Circumcision

Symbol of the three Abrahamic religions.

Grace Adeleye has been convicted of manslaughter after a baby boy died following a circumcision which she carried out on him at home.

 

Last year a court in Cologne, Germany ruled that there was criminal liability for those carrying out this procedure for non-clinical reasons on boys who were below the age of consent. The German parliament has now passed a law Allowing ritual circumcision of infant boys.

 

The position in British law is unclear. It seems that there is a presumption that it is legal. By contrast female circumcision is statutorily illegal under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. It is noteworthy that the female procedure is described as mutilation, but this term is never applied in the case of males.

 

Cutting off a baby’s foreskin without medical reason is just as much mutilation as it is to cut the labia of a girl. The fact that people do this without anaesthetic, in non-sterile environments and without any control of their qualifications or skill worsens the situation.

 

Female genital mutilation became illegal in Britain in 2004, but there is no clarity about whether male genital mutilation for cultural or religious reasons is legal or not.

 

Just because something has been done for centuries does not mean that it is alright. Cutting off part of a child’s body without any medical reason is obviously a serious assault. Where this is done in unsatisfactory conditions it represents a significant risk to the life and well being of the child apart from any questions of longer term changes in that person’s life without their informed consent. To argue that circumcised men do not generally claim that they have been disadvantaged by it is not valid. It is self evident that having been circumcised as a baby it is impossible for adult males to know whether their enjoyment of sex has been reduced by the de-sensitisation resulting from the absence of a protective cover to the glans.

 

It is quite right that female genital mutilation is a much more complicated issue than it is for males. This is because there is a wide range of procedures from limited labia trimming to full excision of the clitoris and extensive labia removal. The British law prevents any vaginal surgery for non-medical reasons. It must be asked why there is not similar protection for males. I do not actually support specific laws prohibiting assault on the genitalia. These practices should be treated like any other abuse of a child. The permanence of a surgical procedure makes it a more serious assault than many others.

 

The claim by some that the procedure has hygiene benefits might possibly have had some basis in antiquity, but it does not in 21st century Britain. In fact the hygiene argument seems to be a modern one that is not supported by evidence of benefit.

 

Male circumcision pre-dates Christianity and Judaism. We cannot know the reasons that it was first done. For Jews it is a religious obligation based on the supposed covenant between God and Abraham. No scriptural indication is given of why God would want men to have their foreskins removed. In the Abrahamic religions man is supposed to be made in the image of God. If God himself has a foreskin why did he want his followers to remove theirs?

 

Those who accept the evolution of humans as an established fact will recognise that the foreskin is present because it has a purpose. It might be argued that the protection provided by clothing has removed the evolutionary requirement for the foreskin. Well OK. If that is your view make that decision for yourself as an adult. By the way, just in case anybody reading this thinks that evolution might not be right because it is only a theory I would say that the evidence for the theory of evolution is just as compelling as the evidence for the theory of gravity.

Grace Adeleye, who has just been convicted of manslaughter, is a Christian of Nigerian origin. Male circumcision is not required by Christian churches although it is practised by Copts. In fact Saints Peter and Paul wrote against circumcision. It seems likely that in this case circumcision is a cultural practice rather than a religious duty.

 

Hardening of the glans caused by circumcision does seem to reduce the transmission of HIV by circumcised men, but it does not prevent it and the use of condoms by HIV positive men is a very much greater protection. It would certainly be very wrong to think that it was OK to have unprotected sex with an HIV positive man because he was circumcised.

 

These mutilations should be treated as criminal assault. A baby is not born with a religion so I do not accept the legitimacy of religious obligation. However, since religions have such a strong hold on people an exception could be granted for religious requirement provided the procedure was only conducted by practitioners who could be held to account if they failed to effectively minimise the possibility of complications by being well qualified and using proper clinical practice.

Just Dreaming

PhotonQ-Homer' s Evolution Theory

PhotonQ-Homer’ s Evolution Theory (Photo credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE)

Given that the interpretation of dreams by Freud and others is garbage, what is the evolutionary benefit of dreams?

http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/ep035978.pdf

This paper presents an evolutionary argument for the role of dreams in the development of human cognitive processes. While a theory by Revonsuo (2000) proposes that dreams allow for threat rehearsal and therefore provide an evolutionary advantage, the goal of this paper is to extend this argument by commenting on other fitness-enhancing aspects of dreams. Rather than a simple threat rehearsal mechanism, it is argued that dreams reflect a more general virtual rehearsal mechanism that is likely to play an important role in the development of human cognitive capacities. This paper draws on current work in cognitive neuroscience and philosophy of mind in developing the argument.

Was Sigmund Freud a fraud?

Sigmund Freud Quote

Sigmund Freud Quote (Photo credit: Psychology Pictures)

“I am actually not at all a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker. I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador–an adventurer, if you want it translated–with all the curiosity, daring, and tenacity characteristic of a man of this sort” (Sigmund Freud, letter to Wilhelm Fliess, Feb. 1, 1900).

http://www.skepdic.com/psychoan.html

Was Clement Freud a sticky toffee pudding?

Who Inspects The Inspectors?

Panorama (TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has reported a “systemic failure to protect people” after an inspection of Winterbourne View near Bristol. The review was ordered after BBC Panorama filmed patients being trapped under a chair, slapped, soaked in cold water and put outside in freezing weather, and taunted. Panorama was contacted by former staff member Terry Bryan who told the BBC about some abusive staff. Mr Bryan, a senior nurse, went to the media because the home’s management and the CQC had ignored his reports of the assaults on vulnerable residents.

The CQC report on Winterbourne View found owners Castlebeck Care had failed to ensure residents living at the unit were adequately protected from risk, including the risks of unsafe practices by its own staff. It said: “There was a systemic failure to protect people or to investigate allegations of abuse…..The provider had failed in its legal duty to notify the Care Quality Commission of serious incidents including injuries to patients or occasions when they had gone missing.”

It is sickening to read this stuff. Yes, Castlebeck failed to do their job and they need to be brought to account for that, but the CQC were told about the abuse and they did nothing. The only reason the CQC exists is to maintain standards in the care sector, but when they were told about abuse they sat on their arse and did nothing.

Inspectors also noted that staff did not appear to understand the needs of the people in their care and said “some staff were too ready to use methods of restraint without considering alternatives”.

This is rubbish. Despite the broadcast of disgusting images of assault by staff, the CQC is grossly misrepresenting and understating what happened. What was shown on Panorama was not restraint, it was criminal assault. Far from showing a lack of understanding of patient needs, staff could be seen to be intentionally causing distress to learning disabled residents and deriving pleasure from the abuse they were inflicting.

Police have arrested twelve people in connection with the inquiry. I am not holding my breath, but we must hope that the police recognise criminal behaviour when they are shown it and the attackers are prosecuted.

It is now about three decades since institutional care homes started to be closed down because it was recognised that they were an unsuitable environment for people with special needs to have decent life. The care in the community that was meant to replace these unsatisfactory institutions is far better where it is working. Winterbourne View is an example of the re-emergence of institutions and it is clear that the same old types of abuse are happening here too.

The CQC claims to be independent, but what does that mean? Where does its money come from? Us of course. They have a very nice website that tells you about their vision and powers and much else. What it doesn’t say is what happens if they make a complete balls of the job or simply sit back after getting their position in such a warm and cuddly organisation and do precisely nothing.

Mr Bryan had a great deal of experience in care. He went to a lot of trouble to tell the right people about what was going on at Winterbourne View and he was ignored. The only message for relatives and friends of the people who need care is that you must join together in support organisations to hold providers to account and ensure high standards. You cannot rely on the CQC or the government to see that your loved ones are not maltreated.

Who Will Inherit The Dog?

A supermarket's pet food aisle in Brooklyn, Ne...

Image via Wikipedia

Sierra Sciences (SS) in Nevada claim to have identified a range of substances that can induce adult cells to produce telomerase. This is very important because the shortening of telomeres is believed to be a major cause of ageing and telomerase can stop that shortening or even lengthen the telomeres.

 

Eternal life isn’t available at the chemist yet, but Bill Andrews of SS is confident that he is on to something good. The problem is that it will be many years before there is any chance of getting medical approval for trials with humans, but Bill is not going to be put off. You can sell stuff as pet food which is not considered fit for human consumption and he sees a massive market in life extending dog food.

 

I am sure that Bill is right, but I| am not convinced that his only consumers will be the pampered pooches of doting owners. Those fearing their dotage will likely be tucking in their napkins and dipping in at the dog bowl.

 

Look out for the SS range of gourmet doggy burgers and chili con canine at your you local supermarket soon. The Queen had better stock up on 100th Birthday cards.