The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Delicate Issue Regarding Delicate Tissue

OK, so as you know I now no I'm the father of a boy and--per the ultrasound--he's got boy parts. So, now I have to make a decision: cut or no-cut.

Here's my opening gambit.
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Sarah got a pamphlet on circumcision today at here appt. Based on it and a bit of a web search it seems like the mainline medical community has adopted a “stop the circumcisions now” policy. This bugs me since the ideology seems to have moiled the arguments (I ought to receive some kind of prize for that pun). For I lean about 65% against, but I don’t want to be associated with the kind of nonsense in this pamphlet.

My reasoning is basically this:

1. Medical procedures shouldn’t be done unless there is some compelling reason to do so.
2. There’s no compelling reason to do circumcision (in normal cases).
3. So the circumcision shouldn’t be done.

I don’t remember if we talked about this or not so I don’t know if the boys are au naturale or what. My brief success with Isaiah peeing (now surely to be judged a coincidence) did not give me any evidence one way or the other, since, at least from my small sample of evidence, little kids have yet to inherit their endowment and it’s all mush and skin anyway.

So on behalf of 2:

The reasons to do so would surely be either religious, medical, or cultural, but:
*The Council of Jerusalem specifically says we goyim don’t need to be circumcised.
*Official “Big Medicine” says it’s not medically necessary.

So that leaves cultural reasons. Interestingly circumcision is quite varied by region, but on overall decline to barely over half in the US highest in the Midwest and very low in the West—less than 1 in 3. Since I don’t know where we’ll end up, it doesn’t seem that the cultural reasons can be much of a factor. STATS

Here's what a good friend of mine had to say:
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We decided for it. Our reasons were,1. Social disutility associated with uncircumcision.2. Health issues associated with uncircumcision.a. An uncircumcised person needs to pull back the foreskin and make sure it’s clean. Not doing this can lead to bad infections. Problems of this sort occur primarily in the early years up to the teen years and in old age when the man can no longer clean himself. b. A related issue here is the parent having to remind the child to “pull back the foreskin”. This can create odd situations, as you can imagine.c. There’s a slightly greater risk of cancer for an uncircumcised person.3. Sexual disutility, at least for the wife. Problems relating to premature ejaculation are very high among uncircumcised males. Also it can be “unsightly” for the wife.All in all we judged that the benefits didn’t outweigh the costs.------------
Here's my reply:

Interesting. Anti-Circs argue that sex is better for the man if the glans is kept soft by the foreskin, but let’s face it, it’s *always* better for the man! I think when guys get too old to clean themselves people have to clean there anyway and if someone’s already willing to do that then… I suppose the kid case is a bit more delicate but no more so than what Sarah has to do with the girls—lots of folds of skin you know.The social disutility is very hard to weigh. There wouldn’t be much worse than being teased by peers about that, but circumcision rates vary by region.I was really surprised to see that it was so low in the South. Studies which break regions up to include the Midwest by itself show that it’s the highest by far. It’s clearly declining and I can’t think of any good reason why this wouldn’t continue.Since there seems to be a prima facie reason to keep it we probably wont do it unless there’s a compelling reason not to and all the arguments pro and con seem to be a draw to me. What’s funny is how mad some people get about it. The #1 reason I’d go ahead and do it now is the whacko mentality of most of the anti-circ crowd.---------

This is an interesting case-study in decision making. There'll be more about this.

5 Comments:

At Friday, July 14, 2006 8:54:00 PM, Blogger David B said...

Let's see:

If you remove his outer ears he might have cleaner ears.

If you remove his toes he won't ever have to suffer the agony of ingrown toenails.

Do we need to keep following this logic?

You are a graduate student in philosophy. To me this seems like a no brainer.

If adults want to be circumcised, or get a nose job, or shave their heads and implant stainless steel spikes in their scalps, no problem. Let him decide for himself when he can. He won't.

 
At Tuesday, July 18, 2006 12:24:00 AM, Anonymous DBD said...

Having 2 boys now, I did some research on the issue. Among the many issues you name to weigh, for me it came down to the medical opinion and 'who to trust.' I found more convincing explanations on the pro-circumcision literature for why it is medically beneficial. But I don't fault anyone for coming out the other way.

 
At Thursday, July 20, 2006 4:58:00 PM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

Well, it certainly has been interesting to see the diversity of responses I've read. Here's the most recent:
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We circ’d because of probable health benefits and because I have been knifed myself.
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I'm still trying to sort out the medical stuff, but I'm not moved by the "looking like daddy" argument. Kids are pretty good about asking what's up with physical differences. In my zit-fazed teen days I taught 2nd grade Sunday School and I'd have kids ask: "Why are you all polka-dotted?"

If JP asks why "dady's looks different" I'll be pretty comfortable explaining that they used to take off the outer skin because people once thought it would help us stay healthy. No big deal.

 
At Friday, July 21, 2006 4:23:00 PM, Blogger jon said...

Hey Trent,
Two quick thoughts. I'm not sure that there is no religious reason. There may be no religious requirement, but there may be a reason in that historically it was a symbol that God chose for those that were associated with him.
Also, I've always wondered why God chose such a sign. Was it merely arbitrary or was there some other purpose? Was it just for cleanliness or something else? The fact that God chose such a sign might be evidence of evidence that pro-circ is the way to go.

'pro-circ' and 'anti-circ' sure make me laugh.

 
At Friday, July 21, 2006 8:18:00 PM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

Jon, you've asked some good questions. I can see getting circ'd in order to show solidarity with our Jewish roots, but that's no motive with me. I know quite a few Christian friends who for whatever reason feel good about keeping kosher and such things. I can't see the sense in it myself, but I'm open to argument. At one point I think this might have motivated me.

As to arbitrary or not that's hard to tell, right? I mean, it seems clear that *some* of the OT laws were "just" for clenliness, but that assumes that being circ'd is favored by clenliness considerations and I don't think there's a very strong case for that.

There's scarcely any other physical sign that could require more committment, so it does make sense that if God wanted to put up a hurdle to weed out the less-than-fully committed, He picked a pretty good one.

 

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