a blanket ban on circumcision. Banning the practice outright (or only allowing it in some cases by law) would practically speaking involve quite a lot of government interference in private (medical) decision making, and could very well be a greater violation of rights.

(My position is that the practice should be banned except for rare circumstances when medical necessity can be proven.)

I don’t really think that’s a sound argument. That sounds awfully like suggesting “some rights violations are acceptable to the extent preventing them would violate more important rights” when really no kinds of rights take precedent. We don’t ignore animal rights because it would entail violating human rights; animals don’t have rights. We don’t ignore worker rights because it would entail violating individual rights; all people have the same rights. In the same way, not taking child rights as seriously as adult rights is all sorts of bad. It almost sounds like you’re saying “stopping some kinds of child rights violation will violate a parent’s rights”. I get what you’re saying about prevention, but the question is if circumcision by its nature is a rights violation. Banning circumcision wouldn’t be about preventing a rights violation if it IS a rights violation. Preventive law would usually refer to banning something that * might * lead to a rights violation, like banning alcohol. Just because something is banned, though, doesn’t imply being “watched like a hawk”, unless you also believe that banning rape implies being watched by Big Brother.

I don’t really know where you get the idea that suing after the fact is any good of an idea. I think that works fine if there is no bodily damage. But this context is absolutely all about irreversible bodily damage, to a human that can’t say ANYTHING about it. It’s not like you’d wait for someone to sue after being assaulted to take action against a rights violation, because it involves bodily damage. Action ought to be taken regardless.

I do not think banning is going too far at all, the same way I don’t think it’s too far to ban sex reassignment at birth because of ambiguous genitalia. Although, no one really NEEDS a penis at all; why stop at foreskin if a parent deems it necessary, which really does happen in those rare cases of ambiguous genitalia? Cut the whole thing off, and let the kid sue when he’s older. I know that’s a bit of hyperbole, but can you point out how your argument about circumcision doesn’t apply to this example?

Edited by Eiuol
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(My position is that the practice should be banned except for rare circumstances when medical necessity can be proven.)

I don’t really think that’s a sound argument. That sounds awfully like suggesting “some rights violations are acceptable to the extent preventing them would violate more important rights” when really no kinds of rights take precedent. We don’t ignore animal rights because it would entail violating human rights; animals don’t have rights. We don’t ignore worker rights because it would entail violating individual rights; all people have the same rights. In the same way, not taking child rights as seriously as adult rights is all sorts of bad. It almost sounds like you’re saying “stopping some kinds of child rights violation will violate a parent’s rights”. I get what you’re saying about prevention, but the question is if circumcision by its nature is a rights violation. Banning circumcision wouldn’t be about preventing a rights violation if it IS a rights violation. Preventive law would usually refer to banning something that * might * lead to a rights violation, like banning alcohol. Just because something is banned, though, doesn’t imply being “watched like a hawk”, unless you also believe that banning rape implies being watched by Big Brother.

I don't think that, generally speaking, "some rights violations are acceptable to the extent preventing them would violate more important rights" is wrong, it just highly depends on the situation. After all, it does not make sense to violate someone's rights just to prevent another rights violation from taking place, although that may be a discussion for another topic.

Having said that, I am certainly not opposed to changing my mind in this particular instance. I agree that circumcision unless medically necessary (which is fairly rare) is wrong, I just wasn't sure if it is a clear enough rights violation that legislation is necessarily the best remedy. If we do end up banning the practice, I do think it is a valid question to ask how this ban should be enforced. I think my earlier point had more to do with practical concerns as to what such a ban might entail for (what should be) private medical decisions, in retrospect.

Maybe that is just paranoia on my part, but considering a lot of recent developments where various governments are taking more and more interests in what should be private decisions, I could easily see something like this (that could be a proper law) being so horribly bungled that it ends up creating a worse problem than we are solving.

Leaving aside the topic of circumcision, I think you could make an argument that if a parent feeds their child objectively unhealthy foods to such an extent that it would cause all sorts of problems later in life (due to severe obesity, or disease) that this is a violation of the child's rights. However, solving that problem in practice could mean a significantly increased governmental presence in everyone's lives, and therefore on the balance be a bad idea.

We can certainly argue that circumcision is so clearly a violation of rights that it in an entirely different category, and makes significant enforcement desirable. But although I think it's morally wrong to circumcise for non-medical-emergency reasons, I'm not so sure that it is that clearly wrong that we should all-out ban it.

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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

It's not just removing a little bit of skin. It's removing a part of the body that directly affects pleasure. I was using the finger comparison to show how flawed the logic is. I think people arguing against this point are probably circumcised themselves and have to rationalise the situation because they don't want to feel as if your parents did something wrong. The truth is, everyone makes mistakes and we should learn from them.

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It's not just removing a little bit of skin. It's removing a part of the body that directly affects pleasure. I was using the finger comparison to show how flawed the logic is. I think people arguing against this point are probably circumcised themselves and have to rationalise the situation because they don't want to feel as if your parents did something wrong. The truth is, everyone makes mistakes and we should learn from them.

I don't think it's appropriate to try and divine anyone else's motivations from their posts like that... You're not making a rational argument and it does your cause no justice.

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It's removing a part of the body that directly affects pleasure.
I've often seen this mentioned in debates on circumcision. Does anyone have objective evidence of this? I've seen some people (different thread) mention the number of nerve ending or some such biological factor, but I don't see that as evidence.

It is pretty safe to assume that there is a difference in the nature of the physical sensations for circumcised versus uncircumcised, but it is quite different to say that one is better than the other without presenting more evidence.

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I've often seen this mentioned in debates on circumcision. Does anyone have objective evidence of this? I've seen some people (different thread) mention the number of nerve ending or some such biological factor, but I don't see that as evidence.

It is pretty safe to assume that there is a difference in the nature of the physical sensations for circumcised versus uncircumcised, but it is quite different to say that one is better than the other without presenting more evidence.

We need some double blind, randomized controlled trials to sort this out :-) Hah, can you imagine?

But you do raise an important point. At least at the moment there is no objective evidence available that suggests that having a foreskin is more pleasurable (and therefore better). I've seen a few studies attempt this, and while they are promising, it is by no means a closed case.

In my mind, considering the preventative advantages of circumcision aren't that great over alternative methods of dealing with these issues, it is not a good reason to circumcise most infants. But it is a grey enough area that I think reasonable people can disagree over whether it should be allowable. It may be different if someone can conclusively prove that the foreskin is incredibly important to a thriving life, but until that day comes it is hard to really solve the discussion.

As far as traditional/religious reasons go, I don't think that is ever sufficient cause to do a medical procedure of this kind, any more than it would be appropriate to remove a child's earlobe (that doesn't really have a function either) because you like the sight of it better or because your religion wants you to.

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We need some double blind, randomized controlled trials to sort this out :-) Hah, can you imagine?
:)

But you do raise an important point. At least at the moment there is no objective evidence available that suggests that having a foreskin is more pleasurable (and therefore better). I've seen a few studies attempt this, and while they are promising, it is by no means a closed case.
I can't imagine how one would go about making the results really objective, since there an obvious subjective element here. For instance, imagine this conversation:

Researcher: Do you have a higher degree of sensation after being circumcised?

Subject: Nope, it's less.

Researcher: So, how much less pleasurable would you rate the sexual experience?

Subject: Less! I rate it higher, because I can keep going longer... I guess some guys would say it's worse, but I like it this way.

The point being that even if one can draw some type of conclusion about the level of sensation, one cannot automatically extrapolate that to the pleasure of the entire sexual act. There's a subjective element there.

Edited by softwareNerd
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I can't imagine how one would go about making the results really objective, since there an obvious subjective element here. For instance, imagine this conversation:

Researcher: Do you have a higher degree of sensation after being circumcised?

Subject: Nope, it's less.

Researcher: So, how much less pleasurable would you rate the sexual experience?

Subject: Less! I rate it higher, because I can keep going longer... I guess some guys would say it's worse, but I like it this way.

The point being that even if one can draw some type of conclusion about the level of sensation, one cannot automatically extrapolate that to the pleasure of the entire sexual act. There's a subjective element there.

You're right, of course, but that makes it all the more important that the choice is left up to the individual. If they're concerned about having too much sensitivity later in life, or convert to a religion that requires it, they can always decide to do it later.

The fact that infants don't really notice it much and heal fast is certainly not limited to only circumcision, and we're not preventatively doing other procedures to infants just for that reason, as far as I know :)

Unless there is a strong rationale as for why it's necessary for that particular infant, I think the default should be to leave the body intact. Let the burden of proof lie on who ever proposes to surgically alter their child.

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You're right, of course, but that makes it all the more important that the choice is left up to the individual.
Definitely. I think routine and ritualistic circumcision is foolish. However, my point was that the negatives appear minor -- though I haven't studied it enough to be sure, and so I'm open to being convinced that this is not so. If the negatives are not major, then I would rather see the government stay out of it. I'm guessing much more harm is done to kids in the name of religion than the snipping of their penis foreskin, but I'm wary of letting the government in to make the calls.

It should be pointed out that uncircumcised men almost universally do not choose to get circumcised later in life.
To be sure! Telling a guy you're going to snip around his penis with a surgical instrument is a pretty huge downer. In fact there was this Jewish sect called Christianity that was trying to spread its message among the gentiles and they soon figured that they needed to drop the requirement of circumcision if they wanted lots of converts!
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To be sure! Telling a guy you're going to snip around his penis with a surgical instrument is a pretty huge downer. In fact there was this Jewish sect called Christianity that was trying to spread its message among the gentiles and they soon figured that they needed to drop the requirement of circumcision if they wanted lots of converts!

Yes, but since any health advantages of circumcision surely are most noticeable during the adult years, that should tell us something. If most uncircumcised males don't think it is worth doing at that point even with all the reduction in HIV/cancer risk and whatever else advantages it may have, that does call into question the pros of circumcising someone to a certain extent.

Also, why aren't all those doctors who are concerned about circumcision advocating to their patients to do it later in life? People have all sorts of surgeries if it is medically necessary, including on their genitals... I think the fact that this rarely ever happens during adulthood should give anyone pause about its supposed desirability.

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Is there really conclusive evidence of the health advantages of such a procedure.

Might there be health benefits for women circumcision as well if a dedicated team of scientists were put to the task of finding statistical tidbits.

Medically speaking it always tends to be better not to intervene if it's not necessary (given medicine's history of overwhelming iatrogenesis). Preventive surgery sounds a bit like preventive airstrike.

The subject is so culturally charged (african tribalism, islam, judaism, victorian onanism) that it seems virtually impossible to consider it a medical issue.

It is interesting to note how this practice is widespread in Africa, the continent known for lacking literacy and efficient use of water; while virtually unheard of in Eastern Asia, the region known for inventing the print, scoring the highest in IQ tests, and have the longest history of the most efficient use of water (aka production of calories per square inch of soil).

As of personal choice, some women have their earlobes pierced at birth but I find this is less usual as it's deemed cruel on the child. On the other hand too many young adults chose to pierce their earlobes later in life, which is incidentally not even surgical .

How many men actually decide to undergo circumcision later in life?

Edited by volco
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