Who Needs Evidence?

I don’t think much of Men’s Health magazine after its recent, flawed article on male circumcision. This entry on the Men’s Health Life blog still managed to disappoint. The author describes having his sons circumcised, yet manages to work in this sentence without any apparent awareness:

The beautiful, fragrant flesh of a newborn shouldn’t mix with steel blades unless absolutely necessary.

And yet, he and his wife hired a doctor to unnecessarily take a steel blade to the “beautiful, fragrant flesh” of their newborn sons. Should anyone expect more throughout the rest of the article? After implying that the risk of severe complications is the only risk involved in circumcision, and comparing that to the risk of an individual getting hit by a rogue asteroid, the author attempts to defend his action with this:

Much more likely is the scenario that that beautiful boy grows up, is considered beautiful by another of our species (male of female), and begins expressing that attraction through sex. And that’s when the superfluousness of the foreskin morphs into a decided health threat. …

His foreskin is only a threat if he engages in unprotected sex with infected female partners.

Notice, too, the inclusion of “superfluous” to describe the foreskin. That’s a subjective word. The foreskin has sexual functions, so its removal changes his sexual experience. Does the male himself consider his foreskin superfluous?

In the U.S., then, circumcision can be regarded as a worthwhile precaution against debilitating STDs later on in life. …

The findings on circumcision involved voluntary, adult circumcision. I have no problem accepting that voluntary, adult circumcision can be regarded as a worthwhile precaution against anything, down to the owner’s revulsion at his anatomically-normal body. That is not what the author is suggesting. His perception of the risk of STD for his sexually inactive sons is enough for him to make their decision. That’s ignorant.

… In Africa, where AIDS runs rampant and garden-variety STDs are a contributing factor to transmission, circumcision is a humanitarian issue. …

That’s a very convenient reframing that ignores the actual epidemic in Africa. Unprotected sex with multiple concurrent partners is the problem. Circumcision status is possibly related only to the extent that individuals regularly ignore safe sex practices. Who wants to put confidence in that as a long-term solution?

If a small bit of skin is the only sacrifice needed to stop a humanitarian and health crisis, I say off with their heads!

When the person who makes the sacrifice and the person who makes the decision to sacrifice are different, the decision is unethical. Of course, as I mentioned regarding safe sex, circumcision is clearly not the only “sacrifice” needed. But call it a humanitarian issue and the circumciser becomes noble.

Still, this is the key paragraph:

But the N.O.C.I.R.C. people will be after my own head, now that I’ve joined the anti-foreskin forces. And listen, I understand their emotion. The penis is a sensitive body part, and babies are a very touchy subject. Combine the two, and people’s forehead veins begin to bulge. But N.O.C.I.R.C.’s bellicose attitude toward the debate is pushing aside rational consideration of the evidence, and scaring parents into making decisions that are against the best interest of their babies. And society at large.

The only person pushing aside rational consideration of the evidence is the author (and every pro-infant circumcision advocate). Here is the proof:

The beautiful, fragrant flesh of a newborn shouldn’t mix with steel blades unless absolutely necessary.

The child is healthy at birth. No indication exists for surgical intervention. Therefore, no intervention is justified. The only guarantee from routine/ritual infant circumcision is the child’s exposure to surgical risk. That is not in his best interest.

If we didn’t follow this, any intervention on children could be excused based on scientific studies on adult volunteers. The author claimed to believe that evidence matters, but he dismissed the fundamental evidence that was inconvenient to what he wanted to do. That is pushing aside rational consideration of the evidence.