Friday, December 18, 2009

Mohawks preferred over other hairstyles: study

Those claiming to do science sometimes fail. One way they may fail is by profound selection bias. For example:

Perform a study in which volunteers receive a free head shaving leaving only a strip of hair down the center (Mohawk). Ask participants how they feel about their hairstyle before and after. Find that more participants like their Mohawk better than their original hairstyle. Conclude Mohawks are very well liked compared to other hairstyles.

Really? Are Mohawks so well liked, or is there another explanation? Can you really walk down the street and Mohawk a random person and expect them to prefer it? No, but if you put up a "free Mohawk" stand along the street and let participants self-select, then yes, volunteers probably will like it.

And so it is here:

Sex equally satisfying with circumcised men: study

They put up a sign: "Free circumcision" for your partner when you both participate. Some couples selected themselves to participate. Women who recognize the positive role their partner's foreskin plays in their sexual experience didn't sign up. Men who find their foreskins lots of fun didn't sign up, either. Couples who wanted their male circumcised could sign up for one at no cost (although may need to wait for it). It's a profound bias.

Bad science happens. Science is good because the bad science is eventually seen for its flaws, but very bad policy may result more quickly.

Bailey said the finding might also help counter a growing reluctance of some parents to have their infant sons circumcised. "In the US, there is currently a strong movement against circumcision, especially on the West Coast," he said.

I (@IntactByDefault on Twitter) have an agenda, and that is for freedom from non-therapeutic circumcision to be recognized as everybody's right (hence the #i2 campaign). I am a part of this growing reluctance to deprive children of their right to choose genital integrity. Others have their own agendas. Some even want the world Mohawked.


If you think this blog post helps shine light on how bad science may influence bad policy, you are welcome to republish it in its entirety.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The #i2 twitter campaign for freedom from non-therapeutic circumcision

Born of Twitter, with its emphasis on brevity and custom of hash tagging, is the #i2 campaign. We reach out to potential supporters and ask them to include #i2 in a tweet. Tagging a tweet with #i2 is simple but powerful. It says you're on the side of guaranteeing everybody, even males, the right to keep their whole sex organ. Hundreds have tweeted #i2 comprising thousands of tweets.

Viewing non-therapeutic circumcision of children as ethically dubious (at best) and a violation of one's right to bodily integrity is increasingly mainstream, and policy statements from medical organizations have begun to reflect this attitude. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, Canada released in September 2009 a statement including:

Until recently, only public health and religious views were taken into consideration in the debate over infant male circumcision. However, our understanding of medical practice must change as research findings become available.

Infant male circumcision was once considered a preventive health measure and was therefore adopted extensively in Western countries.  Current understanding of the benefits, risks and potential harm of this procedure, however, no longer supports this practice for prophylactic health benefit.  Routine infant male circumcision performed on a healthy infant is now considered a nontherapeutic and medically unnecessary intervention.

Routine infant male circumcision is an unnecessary and irreversible procedure.  Therefore, many consider it to be “unwarranted mutilating surgery”.

Many adult men are increasingly concerned about whether their parents had the right to give consent for infant male circumcision.  They claim that an infant’s rights should take priority over any parental rights to make such a decision.  This procedure should be delayed to a later date when the child can make his own informed decision.  Parental preference alone does not justify a non‐therapeutic procedure.

This physicians group is not alone. In August 2009 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Paediatrics & Child Health Division released a statement expressing substantially similar medical findings and ethical concerns.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is said to be reviewing its policy. Supporters of #i2 hope they will shift their policy in the same direction as their Canadian and Australia/New Zealand counterparts. We're also asking they do that by sending a "call to conscience" facilitated by the non-profit group Intact America.

The Centers for Disease Control have also stated they will issue a statement, and many thousands have petitioned them to continue our national trend away from this painful, unnecessary, and costly surgery performed on children unable to consent.

Using Twitter we are able to organize our #i2 campaign for freedom from non-therapeutic circumcision, reach potential supporters, and get their simple and public statement that they are with us. We've established a vibrant community working to bring the change we know American boys deserve: The right to be free from an invasive, unnecessary surgery.

We're hopeful that new #i2 tweeters we'll see in the future will include Penn Jillette and Mr. Teller who have their own way of making a statement on non-therapeutic circumcision of children.

Search #i2 on Twitter.

Friday, August 28, 2009

CDC pledges to not recommend infant circumcision, but probably didn't mean it

The CDC has released a statement in which they pledge to not recommend infant circumcision.

Responding to media reports of what their future determination will be, they responded:
"Whatever the content may include, CDC’s final circumcision recommendations will be completely voluntary."
This statement clearly excludes the potential recommendation of infant male circumcision. Infant circumcision does not involve a volunteer. Even in cases of medically indicated and necessary surgery on an infant, that surgery is performed on an infant who has not volunteered. By excluding involuntary circumcision, the CDC has committed to not recommending infant male circumcision.

Sadly, it is more likely that the CDC failed to express their intentions accurately. They go on to contradict themselves, saying:
"While CDC has not yet determined if male circumcision should be recommended for any population, ultimately the decision will rest with individuals and parents."
That, however, is impossible. The choice of circumcision is made by an individual, or by his parents, but not both. Parents do not confer with their son to arrive at a decision between the three of them. The CDC must have meant "the decision will rest with individuals or parents".

But by saying they may recommend parents chose circumcision for their infants, they indicate the potential to recommend involuntary circumcision for those boys whose parents elect it.

The CDC's failure to express itself accurately indicates that it is affected by the blind-spot in American culture where individual rights and infant circumcision are concerned. Only strong commentary from the public is likely call attention to the ethical implications of their potential recommendations.

Tell CDC how you feel:

Petition to CDC

And tell the editor of you local newspapers, too:

Letter to the editor