Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Science Validates the Torah Again

We were right all along.
                             
This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics published the following policy statement concerning circumcision:

Systematic evaluation of English-language peer-reviewed literature from 1995 through 2010 indicates that preventive health benefits of elective circumcision of male newborns outweigh the risks of the procedure. Benefits include significant reductions in the risk of urinary tract infection in the first year of life and, subsequently, in the risk of heterosexual acquisition of HIV and the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections.

In other words, leading researchers in the field have concluded that circumcision is a good thing.

In ancient times, the Greeks and Romans bitterly opposed circumcision. Likewise the atheistic Soviet government suppressed circumcision. In recent years atheists such as Christopher Hitchens have bitterly denounced the practice as child abuse.

After thousands of years of insults, as well as thousands of innocent Jews put to death for practicing this mitzvah, the eternal wisdom of the Torah is now being validated by science.

35 comments:

BrooklynWolf said...

Has Judaism ever made the claim that circumcision provides health benefits?

Just because we do something as a mitzvah, that does not mean that it is implied that there is a health (or other non-religiously-based) benefit involved.

If no such claim is made, then you cannot say that this article "validates" the Torah.

If such a claim is made, please provide a cite for it.

Thanks,

The Wolf

jewish philosopher said...

We have always known that circumcision is a good thing because God told us to do it and He of course wants what is good for us.

Scientists are now giving us further insights into God's wisdom and further insights into the foolishness of the Greeks, Romans and the modern day atheists.

BrooklynWolf said...

We have always known that circumcision is a good thing because God told us to do it and He of course wants what is good for us.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that there's a health benefit involved. If you're going to claim that science is validating the Torah, the the Torah has to say what science is saying.

Yes, we circumcise our sons, but we do it because God commanded us to, not because we believe there's a health benefit to it. We do it whether it's beneficial from a health perspective, neutral or even deleterious (as sometimes happens in rare circumstances when children die from circumcision-related complications).

In short, the Torah makes no such claim, so we cannot state that science validates that claim.

The Wolf

jewish philosopher said...

Science has certainly invalidated the millions of people throughout history who claimed that circumcision was a horrifying, brutal and useless mutilation and sometimes even killed Jews for having the audacity to do it.

This should make us wonder the next time someone ridicules a Torah law as being nonsensical - who knows what hidden benefits may be discovered in another thousand years?

BrooklynWolf said...

Science has certainly invalidated the millions of people throughout history who claimed that circumcision was a horrifying, brutal and useless mutilation and sometimes even killed Jews for having the audacity to do it.

That all may or may not be true, but it is beside the point. The question isn't whether the naysayers are wrong. The question is "does the Torah say that it's beneficial (in terms of one's health)?" So far, you have not shown that to be the case. As a result, you cannot claim that science is validating the Torah as you have failed to show that the Torah made the same claim that science is now making.

The Wolf

jewish philosopher said...

Ye shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess. Deut. 5:29

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0505.htm#29

jewish philosopher said...

Incidentally "validate" means

a : to support or corroborate on a sound or authoritative basis

b : to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/validate

So I believe that to say that APA policy statement validates the Torah is accurate.

BrooklynWolf said...

You're using that passuk as a promise that doing the mitzvos = better health???

You do realize that there are plenty of people who were shomrei Torah U'Mitzvos, had emunah sh'laimah and still lived short, hard lives filled with illness and death. If you're going to use that passuk as a rule that performing the mitzvos = better life, then other people can turn it around and use it to *disprove* the Torah.

Furthermore, if you're going to apply this passuk to circumcision, you would have to apply it to all the mitzvos. That would mean that you would have to believe that there is a health benefit to shaking lulav on Sukkos (but not other times), to reciting krias Sh'mah, to writing a sefer Torah, and so on. Are you prepared to offer scientific evidence that any of that is provable?

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

I'm well aware of what validate means, thank you very much. I don't believe I misused it anywhere.

The Wolf

jewish philosopher said...

"You do realize that there are plenty of people who were shomrei Torah U'Mitzvos, had emunah sh'laimah and still lived short, hard lives filled with illness and death."

If they didn't it could be even shorter.

Dave said...

Welcome back, I hope you family is well.

ksil said...

"If they didn't it could be even shorter."

LOL

but seriously, you pick and choose which science you accept. some science, that goes against the torah you dismiss, the science that "supports" it, you accept. huh?!?!


jewish philosopher said...

I reject junk science because that's what it is: junk. For example scientific racism, scientific Marxism, Darwinian evolution and Freudian psychoanalysis just to name a few.

Abe said...

Why create an injurious defective organ that can only be made effective by mutilating it? Why not create the penis without the foreskin?

If abscission of the penile foreskin were a religiously scientific palliative, the question of its presence would indicate that god is incompetent as a somatic designer.
Quite the contrary of science validating religious circumcision, it actually thoroughly invalidates the religion itself.

jewish philosopher said...

You know this question is not very original and in fact it was asked nearly 2,000 years ago by the governor of Judaea Quintus Tineius Rufus to Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph, approximately in the year 130 CE.This conversation may have taken place while Rabbi Akiva was in prison, condemned to death by Tineius Rufus for the "crime" of teaching Torah. Apparently Tineius Rufus was interested in matching wits with the condemned prisoner, perhaps assuming that the Jewish scholar would be somewhat docile under the circumstances.

Midrash Tanchuma (Tazria, 5) recounts:

"Once the evil [Roman governor] Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva, 'Whose deeds are greater - God's or man's?' He replied, 'Man's deeds are greater.' Turnus Rufus asked him, 'Is man then capable of creating heaven and earth, or anything like them?' Rabbi Akiva replied, 'I was not referring to the sphere beyond man's ability, over which he has no control. I refer to those creations of which man is capable.' He then asked, 'Why do you circumcise yourselves?' Rabbi Akiva replied, 'I knew that that was the point of your question, and therefore I answered in the first place that man's deeds are greater than God's.' Rabbi Akiva brought him grains of wheat and some bread, and said: 'These grains of wheat are God's handiwork, and the bread is the handiwork of man. Is the latter not greater than the former?' Turnus Rufus answered him, 'If God wanted you to perform circumcision, why did He not create the child already circumcised while still in the womb?' Rabbi Akiva answered, 'Why do you not ask the same question concerning the umbilical cord, which remains attached to him and which his mother must cut? In response to your question - the reason why he does not emerge already circumcised is because God gave Israel the commandments in order that they would be purified by performing them. Therefore David wrote, 'Every word of God is pure (or, purified).'"

Ironmistress said...

Welcome back! I sincerely hope that whatever happened in your family is resolved now and everything is OK.

I have had three funerals in family this summer. Not fun, but life must go on.

Dave said...

So is the foreskin totally functionless, like a vestigial organ? If so, why leave the Gentiles with it?
If it does have function, how can we be commanded to remove it?

Anonymous said...

JP:

I heard it is not good for a man to not ejaculate for a prolonged period, not medically a great idea (taharat hamishpacha not medically recommended.) Is this where the idea of a heter for prostitutes comes from? And what of the poor hasid who never marries!

Welcome back!

Tuvia

jewish philosopher said...

It's not merely functionless, it's apparently dysfunctional. Millions of health conscious Gentiles are removing it.

jewish philosopher said...

Sex is not necessary for health.

jewish philosopher said...

I think that's a line teenage boys use on reluctant girlfriends.

Dovid said...

Sex can be good for your health, kinda like circumcision: http://goo.gl/dpqAg

Dave said...

If its dysfunction, I can find an explanation from an evolutionary point of view. We evolved from other mammals, and the foreskin was a protective sheath to a sensitive organ. In humans, it became vestigial.

So theologically, how can one explain why God would build all of men with a dysfunctional part, command only a small part of humanity a thousand years after creation to remove it, and then let everybody else suffer with it?

Of course, God can do whatever He wants. I am just saying that it doesnt make logical sense.

jewish philosopher said...

"Sex can be good for your health, kinda like circumcision: http://goo.gl/dpqAg"

It's interesting that Judaism is the only major religion which considers celibacy to be a bad thing. Our greatest holy men wer all married with kids.

"So theologically, how can one explain why God would build all of men with a dysfunctional part, command only a small part of humanity a thousand years after creation to remove it, and then let everybody else suffer with it?"

Health conscious gentiles can and do remove it. As a kid who showered in a public school locker room in the 1970's I never saw an uncircumcised person. My adopted father, born Lutheran in the wisconsin in 1925, was circumcised.

Dave said...

"Health conscious gentiles can and do remove it."

That may be true in the USA but not elsewhere in the western world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevalence_of_circumcision

Most Europeans do not see it as necessary for being "health conscious". Even in the US it is declining.

jewish philosopher said...

There is no question that the Torah lifestyle includes numerous benefits even materially not to mention spiritually. Take washing ones hands before a meal and after the bathroom or bathing every Friday. Not bad ideas from a hygienic point of view, and wiser Gentiles do it too. But they are not commanded to.

Anonymous said...

I still think science says ejaculating is healthier.

What do you say to the idea that the shidduch system causes more anorexia and bulemia in girls?

How about halacha causing some to develop OCD behavior?

And, how can we be the only major religion that thinks sex is good? I hear on Xtian radio that sex in marriage is beautiful. I see that ministers are married (and I think so are Anglican priests?) And I see two billion Muslims (some with multiple wives.)

Wait, I also see twelve million Mormons (some with multiple wives.)

Sex seems to be alive and well in other religions!

Tuvia

jewish philosopher said...

I would say that I've been orthodox for 35 years and I can't recall a rabbi ever recommending that I do anything which is unhealthy.

And people don't get AIDS, overdose on heroin or crash their car while drunk because they are orthodox. Atheists unfortunately do those kinds of things a lot.

Dave said...

On a related note, a similar theological question can be raised about the gap between male and female sex drives.

The male sex drive is generally stronger and more aggressive then female, seeks new partners, and lasts well past age 70.

Think about the last time you heard of a woman, say past age 45, sexually abusing or harassing somebody. With men it happens all the time. I read stories in the papers all the time of grandpa in his 80s making sexual advances on his grandaughters. And women don't go to prostitutes.

It is this gap that is responsible for the difficulties of monogomous marriage, as well as many other societal sexual problems like prostitution.

So, theologically speaking, why would God create such as situation, that all but guarantees cheating, rape, prostitution and a myraid of other problems. Why not let the sex drive in men gradually die off like it does in women?

Again, from an evolutonary perspective, its not hard to explain.

jewish philosopher said...

Women are the primary caregivers of children. Therefore women cease being able to have children at about age 45 so that they will be able to raise there children before being disabled by old age at about age 65. Men however continue being able to father children until their 80's because their active participation is,not crucial to,the child's survival.

I think it makes sense from an intelligent design point of view.

Dave said...

"I think it makes sense from an intelligent design point of view."

..which interestingly would make sense from an evolutionary perspective.

But I don't see why, on one hand, god would make men fertile and sexually attracted to new women into old age (and bored with sex with the same woman), while on the other hand, give him prohibitions which make that impossible to satisfy. No premarital/extramarital sex. No masturbation. And, in modern times, no polygamy.

To me it sounds like a setup for guilt, aggression and failure.

jewish philosopher said...

Life in this world is full of temptations to do evil. Our reward in the afterlife is based on our efforts to resist those temptations.

Ironmistress said...

This might be of interest:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/sep/02/american-atheism-schism-spit-venom

Anonymous said...

"Benefits include significant reductions in the risk of urinary tract infection in the first year of life and, subsequently, in the risk of heterosexual acquisition of HIV and the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections."

The obvious questions (and its a bit of a gross one) is does not having a foreskin prevent HIV or is it just that circumcised men are more religious and thus not engaging in homosexuality? I think its probably the latter.

jewish philosopher said...

I think this is based on studies of African men who are not particularly religious.

In the US as well, circumcision was extremely common among all males for decades, I can never remember seeing a kid in the locker room in the 1970's who was uncircumcisioned, so probably some advantage has been noticed in that population as well.