Anti-Science and the Lack of Need for Circumcision

To put the alleged anti-science position of those who oppose non-therapeutic child circumcision into perspective, consider what the most determined proponent of routine circumcision, Brian Morris, has to say on the foreskin’s risks (From his brochure¹ “Circumcision: A guide for parents”):

… 1 in 3 uncircumcised boys will, as a result of having a foreskin, develop at least one condition requiring medical attention. …

Another way of saying that is that 2 in 3 boys will not, as a result of having their foreskin, develop at least one condition requiring medical attention. A male will more likely than not maintain his genital health throughout his life and retain the benefits of having a foreskin. That is also science. That’s important to remember in the midst of the fear promoted to encourage circumcision.

Morris also provides an inference in that statement detrimental to his argument for non-therapeutic circumcision. He is stating that 1 in 3 intact boys will require medical attention for a foreskin-related malady. He is not stating that 1 in 3 intact boys will require circumcision. As I pointed out in my last post, the ability to treat maladies is also science. If that medical attention is for a UTI, the male can take antibiotics. If that medical attention is for (genuine²) phimosis, he can use topical steroids and skin stretching techniques. And so on. Morris provides no information in this claim about the actual risk of medically-necessary circumcision within an intact male’s lifetime. All we know is that it’s something less than 1 in 3 intact males. Yet he proceeds in all of his work with the primary assumption that all infant males should be circumcised because less than 1 in 3 will require medically-necessary circumcision.

The proper focus should be on how to keep males healthy, not how to wound their genitals upon birth. Science is the key embedded within our position against non-therapeutic child circumcision. We accept science. We know it works for all people and wish to apply it throughout a male’s life. His healthy foreskin and bodily autonomy do not need to be sacrificed to fear.

¹ I don’t provide hyperlinks to propaganda. The brochure is at:

² To understand the fallacy of Morris’ position, consider this warning from the Medical Journal of Australia:

A high rate of unnecessary circumcision surgery for phimosis – a pathological condition where the foreskin cannot be retracted – has been detected in boys aged under five, despite the rarity of the condition in children of this age, and a marked overall fall in the rate of circumcision in Australia.

The team adds that if the 1999 rate remains stable, about 4 per cent of all boys will be circumcised for phimosis by the time they reach 15 – a rate seven times higher than the estimated occurrence of pathological phimosis.

Remember that Morris (and Jake Waskett, Aaron Tobian, Ronald Gray, Robert Bailey, Daniel Halperin, and Thomas Wiswell, among others) published as fact a claim that “all boys are born with phimosis”. To be fair, their paper is newer, but they do not provide evidence to support the claim. An explanation for why they do not may be inferred.

Circumcision: A Limited View of Science

I posted the following on Twitter today:

It’s bizarre how insistent many circumcision advocates are that science only exists on the blade of a scalpel. Science is so much more.

I think this is a decent summation of the accusation many circumcision advocates make to discredit the fight for equal genital integrity and bodily autonomy. They claim, whether or not they believe it, that disapproving of non-therapeutic circumcision on children somehow signals a rejection of science. That’s nonsense, bordering on ad hominem. It’s the same thread of empty rhetoric that created a brief spurt of “so you want Africans to die of HIV?” when researchers released the first HIV trial results.

The problem is obvious. Rejecting the non-therapeutic circumcision of children is not a rejection of science. In critical ways, it’s an embrace of science and its power lacking within circumcision advocacy. It’s a recognition that science is so much more than what happens from the blade of a scalpel. It’s an acknowledgement that we are not so primitive that we must fear risks that circumcision aims to reduce. The diseases are not shrouded in mystery warranting immediate, radical intervention on healthy children.

By definition non-therapeutic (i.e. prophylactic) child circumcision occurs on a healthy child. His health is scientific. This must not be omitted from the discussion. No genital surgery is indicated, just like no heart surgery, brain surgery, or any other surgery is indicated or justified. We don’t call those who reject other interventions that may achieve some potential benefit anti-science because good health as science is an obvious concept. It wraps with ethics, and we have no agenda elsewhere. The same can once again be true of the foreskin within society as a whole.

It’s also useful to remind those who accuse opponents of non-therapeutic child circumcision of being anti-science that science developed preventions and treatments for the diseases and infections that prophylactic circumcision targets. Antibiotics are science. The HPV vaccine is science. Condoms are science. The list of options available before resorting to circumcision is vast. We advocate for science and the ability scientific progress grants us to apply conservative, non-invasive interventions to prevent or resolve medical problems. The charge that we are anti-science because we do not advocate for the most extreme intervention possible is ludicrous.

Two simple questions are the most powerful rebuttal we have. Why is the science supposedly encouraging circumcision – the subset of science convenient to that position – the only science on which we’re supposed to focus? Why should we ignore most of the tools the human mind has uncovered that allow all of us, including intact males, the opportunity to live healthy lives? Considering the full realm of science promotes the proper ethical application of science that protects the rights of individuals as human beings with full bodily autonomy. Advocating for non-therapeutic circumcision on non-consenting individuals is the weaker scientific position.