Many years ago I learned an interesting principle of communication theory. The principle describes a dynamic exchange between view of other and view of beliefs. It states that if you agree with a belief that another person considers to be good (“G”), then that person will think more highly of you but then think less of “G”. Likewise, if a person respects you but you support a belief that they think is bad (“B) then they will both lose some respect for you and their opinion of “B” will improve. In other words, there is a trade-off. If the words are confusing, perhaps my diagram above will help (click to enlarge). Most people understand how our opinion of others change, but many don’t understand how our own beliefs change.
If you want to piss off some of your readers, write about politics or sex. Well, I’ve never worried too much about rejection on this blog, so here I go with another controversial subject: circumcision.
Do me a favor, BEFORE reading this post take the poll to the right. Then, after reading this post, take the other two polls at the end — no peaking, wait until you read the post.
This is the first post of a series. Your comments and these polls’ results will assist in the coming content. Thank you for participating.
I have worked in medicine for a few decades. For the last three years I have worked in Urology where I have seen more foreskin problems then I knew existed — some are even life threatening. Circumcision avoids these problems.
I believe circumcision evolved as a life-saving technique, not as a mere rite-of-passage ritual. Instead, it was probably used preventatively and then evolved into a ritual. But I am only making a wild guess. I have not studied the issue of circumcision deeply and am instead, just sharing my biased opinions, experiences and choices.
Letting a child decide about circumcision when they get older seems a good option. But without working as a Urologist, and hearing of all the problems, I can’t imagine a person ever wanting to electively remove their foreskin. Why? Because men don’t share their penis-problem stories with other men. Even if a person would desire a circumcision as an adult, they would be very hesitant because of the anticipated pain, necessary healing time and the worry of explaining the change to others. So even leaving the choice to adults has its drawbacks.
Mind you, I see a disproportionate number of foreskin problems because (1) I work in urology and (2) because I work with a large number of elderly ex-coal miners whose families were poor and their births took place at home where circumcisions were not performed.
Here are some of the conditions we have treated with circumcision in adult men:
Since I do not work with pediatric patients, I have not seen horribly botched-up circumcisions which would probably alter my opinion. But I knew of botching dangers when my son was born and that is why I assisted in my own son’s circumcision 12 years ago. Prior to that, when our ultrasound confirmed our first child to be a male, my wife asked me, “What do you feel about circumcision?” (as she was leaning away from it) and I said, “My son will be circumcised.” To which she replied, “It doesn’t sound like you’ll be compromising on that opinion.” And I said, “No.” And she let me have my way on that issue.
I’ve discussed my son’s circumcision with him several times since. Part of our discussion surrounds stories from my clinic of horrible foreskin problems. I hope in this way, when he is an adult and thinks how horrible I was to rob him of a foreskin at least he may think, “I resent my Dad’s barbaric decision, but in his own stupid ways he thought he was doing good.”
Questions for Readers:
There are many good arguments for not doing circumcisions, but there are bad ones too. Being “unnatural” is one of the bad arguments — medicine has taught me that nature does not care for our happiness or comfort.
Given the above potential problems with foreskins, what do you think are the best anti-circumcision arguments aside from botched circumcisions?
How will / did you decide about circumcision for your male child?
After reading this post has your opinion changed toward:
Submarines and large ships are built to exploit compartmentalization. If one section springs a leak, the crew quickly isolates that section from the other compartments in order to protect the whole vessel from flooding and sinking.
Humans have a similar compartmentalized mental structure. Thus, an otherwise apparently sane person can have one compartmentalized section (isolated from the sane sections) that believes or practices startling bizarre things. We see this in religion, politics and all other activities of the human mind. And thus fortunately, with these protective mechanisms, our your U-Boats (get it?) do not sink even though a part of us is flooded with bizarreness.
To me, this is not surprising because of my understanding of how the mind is actually composed of many-selfs (see here). Compartmentalization is a fantastic protective mechanism. In US politics, for instance, Federalism can serve a similar function. Federalism allows states or providences to experiment on their own and if they fail, the whole nation does not fail and can recover easily while it learns. But I resist the temptation to wax political any further.
We all compartmentalize — all of us. It is one of the ways our minds work. I see compartmentalizing all around me. In medicine, I get to know people very intimately. I am amazed daily how deeply neurotic and dysfunctional some of our compartments can be and yet most of us can still hold jobs, drive cars and have relationships.
Research up to now inquired as to which unique genes humans have when compared to other primates. In other words, “What genes make us better than other apes?” (perspective “A” in the illustration above). But maybe we should look at our differences from another perspective “B”: “Are there genes that humans lack but that other apes possess?” Nature, March 10 Issue, has an article by McLean et. al. that shows indeed that humans lack 510 chunks of DNA when compared to chimpanzees and macaques. Most of this missing genetic data is also missing from Neandertals, suggesting that the pieces were lost sometime between 500,000 and 6 million years ago. (See: Science News April 9th).
Raccoon Penis Bone
Most of the missing genetic pieces are not genes — in fact only one gene is involve. Instead, the DNA defects may act as regulators of genes. In fact, one piece is an enhancer for the gene which controls the production of facial sensory whiskers and small spines on the penises of both chimps and mice. So researchers are speculating that this is why humans have spineless penises. What? Some animals have bones in their penis? Is this where the word “boner” comes from?
My family has raised ducks and it is well known that it is not good for ducks to copulate on land where the mechanics actually puts them at risk for breaking the bone in their penis.
As you know, Genesis 2:21-23 speaks of God removing a rib from Adam to create Eve — and thus the rest of human kind. But basic anatomy tells us there is no difference in ribs between males and females. Was Genesis wrong? Maybe the word “rib” is not translated correctly. Most male mammals have a bone for stiffening the penis (a baculum) — which is speculated to quicken ejaculations. But the Hebrew word in Genesis referring to “rib” has other meanings like “supporting columns in trees” or “planks in doors”. So it has been speculated that his passage may refer to loosing the bone in their penis — the change from earlier primates to humans. By adding this recent research to this speculation, when humans lost these 510 pieces of DNA, maybe the consequence was the loss of the bone in their penis and thus requiring longer time for ejaculation, more bonding and furthering of human cultural evolution. So perhaps is Genesis is closer to a science text than we even imagined. God knocked the bone out of our boners.
Of course I don’t believe this, but I wanted to see if I could beat some Christians to the punch in speculating on this new research.
This article also inspired more daydreaming: This way of looking at differences as loss vs. gain reminded me of how I have viewed myself over the years. Due to the weird supernatural experiences I have had when growing up, I though I must have unique special additional skills in comparison to other people. But as I have matured, I have come to wonder if these experiences are better explained as due to defective losses in my DNA — a broken hallucinating mind. 🙂
Below are just some of my interesting pics and diagrams -- click to see!
“...there are no illuminating single phrases that capture the complexity of human life”
--Noam Chomsky linguist, political activist (source)
ידעתי כי אין טוב בם כי אם לשמוח ולעשות טוב בחייו׃
"I have come to realise that nothing is better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live."
--'The Preacher' (Hebrew Tanakh Eccl. 3:12)
"It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson (writer, 1803-1882)
"Errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous"
-- David Hume (philosopher, 1711-1776)
"Mathematics is the only subject where, once you have proved something, it is true for ever"
--Marcus du Sautoy (Mathematician)
"In a demon-haunted world, science is a candle in the dark."
“Reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them.”
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
--Upton Sinclair (author, 1935)
"Gedanken sind die Schatten unserer Empfindungen -- immer dunkler, leerer, einfacherer als diese “
("Thoughts are the shadows of our emotions/sensations —always darker, emptier, simpler than the latter.”)
--Friedrich Nietzsche, Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft
"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
--Stephen Hawking (physicist) (source)
"The kind of people we need in Washington won't go to Washington."
--Thomas Sowell (economist)
"Think twice before you think."
--ee cummings (poet)
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable."
--John F. Kennedy (US president)
"Η έναρξη της Σοφίας είναι ο καθορισμός των εκφράσεων "
(“The beginning of wisdom, is the definition of terms”)
"Notitia linguarum est prima porta sapientiae."
("Knowledge of languages is the doorway to wisdom.")
--Roger Bacon (scientist)
"By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth."
--George Carlin (comedian)
"Ich fürchte, wir werden Gott nicht los, weil wir noch an die Grammatik glauben…"
("I am afraid we are not yet rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.")
--Friedrich Nietzsche (philosopher) "Twilight of the Idols"
"Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!"
("That is not only not right, it is not even wrong.") Wolfgang Pauli (physicist)
"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” Humpty Dumpty (from Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass" 1872)