Nope, wrong

PZ has a post about circumcision where he goes through the arguments in favor of the procedure based upon a video. (I haven’t watched the video nor will I because from what I gather it’s just a hack piece which does not focus on circumcision as performed by medical professionals in a medical setting.) Two of the arguments he quotes are apparently from a single guy and should just be boiled down to one: ’cause religion says to do it. Another one appeals to tradition, which is also a bogus argument, but then PZ has this last one:

The health benefits. Total bullshit. As one of the speakers in the movie explains, there have been progressive excuses: from it prevents masturbation to it prevents cancer to it prevents AIDS. The benefits all vanish with further studies and are all promoted by pro-circumcision organizations. It doesn’t even make sense: let’s not pretend people have been hacking at penises for millennia because there was a clinical study. Hey, let’s chop off our pinkie toes and then go looking for medical correlations!

PZ is wrong. The evidence has not suddenly vanished that circumcision prevents the transmission of HIV in high risk groups. Furthermore, it is blatantly invalid to dismiss this evidence because it may be used by pro-circumcision organizations, whatever those are.

If PZ wants to argue that circumcision holds little to no health benefits in places like the United States and other low risk nations for certain diseases, he can do that and be perfectly accurate. But if he wants to argue that circumcision has zero benefits in all circumstances, then he is in denial of the preliminary evidence.

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14 Responses

  1. That’s one minor detail that I’ll grant you, although males who want to protect themselves from STDs have better options available.

  2. I agree, they certainly do.

    I’m actually rather indifferent on the issue when it is performed in a medical setting by medical professionals. I just don’t like that PZ thought it would be okay to make an obviously false statement; his investment in the issue has clouded his vision a bit, even if he can argue adequately on other points.

  3. Hey, Michael.

    why do you think they didn’t include this study:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19616720

    which found absolutely no significant effect, not even a trend towards any effect of circumcision on male to female transmission rates.

    makes me wonder if you actually understand what might be wrong with the review paper you cited.

    if you care about this issue, and given it’s likely that you’re just wanking at PZ again, you probably don’t, but if you did, might I suggest you look at the individual studies involved instead of a review paper?

    might explain why there is such huge variability, even in the studies they DID decide to include in the review paper.

  4. Moreover, you’ll see various numbers tossed around on the CDC site too (which actually make no sense, since they are finding some “average” based on radically different studies), but even the CDC concludes there is still not enough conclusive evidence on this issue.

    go ahead. check their conclusion if you don’t believe me.

  5. and, seriously dude… the PZ hangup you have is starting to look stalky-level creepy.

    move on already.

  6. If by “they”, you mean whoever made that video, as I said, I did not watch that. I am not interested in looking at circumcision from a largely religious perspective – I already agree none of the religious arguments hold water.

    But you may want to compare the study I cited with the one you cited a little more carefully. And then you may want to re-think your understanding of science. First, my study shows a reduction in HIV infection in men who are circumcised. Your study, on the other hand, looks at HIV infection in women who have sex with circumcised men. I would say it is a mystery why you think your study has somehow counteracted mine, but it’s obvious that you just didn’t read very carefully. Second, science does not rest upon individual studies. Whereas you and PZ appear to want to dismiss evidence as entirely non-existent and/or invalid because it conflicts with your ideology, it does exist. That does not mean that it is conclusive that circumcision is a viable method for HIV reduction in high risk nations. But it does mean that, contra PZ, the benefits have not “all vanish[ed] with further studies”. (And if they have, you’re going to want to find a study that is on point instead of the one you have offered.)

    Finally, I don’t understand why you are so eager to dismiss review articles, as if they are somehow useless. While I have seen plenty of the original articles, the study I cited establishes that there is evidence in favor of the effectiveness of circumcision in HIV reduction in high risk nations. Do you think a review article is intended to gather together only conclusive evidence? Do you think the article I cited somehow advocates certainty that circumcision is a viable method for HIV reduction? I don’t get what your thinking is on this. Just deal with the facts: the evidence PZ claimed does not exist, in fact, does. That doesn’t mean your ideology has suddenly been destroyed. Maybe future studies will show that circumcision has nothing to do with HIV reduction, or maybe condom use will spread wide enough or a vaccine will be invented making this all moot. I don’t know. The evidence is not conclusive – but it is there.

  7. I started that response before you wrote your last two comments, so I will reply to those here.

    I don’t think you understand the point I made here – especially since you’re at least partially agreeing with me whilst simultaneously disagreeing. PZ said the evidence does not exist. It obviously does. I did not say it is conclusive, nor did I say it is inconclusive (though it is). I said it exists. That is a true statement. And that you’re aware of the fact that there is variable evidence out there tells me you recognize this: The evidence exists and it has not vanished as PZ has claimed.

    As for this “hangup” you think I have with PZ, I have a few posts pertaining to criticisms of him directly. I have many more posts which reflect him in a positive light. I just think he has a few issues where he doesn’t want to do much thinking.

  8. If by “they

    no, dumbass, obviously I was responding to the review article you posted, and by “they” was referring to the authors of that paper.

    First, my study shows a reduction in HIV infection in men who are circumcised. Your study, on the other hand, looks at HIV infection in women who have sex with circumcised men. I would say it is a mystery why you think your study has somehow counteracted mine,

    because, idiot, the proposed mechanism is mucosal transfer, which would apply equally to whether you are giving or receiving.

    btw, the fact that there IS such widely varying results on this doesn’t bode well for the proposed mechanism, either, which itself hasn’t actually been causally tested.

    I don’t understand why you are so eager to dismiss review articles

    I explained why these particular review articles are sketchy in my post on Pharyngula, you can read it there.

    While I have seen plenty of the original articles

    yeah, sure.

    Second, science does not rest upon individual studies

    actually, yes it does. One study at a time. and if you think that review paper cited studies that were repeating the exact same methodology every time, you really didn’t actually read it.

    Do you think a review article is intended to gather together only conclusive evidence?

    uh, YOU were the one who cited it as conclusive, in dismissing PZ’s take on the issue.

    I’m saying you should look closer.

    Do you think the article I cited somehow advocates certainty that circumcision is a viable method for HIV reduction?

    LOL

    so of course, you cite in in support of the argument that it does.

    the evidence PZ claimed does not exist

    you could read it that way, strangely I read it as him saying that the excuses people make for supporting circumcision for their kids are all post hoc. And he’s right.

    Hey, let’s chop off our pinkie toes and then go looking for medical correlations!

    There *may* be some correlation between prepuce and infection rates (and I’ll give you that it might have even been worthwhile to make this clear in PZ’s original post, given the nature of the studies involved and the conclusions that are being erroneously represented in some of the review papers). Even the CDC isn’t sure about it, which is why I quoted their conclusion. The correlative data is all over the board, and there still is no paper supporting any of the causal mechanisms proposed, plausible or not.

    However, I’m still convinced that like the rest of your many posts attacking PZ, your point is not one of correcting misinformation because the issues are important to you. No, all it is is looking for something to poke a stick at.

    If your goal is to be a scientist, your mentality needs a serious rejigger.

    As for this “hangup” you think I have with PZ, I have a few posts pertaining to criticisms of him directly

    looking at your cloud tags, “pz meyers” is getting quite large. You might want to click on it yourself and see if it seems you’re obsessing or not.

  9. say, since you’re so fond of correcting others misinformation, maybe you should fix your own original post?

    for example, this is a lie:

    circumcision prevents the transmission of HIV in high risk groups

    not one study ever said that.

    not the one you cited, not the ones the CDC cited, NONE OF THEM.

    you know, plank eye, etc.

    carry on.

  10. no, dumbass, obviously I was responding to the review article you posted, and by “they” was referring to the authors of that paper.

    You don’t get to communicate poorly and then blame a penchant for undefined pronouns on others. Besides that, the review article looked at HIV acquisition by men. So even if I somehow magically knew what your random grammar was suppose to mean, it still didn’t make sense. Why would I wonder why a review article about HIV acquisition in men did not include a review of HIV acquisition in women? Perhaps your aversion to review articles is premised in this fundamental misunderstanding of what they are in the first place.

    because, idiot, the proposed mechanism is mucosal transfer, which would apply equally to whether you are giving or receiving.

    btw, the fact that there IS such widely varying results on this doesn’t bode well for the proposed mechanism, either, which itself hasn’t actually been causally tested.

    While I’m glad you’re suddenly willing to acknowledge evidence for something which is not conclusive (mucosal transfer in this case), I find it disappointing that you’re trying to use that evidence as proof that other people are idiots. “My study on a different but related topic directly addresses your article because, well, maybe it does. Idiot.”

    I explained why these particular review articles are sketchy in my post on Pharyngula, you can read it there.

    Pharyngula comments are only worth reading on purely scientific issues. Regardless, whether the review article comes to great conclusions or not, it is undeniable that there exists as-yet-unrefuted evidence for circumcision acting as a method for HIV prevention in certain nations.

    yeah, sure.

    You’re right, I’m probably lying. That must be why I was immediately familiar with a particular claim on the subject.

    actually, yes it does. One study at a time. and if you think that review paper cited studies that were repeating the exact same methodology every time, you really didn’t actually read it.

    Well, you’re just a silly person, aren’t you? Science rests on bodies of evidence. That you aren’t familiar with this is likely a problem you will want to address.

    uh, YOU were the one who cited it as conclusive, in dismissing PZ’s take on the issue.

    Really? Can you quote where I said that? Perhaps “preliminary evidence” to you means “conclusive evidence”? I’m not familiar with your weird understanding of science, so you’ll need to clarify. And please, do quote. (You can save face, incidentally, by being an adult and admitting that you just assumed a pro-circumcision intent behind my post characteristic of the sort of people who make the arguments PZ addressed.)

    so of course, you cite in in support of the argument that it does.

    I presume you’re attempting to say that I cited the review article in support of the argument that it advocates certainty that circumcision reduces HIV transmission. Again, I would rather enjoy some quotes which indicate I believe as much. Furthermore, you’re going to want to start picking up on key words in sentences here. For instance, “preliminary evidence” and “certainty” go a long way. The former tells you I am not saying anything is conclusive whereas the latter was used to point out that you’re confused if you think the article (or I) said circumcision is a sure-fire way to combat HIV transmission.

    you could read it that way, strangely I read it as him saying that the excuses people make for supporting circumcision for their kids are all post hoc. And he’s right.

    That was part of his point, and it’s fair enough, but if you’re about to claim that PZ didn’t say the evidence does not exist (that it “all vanish[es] with further studies”), then I’m a little worried about how much time I’ve wasted on someone who isn’t interested in even the most mild of careful reading.

    However, I’m still convinced that like the rest of your many posts attacking PZ, your point is not one of correcting misinformation because the issues are important to you. No, all it is is looking for something to poke a stick at.

    I’ve noticed there are some issues on which PZ is willing to take off his lab coat and jump in with the ideological fray. I don’t like that from anyone, even someone I otherwise enjoy quite a bit. And on male circumcision, no, I don’t share the crusading passion of either side, but I do think it’s an interesting issue – one with which I will have to deal if the day comes that I have a son. So it is a topic worth following to a fair degree, in my opinion. But even if none of that is true, so what?

    looking at your cloud tags, “pz meyers” is getting quite large. You might want to click on it yourself and see if it seems you’re obsessing or not.

    First, “meyers”? Even with big disagreements, we should all be better than the common creationist. Second, that tag is “getting quite large”? How often have you been to my website? Do you track the relative size of PZ’s name in the cloud? Third, take a look at my posts which mention him. The overwhelming majority either favorably directly quote his material/reuse images he posts or expand in agreement on a topic taken from Pharyngula. In other words, I often cite him as a source of material with which I agree.

    say, since you’re so fond of correcting others misinformation, maybe you should fix your own original post?

    for example, this is a lie:

    circumcision prevents the transmission of HIV in high risk groups

    not one study ever said that.

    not the one you cited, not the ones the CDC cited, NONE OF THEM.

    From the article I posted: Results from three large randomised controlled trials conducted in Africa have shown strong evidence that male circumcision prevents men in the general population from acquiring HIV from heterosexual sex.

    In other words, male circumcision prevents HIV from being transmitted from women to men, according to the evidence. The evidence which exists. Despite rumors to the contrary.

  11. What’s this guys deal? Did you pick up a pro-PZ biology troll to balance out your anti-evolution trolls?

  12. Now that PZ allows ping backs, people see when I post about him. As it happens, the most recent topics have been feminism and circumcision, and you know how utterly pro-rape and pro-mutilation I am. Hell, I may even hate puppies and orphans.

  13. The moment that guy mentioned a study that shows circumcision doesn’t impact STD rates transferred from me to women, I saw the same flaw screaming at me. It’s like saying seat belts don’t help passangers in other vehicles in a crash – that was never the point.

    This issue reminds me of a naive parent who called NPR recently in opposition to the HPV vaccine that Gov. Perry supported. She said she didn’t get her daughter the vaccine, because her daughter will never have unprotected sex.

    SOMEONE’s kid will for sure, and while I agree safe sex will make both of those issues redundant, people don’t want to admit how widespread safe sex is in well-educated people.

    I hope this exchange has taught you what my experience arguing with liberals has been – they triumphantly bring up some irrelevant detail and march it around as a scientific fact that destroys your argument, when in face it has nothing to do with anything – assuming it has any validity. There was also the immediate You Must Be An Idiot For Disagreeing With Me angle. Being a right wing college student, I learned quickly how to keep my cool and a respectful tone when presented with smug ignorance.

  14. [...] added the emphasis to the above excerpt because I am reminded of the utter irresponsibility displayed by PZ Myers on this issue in the past. While I still very much like what the guy has to say on many subjects, he was dead wrong to [...]

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