This British article on circumcision demonstrates several typical lapses in critical thinking. These lapses are usually based in a refusal to consider that actions against children are subject to ethical concerns. That fits these examples. First:
One part of the country that is moving quickly in this direction is Walsall, where the local hospital now offers a weekend male-circumcision clinic. “We have a large Muslim community here,” says Dr Sam Ramaiah, director of public health for Walsall Primary Care Trust, “and we wanted to provide local children with a service that is safe and secure. The procedure takes place in hospital with local anaesthetic and is done by a trained surgeon. The advantage is that there is care available in case of complications and, if necessary, the child can stay in.”
The possibility of complications demands that circumcision be medically indicated based on need when the patient can’t consent. It may be more civilized to offer this service so that children may have their genitals cut in a “safe” environment, but it is not civilized. And it’s not equal; the same concession is not made to parents for cutting the genitals of their female children. Ethics – morality – requires more than good intentions and a clean operating room.
“If there was any hint that there was a physical or psychological problem it would have been suspended centuries ago, something that has happened to other practices in Judaism. And indeed things have changed already. Nowadays we will use only mohelim [people who perform ritual Jewish circumcision] who are doctors. We always use anaesthetic cream. If there is anything that indicates that we should delay the circumcision we will delay it,” [Rabbi Jonathan Romain] says.
The ethical demand from a lack of medical necessity indicates that we should delay the circumcision, so clearly Rabbi Romain is mistaken. But he mistakenly does not accept that fact, so I’ll move to his specific point.
“We’re modern, so we would not continue doing something harmful. We are incapable of it because we are modern. Someone, somewhere, would’ve stopped this if it was bad.” This idea is a typical fallacy that relies on an arrogance founded in the rejection of self-examination. It rejects the science of medicine as an ongoing quest, preferring instead an unstated belief that we know all we may know. Unfortunately, it also relies on knowing only what we want to know.
How long did medical science accept blood-letting as a cure? Have we mostly abandoned the practice now in favor of new understanding? Should men and women of science ceased progress by assuming that progress had reached its pinnacle?
Being a doctor requires ethics, but even in the absence of ethics, science provides the answers to the objective questions. Removing the foreskin is an objective change in the genitals. Cutting is objective harm. (Rabbi Romain proves this, since anesthetic cream would be unnecessary if cutting wasn’t objective harm.) When there is no medical indication for doing cutting, all that remains is the subjective evaluation of the benefits versus the costs of genital cutting. The doctor (and parents) are not qualified under any circumstance to conclude in favor of cutting when the child’s genitals are healthy. All arguments regarding benefits are irrelevant.