Final Jesse Bering update

A blogger and psychologist improperly linked back to my blog a little while ago. The way he used my link indicated he disagreed with me when, in fact, he did not. I asked him to fix this several times. He ignored me. Eventually I changed the post to which he linked so that it would reflect the facts. (In addition to the problem I just described, my post didn’t even support the contention he was making anyway, so I made sure to note as much.) Now a moderator of some sort by the name of Ed has written this:

Ed: Link now goes to Myers’ blog.

(PZ Myers’ was the subject of Bering’s link, so he should have linked to Pharyngula in the first place.)

Jesse Bering apparently doesn’t care to correct his mistakes, but I guess the people working for Discover Magazine do. Good on them.

Jesse Bering update

As I said I would, I am posting an update to my post about Jesse Bering, psychologist. Bering wrote about circumcision a few weeks ago and linked back to me:

One can either listen to outspoken atheist bloggers who can’t seem to understand that this is no longer a religious or cultural issue, the overwrought intactivists attempting to intimidate new parents through strong rhetoric and graphic images of botched circumcisions, the endless stream of nosy polemical parents who are happy to share their judgmental attitudes, or one can take the advice of those who, you know, actually know what the hell they’re talking about.

There was some confusion over this for at least two reasons. First, Bering did not do his research to find out that “outspoken atheist blogger” is exactly what I am. His reference was intended for the subject of my post, PZ Myers, but that was far from clear given his writing style and lack of fact gathering. It would be as if he wrote about another psychologist and I linked to his post saying, “Well, you can listen to this dumb psychologist or you can…” No one would have any idea which psychologist I meant. He did the equivalent of introducing a pronoun without first telling us what the noun was.

Second, my post did not even come remotely close to supporting Bering’s contention about PZ. We both think PZ is wrong to deny the science behind the efficacy of circumcision, but Bering also believes that PZ can’t get beyond the issue being one of religion and culture. At no point did my post say anything about PZ’s views on those two things. I solely talked about his denial of the science. If Bering wishes to make his independent conclusion, he needs to find another source. (Linking straight to something PZ has written might be one crazy place to start.)

At any rate, on multiple occasions I have asked Bering to either change the wording of his link to reflect who he was actually referencing or to simply not link to me. I would prefer the second option since my post doesn’t even support his contention – he really is not a careful reader. Unfortunately, he appears to be a rather stubborn man, so I have taken the only action I can and added this to the beginning of the post to which he links:

Update: This post has received a pingback from Jesse Bering. It does not support the contention he makes, nor does he make it clear which “outspoken atheist blogger” he means (me or PZ). I have asked him to correct his obvious error, but he refuses.

You know, I would have given some thought to reading what Bering has to say on circumcision in the books he has written, but he has made it abundantly clear that honest, clear writing isn’t his concern.

Circumcision again: Jesse Bering is not a careful reader

I have written about circumcision at length in three different posts and their subsequent comment sections. The latter two were discussing PZ Myer’s irresponsible statement that the ‘evidence vanishes with further studies’ concerning the effectiveness of circumcision as a means of preventing HIV and other disease transmission. To quote from my most recent post:

So now the only question that remains is, When is PZ Myers going to recant his blatantly and irresponsibly false statement where he said that health benefits of circumcision vanish with further studies?

In other words, it is my position that circumcision is an effective means of HIV prevention during heterosexual intercourse; my posts and subsequent comments attest to this position.

This leads to a weird accusation from Jesse Bering, PhD:

One can either listen to outspoken atheist bloggers who can’t seem to understand that this is no longer a religious or cultural issue, the overwrought intactivists attempting to intimidate new parents through strong rhetoric and graphic images of botched circumcisions, the endless stream of nosy polemical parents who are happy to share their judgmental attitudes, or one can take the advice of those who, you know, actually know what the hell they’re talking about.

First, “either” implies one of two things, not one of four things. Second, the fact that I am an atheist is 100% irrelevant to the matter. Third, I don’t think Bering even bothered to read my post. If he did, he would know that I said absolutely nothing about the religious or cultural aspects of circumcision. The closest I came is in the comment section when I voiced that I am against non-medical personnel (such as Rabbis) performing the minor surgery. (If the Rabbis happen to also be medically qualified to perform the procedure, then I don’t have a problem with them doing so.) Beyond that, I discussed the medical benefits of circumcision.

Of course, since Bering hardly read the post he cited, I don’t expect that he read my first post (linked above) about circumcision. If he did, he could at least have a plausible basis for his accusation that I see this as a religious and cultural matter. However, that basis would quickly disappear when he realized (or when I had to point out to him) that I think religious arguments for circumcision “suck” and that my response to arguments from tradition is “So what?” This has always been a matter of science for me. Only someone who doesn’t bother to read carefully would claim otherwise.

What makes this whole thing so bizarre, though, is that Bering and I don’t even disagree. Anywhere. Look at this argument:

All else being equal…any dubious benefits derived from religious, social, hygienic, or aesthetic reasons are clearly outweighed by the costs of male circumcision.

In other words, until the recent body of evidence began to emerge, the previous reasons for circumcision were not good enough. As Bering said and as I agree, the arguments from previous generations “were almost always unconvincing”. Bering, of course, goes on to demonstrates that there now is ample evidence in favor of circumcision. (And, of course, I agree.) He then says,

Many of our parents, it seems, may have actually made the right decision for the wrong reasons.

You mean to tell me that reasons of tradition and religion weren’t the right reasons? That we need solid science behind these sort of decisions? That the primary focus of any argument in favor of or against circumcision should be based upon the mounds of available data? Guess what? I agree.

It would be one thing if I had some typo that made a major difference in one of my arguments or if I communicated my position poorly. The fact, though, is that I did neither of those things. I have been crystal clear: The decision to circumcise a child or not should be based upon scientific evidence; to base such a decision on religion or culture may result in the right decision, but it would be entirely irrelevant to the question at hand – that right result would be “for the wrong reasons”.

I’ll make a new post when a retraction occurs.

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