I posted my recent post on circumcision to my Facebook wall. It very quickly got a response, one being a number of links. I doubt the person was intentionally doing a Gish Gallop, but that was the effective result. Unfortunately, I felt compelled to respond in an effort to show just how wrong all linked studies and papers were. As I’ve said before, the only legitimate response the anti-circumcision crowd has to the practice of circumcision is one of ethics. Denying the lowered HIV transmission rate or rejecting the effectiveness of using circumcision as yet another tool in the fight against HIV just won’t fly.
Here is the link to all the studies. I responded to 10 out of 21 before I felt I had made my point. Each number matches the order in which the studies appear in the link:
1. This first study doesn’t address actual sexual sensitivity. It works off the hypothesis that there are nerve endings in foreskin. It shows nothing.
2. The second study’s “methods” was to solicit input from online sources using self-selected participants. If there’s anything I’ve learned about the anti-circumcision crowd, it’s that they will do anything to make circumcision look bad.
3. The circumcised men in this study had far more sexual partners than the uncircumcised men. I question how similar the sample groups actually were since there’s no reason one should be more sexually active than another simply due to circumcision.
4. This study also found a link between premature ejaculation and being from India. The results are more than dubious.
5. This isn’t a scientific critique, but rather one of economics. It’s wrong, first of all. Circumcision is very cost effective and lasts for life. Second, the article talks about the “haste” in the studies connecting HIV transmission and circumcision. I can only conclude that the authors aren’t aware that these studies go back at least 25 years.
6. Wow, where do I start with this one? The first point is simply false. Studies show exactly the opposite. The second point is misleading. They may have looked at three specific studies and had issues over how well they reflect real world conditions, but there are dozens upon dozens of studies on this matter, looking at it from the perspective of different ethnic and religious groups, different nations, different regions, etc. The evidence is robust here. The third point simply misunderstands what science is. Science works on a body of evidence, not individual studies. I can find maybe 5-10 studies questioning global warming. That doesn’t mean they’re right or worth mentioning compared to the thousands of others. The fourth point is hugely misleading. The problem of HIV transmission in the U.S. is largely focused on the homosexual community. Circumcision doesn’t offer much protection, if any, for anal intercourse. The point they are drawing is one of the most frustratingly invalid ones I hear. The fifth point 1) makes up a stat and 2) ignores that condoms aren’t always available in remote regions where HIV is the biggest problem. The sixth point is the only argument the anti-circumcision crowd has. The science is in, so they have to stick with ethics.
7. This claims a national survey showed that circumcision had no preventative effect. The evidence? First of all, it links to the wrong paper. The paper given from your site directs me to a paper which itself cites the actual paper. Second, the survey simply found similar rates of HIV infection amongst circumcised and uncircumcised men in South Africa. It said nothing of total numbers, of sexual partners, of religious and ethnic background, or any other factors.
8. This study compares the universal use of condoms to the universal use of circumcision then concludes that condoms are more effective. This isn’t news, nor is it a reflection of reality. Yes, condoms are more effective, but no, their use is not universal, nor will it ever be. We can’t even get American teenagers to use them universally. Do we expect to convince dozens of unique cultures to adopt them 100%? Of course not. This is a multi-pronged approach.
9. This study discusses issues I’ve addressed, including looking at real world conditions (again, it limits itself to 3 particular studies) and cost.
10. This study finds conflicting results as to the pleasure and enjoyment of sex/masturbation for circumcised men. Many men had less, some had more. Curiously, they seem happy to attribute the lessened pleasure to circumcision but fail to say anything about the increased pleasure. The better guess? There are cultural factors and stigmas at work here.
Filed under: Science | Tagged: Circumcision | 7 Comments »