Ethics is the buffer between “can” and “should”.

Here’s an interesting study:

Could smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee protect you from Parkinson’s disease?

That’s the startling suggestion of a new U.S. study of families that also found NSAID use has no impact on the disease risk.

The people with Parkinson’s disease were 44 percent less likely to report ever smoking and 70 percent less likely to report current smoking compared with unaffected relatives, the study authors found.

“Increasing intensity of coffee drinking was inversely associated with Parkinson’s disease,” they added. “Increasing dosage and intensity of total caffeine consumption were also inversely associated, with high dosage presenting a significant inverse association with Parkinson’s disease.”

It’s not known how smoking or caffeine consumption may help reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

I enjoy science. Basing decisions on evidence is common sense. But I also believe there is more than just evidence. In applying scientific discoveries, I stand by evidence and ethics, devoid any speculation. The more common approach appears to be evidence and speculation, devoid any ethics. How else to describe the push to circumcise more infant males based on the recent findings regarding HIV transmission and voluntary adult circumcision?

The preliminary facts in this study mirror the fact pattern in the HIV studies, down to it’s not known how the action achieves the benefit. So should we start encouraging adults with a family history of Parkinson’s to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes? Should we speculate and encourage parents in those families to give their children coffee and cigarettes?

Those suggestions are laughable. We know that this is one study. We also know that drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes carry an amount of risk. We’re going to be conservative in applying these findings.

Yet, infant circumcision is so accepted as “good” that we don’t question extending any findings, however preliminary or speculative, to conform to our accepted, untested ideas. Unlike coffee and cigarettes with Parkinson’s, we don’t stop to assess whether unnecessary genital surgery on a child to reduce an already small risk is logical. (We definitely don’t ask if it’s ethical.)

This is catering to intellectual bias, not the application of science.