Open Discussion – February 2019

Feb 1, 2019

This thread has been created for discussion on themes relevant to Reason and Science for which there are not currently any dedicated threads.

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If you would like to refer back to previous open discussion threads, the three most recent ones can be accessed via the links below (but please continue any discussions from them here rather than on the original threads):


Open Discussion – December 2018

Open Discussion – January 2019

127 comments on “Open Discussion – February 2019

  • The February open discussion thread is now open.

    If you wish to continue any of the discussions from earlier Open Discussion threads, please do so here rather than there.

    Thank you.

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  • This should have been posted here, rather than on last month’s discussion.

    This is a first, but long over due UK conviction.


    The mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first person in the UK to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM).


    Spells and curses intended to deter police and social workers from investigating were found at the Ugandan woman’s home, the trial heard.


    The defendants, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, denied FGM and an alternative charge of failing to protect a girl from risk of genital mutilation.


    Mrs Justice Whipple warned of a “lengthy” jail term as she remanded the woman into custody to be sentenced on 8 March.


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  • Wow. Big news. This will ripple through the community as a warning. Now social services and the medical community will have something of substance to base their investigations on.


    Spells and curses indeed! This is what we’re dealing with.

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  • For me, hearing the excuse put forward that the girl fell on a metal cupboard door is more important than it sounds. It stinks in the same way the Turkish Cypriot community knew the right doctor to approach to make their daughter “whole” again. The cupboard story made ready and known by the whole community. I hope this prosecution helps to break the trust needed in those that perform the cutting.

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  • Alan   #2


    Hurrah! Hope this will break the log jam. Stealing from children’s future lives and choices should be one of the gravest crimes. Whole lives, denied their potential, are lives that may be filled with regret. They are certainly, else, whole lives of unwitting deficit.



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  • Hello Friends,

    I just joined the site because a question occurred to me that I’d like some help with: the powerful emotion of love seems to be prevalent in psychologically healthy humans. But love is often selfless. I’ve been pondering how this powerful emotion, in all its forms, could have been selected for since our genes are selfish. Thank you for your thoughts. Ben

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  • Hi Ben,


    Welcome! Good question that indeed Dawkin’s first book The Selfish Gene sought to answer. Gene’s he argued were from their own perspective selfish but that didn’t necessitate that their effect in a carrying organism like a human, need be selfish. Indeed the whole book was inspired by new insights and work by biologist Bill Hamilton and others that illustrated the viability that kin selection could begin the process of altruism. From the gene perspective gene’s being selfish would save themselves when they exist in near kin who share much of the gene set. We would act altruistically to save kin.


    Now the detection of kin in higher animals is a rather approximate (sic) process depending upon indicators like early proximity, being near, being nurturing etc. Mammals developed a high sociability in part because of the requirements of feeding young and using the hormone oxytocin (the cervical and milk release hormone) to pacify their wriggling young to better and more completely feed them. C-tactile afferent nerves from receptors at the base of every hair follicle were used to trigger this oxytocin release. Intimacy, licking stroking, cuddles, pacified anxious infants (or mates for that matter) and added a new and delightful aspect to pacifying and bonding.


    There is a lot more on the evolutionary path. Mirror neurons particularly useful in the young so they can learn motor skills from their elders, but also crucially rehearse facial and verbal expressions and come to associate these with the feelings of others, indeed making certain emotions infectious. Spindle cells (unique to a few of the higher animals) and the anterior cingulate cortex open us up to a more intellectual and human-looking consideration for the consequences of our actions and these two (mirror and spindle) bring in the extraordinary capacity for sophisticated cultures to evolve with their own (fast!) evolutionary trajectories.

    Love is the most sophisticated aggregate of animal and cultural drivers. It has many many forms and is probably far from done in its cultural evolution.

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  • Michael

    Re. accidentally flagging something as abuse:

    No worries. For anything at all to happen, a comment has to be flagged at least twice. Even at that point, it is simply temporarily removed pending moderator review and of course, if it’s not in breach of our comment policy, we’ll then restore it.

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  • Vicki,

    I wonder if this isn’t related to the fact that the Japanese report as the country least satisfied by their sex lives (15% satisfied).

    Either an admirable “Lysistrata” attempt at training their men or women are too exhausted.

    Either way the solution is the same.

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  • Vicki

    Well that article was actually quite depressing. My impulse is to reach out to poor beleagered Ms Nishimasa and invite her to deposit her children in summer camp and come to visit me for two months of slothful underachievement as my gift to her.

    Too much of her story is darkly reminiscent of my own mother’s story. She went back to college part time, nights when I was in elementary school. Graduated with teaching degree when I was in middle school and all the while completing one hundred percent of household chores and childcare on her own. Later when I asked her how she managed it she told me that she’d be up at one in the morning ironing my father’s work shirts, crying from exhaustion. All of that and worried that she didn’t have what it takes to keep up with the academic requirements. After she landed her teaching job, one of the first thing she did was hire a woman to do weekly house cleaning for us. One thing that really killed me in that conversation is how it ended; she said, “Don’t blame your father for any of this. All those guys were like that then. He’s a good guy because he let me go back to get my college degree.” Sigh.

    So the situation of the Japanese women is a very sad reminder to me of the nasty gender roles we had here half a century ago. I suppose there must be remnants of it now, still. One thing I remember from the second wave feminists back in those days is that they pointed out the fact that if women want to have careers and kids then men must compromise too. They must carve time out of their careers to raise the kids, help with housework and meals so that we can take that time and devote it to our careers. Not a perfect picture by any means but progress has been made. When I see the benefits that the European women get I realize that American women have been sorely shortchanged. There is a massive discrepancy between our social support system and theirs. This holds us back and keeps us tied to the kitchen and nursery.

    What can break the Japanese system? The women described in the article live lives of stress and futility. When their kids go off to college and marriage on their own, won’t those women wonder what it was all for? Won’t they find themselves sleeping next to a stranger that they’ve been married to for decades but no longer know? Jezis. The Abysmal boredom and nonstop aggravation. What the hell is the point?

    I realize that reproduction is a primary evolutionary imperative but holy crap, is the life described in the article really worth it? Not to me!



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  • Phil

    In the scenario described in Vicki’s article, the most efficient way to deal with sexual desire would be for her to access that electronic device in the drawer of her nightstand. Four minutes or less to the goal. The same timeframe that men require for the same goal.

    Problem solved.

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  • @Laurie

    What can break the Japanese system?

    An indicator of what not to do was in her son’s sitting at the table, expecting to be waited on. That right there, unquestioned, is the up and coming generation, maintaining the status quo.

    In regard to your mother’s story, how inspiring on a subconscious level for a young girl. You are one lucky duck!

    As for Phil’s suggestion, I rather think the low sexual satisfaction is more a symptom of the problem than a possible solution.

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  • Vicki

    how inspiring on a subconscious level for a young girl. You are one lucky duck!

    She was trapped between two worlds. She still to this day tells me that we shouldn’t be working with kids. The mixed message is damaging. I don’t feel lucky about the situation at all. Baggage.

    her son’s sitting at the table, expecting to be waited on. 

    Yes, so discouraging. Japanese aren’t the only culture with that problem. Interesting that the Prime Minister expresses interests in moving more women into the economy as your NYT article says:


    Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has an explicit goal of energizing his nation’s puttering economy by elevating women in the labor force, an initiative catchily referred to as “womenomics.”

    But let’s see if they’ll put their money where their mouth is! Will they use their resources to mount a propaganda campaign? Offer protections for women in the business environment? On site daycare? Affirmative action moving women into positions of authority so they can make changes in the sexist corporate culture? Equal opportunity divorce laws? Generous maternity leave with protections and very important – generous paternity leave with protections?

    I do feel for the men in this society too even though many must be supporting the status quo. Men give up a lot in these societies while they’re holding women down. It seems like these guys participate in the conventional marriage and kids scene but then don’t spend much time involved in it after that. They are working themselves to death and can’t know their own children and wife not to mention the rest of their families. Alienation is the word I’d use for this situation. Raising boys in an equal way would go a long way but these people are in too deep and need a damn revolution.

    Yes. The low sexual satisfaction is a symptom. No psychological connection due to minimal contact with the spouse. Exhaustion, frustration with no end in sight. Relationship poison. The electronic device is preferable.
    I have some exasperating stories of a couple of my women friends who are quite highly placed managers in well known companies who have had very weird experiences on business trips to Japan due to their firmly entrenched sexism and agism that the Japanese guys don’t seem to be aware of or just simply don’t give a damn. These women even hired cultural consultants to better prepare themselves and their teams but even that wasn’t enough! They came home absolutely steamed!

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  • I don’t for a moment believe the Lysistrata effect is what is happening in Japan. It is the miserable legacy of old cultures weighing on new minds with different choices not yet within reach.

    Japanese women are increasingly delaying or not marrying.

    Indeed Tinder was collared as a force for female empowerment (sometimes) in a late night “Woman’s Hour” discussion. BBC R4. Men lay themselves bare in their self promotion and women swipe left. This is turbo-powered Darwinian selection. (Men swipe right on the pic and with increasingly less discrimination). So maybe this is Lysistrata Lite?

    Unmarried motherhood is still almost taboo in Japan (2%), whilst in northern Europe its is increasingly the norm. This may be a major source of misery and shackling, reducing re-marriage/partnering. Part of this is entirely the problem of finding flexible work for mothers. The gig economy is surprisingly absent in Japan.


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  • Then take a look at this…

    The WashPo journalist/mediator and her abject failure to hold the kleptocrat to account, explains why no-one is on the citizens side. She knew what idiot Dell didn’t. She studied economics. She couldn’t bring herself to speak up. Jobsworth.

    A bit tedious getting into gear but a huge point from the Dutch the second half.

    Its the Taxes, Stupid!

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  • 24
    Michael 100 says:

    phil rimmer #21 regarding the story in Politico:  I too think this is encouraging news.  I wish, however, that reporters would not characterize the issue as “soak the rich,” as though a fair, progressive tax is somehow unjustly depriving the very wealthy of something to which they are entitled.  If you are ever in Washington, D.C., you might notice that engraved into the stone work of the Internal Revenue Service building, are the words:  Taxes Are What We Pay For A Civilized Society.  The idea, that those who live at the top of the food chain should be exempt from paying their fair share, is incomprehensible.  I don’t even think the tax code should be used to eliminate inequality, but the wealthy should not be exempt from paying their fair share any more than those of us who work for middle class wages.  In his book on the enlightenment, Steven Pinker notes some of the ways in which real equality has been achieved – war, revolution, national collapse, and epidemics of deadly disease – and none are attractive.  Nevertheless, if we are going to tolerate extreme wealth, we should not tolerate economic insecurity. I think a fair tax code can provide the funds for things like universal health care, universal education through the highest level an individual can achieve.  I also think its time to consider a guaranteed minimum income that’s high enough to provide a decent standard of living.  The wealthy will continue to live a luxurious life style – more power to them (especially if their wealth was obtained through skill and ingenuity) – but in this day and age, no one should go bankrupt over medical bills, or spend a lifetime paying for an education.  The recent U.S. government shut down shined a light on how people who earn a decent living are brought to the edge of disaster when one or two pay checks are missed.  Something is wrong with that picture.  A fair progressive tax code can do a lot to fix what is not right.  Now, if the Democrats can just communicate that concept to the electorate without being seen as wild-eyed radicals.  And the people must elect a unified government that can actually deliver what is promised.        

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  • Yep. “Soak the rich” is counter productive. This isn’t to be punitive. Its to be fair.

    You sell fair taxes (54% of Republicans already approve) by appealing to those wonderful productive income expanding days of the 1950s.

    UBI? Definitely. Great research by Bregman. The Canadian  4 year experiment was used a decade ago as proof that UBI didn’t work. But the data was never evaluated. At last it has and like cancer from cigarettes, it is research, that, gently suppressed by a relieved neglect, will simply become more and more insistent.




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  • I see that abuses of the misplaced faith in pastors is being dealt with in Zimbabwe!

    A court in Zimbabwe has convicted a popular self-styled prophet of fraud and fined him $700 (£540) for falsely claiming he had a herbal cure for HIV and Aids.

    The 35-year-old Magaya is among a group of young, brash and flashy religious figures who have emerged during Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, attracting a huge number of followers with promises of miracle healing and miracle money, says the BBC’s Shingai Nyoka in the capital, Harare.

    He told his congregation in October that the drug, named aguma, had magical powers to destroy the Aids virus within 14 days, the privately owned New Zimbabwe reported at the time.


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  • April #27


    Many of the outrages are shared, not least that of the loss of autonomy over your own body. It is not your parents’ to abuse. This alone is all that is needed to count both being enacted on children as immoral.

    MGM adds some deficits but you’ll find a mixed pushback from circumcised men. Gay men have higher proportions of the circumcised. The loss of sensitivity can enhance longevity. (But not a decision for anyone to make except the foreskin owner.)True there are some horrors too of really mutilating mutilations.

    FGM, however, can be so, so much worse….

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  • April

    I’m a staunch opponent of MGM as well as FGM. Although the male version may be less harmful, it is still a harm that was inflicted on a baby/child without their consent. In fact they can’t consent at all. When MGM is brought up in discussions of FGM others shut it down with claims that the female version is so much worse that we shouldn’t complicate the discussion with mentioning it.

    I want to say that those of us who live in the West with our good medical practices probably see no problem with the procedure as it’s done  shortly after birth, in the hospital and view it as no worse than a hangnail. But are those parents standing there watching the doc slice a piece of their son’s foreskin of while the baby lies there strapped down and screaming? No, of course not.

    What’s worse is that in undeveloped countries the situation is much more gruesome. Male circumcision is not necessarily done by a doctor or medical person at all. Traveling circumcision “specialists” make the rounds through neighborhoods and believe me, they have no training, no knowledge of the existence of microbes and must botch it up on a regular basis. Also, for example, in North Africa, they are not circumcising infants. They wait until the boy is between three and seven. The pain is excruciating and infection is common. This is a disgusting outrage. They remember the horror for the rest of their lives.

    I realize that this is still not the medical equivalent of FGM but it sure does come closer to it in practice. When this practice is allowed and celebrated by these people, it just doesn’t seem surprising that FGM would be considered to be just more of the same.

    How this repulsive atrocity to children still exists is an abomination.


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    Pope Francis has admitted that clerics have sexually abused nuns, and in one case they were kept as sex slaves.
    He said in that case his predecessor, Pope Benedict, was forced to shut down an entire congregation of nuns who were being abused by priests.

    It is thought to be the first time that Pope Francis has acknowledged the sexual abuse of nuns by the clergy.

    He said the Church was attempting to address the problem but said it was “still going on”.

    Ah!  That Catholic “monopoly” on sexual morality and their asserted “right” to interfere in other people’s sex lives in matters of contraception and abortion!

    The real face of religion, hidden behind the mask of “goodness and respectability”!??

    Perhaps they will send in some priests, properly trained in exorcism, to fix the problems! 🙂



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  • Feb 5, 2019 at 3:07 pm
    April says:

    Why all the hype over female genital mutilation but no coverage of male circumcisions, which take place every day?

    I would suspect, that it is because FGM is practised mainly in third world countries, whereas MGM is practised by rich, influential,  and powerful powerful people, who will scream “anti-Semitism”, and play the martyr,  while calling on their fellow religious exceptionalists for support in opposing any legislation.


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  • Hello all,

    I’ve been pointed at this video where Richard Dawkins says natural selection chooses traits.

    And in the conversation that followed the creationist concerned claims that he is using choose in the literal sense of being able to recognise the options available and picking the best one. Now of course I disagree, but is there anywhere where Mr Dawkins expands on his use of the word in this statement? I’ve failed to find one and I’ve want to record a podcast episode about it so having it in his own words would be a big benefit.

    thanks for reading

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  • 33
    Michael 100 says:

    The News section of this page has stories about a law being introduced to inject creationism in the public schools, the national prayer breakfast, and a proposed law to allow bible reading in public schools.  In my own State, law makers are debating whether to erect a monument to aborted fetuses.  The law makers also want to reform the process by which state judges are appointed because they are disappointed that the current judiciary finds a right to abortion and a  right to same-sex marriage in the state constitution.  It never ceases to amaze me how, in this day-and-age of science and humanist enlightenment how anyone, let alone someone with the skills to be elected to high office either at the state or national level, can cling to superstition and ignorance.  It’s difficult not to be discouraged?

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  • Michael 100

    It’s difficult not to be discouraged?

    I AM discouraged. I can’t believe we’re still dealing with this at this point in time. I suppose we must expect a proportion of Americans will always have a reactionary perspective but – so many of us?! That’s what has shocked me.

    Now I think back to the social revolutions of the sixties and seventies here and appreciate the efforts of those reformers much more than I did before. I thought it was a natural progression that was inevitable but now wonder if it wasn’t an episode in time that will rise and fall.

    I’ve lost faith in my fellow Americans to make decisions that affect our society. Too many people want to move us backward for their own selfish reasons. Yes, I’m very discouraged.

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  • 36
    Michael 100 says:

    Phil, I just listened to the broadcast you posted in #35.  I think I live on a different planet than Bannon does.  I agree that the people who voted for Trump were duped, and are paying the price now.  I think they are just now beginning to realize that all the benefits from the tax reform will go to the very wealthy, not to them.  Speaking of taxes, I hope that Trump will soon be exposed for the tax cheat that I believe he is.  I also think that the Trump voters, thought he would institute a single-payer health care system — again, they were duped.  I could go through what Bannon said, line by line, but anyone on this site could do the same thing, probably better than I can.  But you’re correct that Trump has betrayed the mass of people who voted for him, some of whom are only now realizing their mistake.  Trump has been a master criminal for decades — just check out the writing of David Cay Johnston — he managed to defeat all of the Republican candidates, and then he mesmerized the people who watch reality TV and get their information from sources like FOX news.  For sure, Bannon was one of the brains that helped Trump win.  I think Bannon is a very dangerous individual, and he has amazing influence even within the Catholic church — check out my post about him in the October discussion.  I keep telling myself that 3 million more people voted for Clinton than for Trump.  Nevertheless here we are.

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  • Feb 5, 2019 at 3:07 pm
    April says:

    Why all the hype over female genital mutilation but no coverage of male circumcisions, which take place every day?

    I see  there is a report here: –
    A female MP in Tanzania has called for checks to determine whether or not her male colleagues have undergone circumcision – a procedure known to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
    Jackline Ngonyani said any MPs found not to have been circumcised should be required to undergo the procedure.

    Her suggestion divided opinion among her colleagues.

    HIV is seen as a major threat to public health in Tanzania. Around 70% of the male population is circumcised.

    It is said to reduce the chances of of picking up an AIDs infection – at least among those too stupid to wear a condom!


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  • @ Matthew 32

    >Now of course I disagree, but is there anywhere where Mr Dawkins expands on his use of the word in this statement? I’ve failed to find one and I’ve want to record a podcast episode about it so having it in his own words would be a big benefit.

    Hi Matthew,

    You just have to open any of his books on evolution, he is very clear that natural selection in blind.

    Here’s a quote from the Selfish Gene

    >Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future.




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  • >April says:
    >Why all the hype over female genital mutilation but no coverage of male circumcisions, which take place every day?

    I’d say first it’s not hype cutting off some poor girls clitoris is a more significant mutilation than cutting off some boys foreskin.  However I take your point,  when I bring up MGM I insist that all genital mutilation is mutilation in the same sense that cutting off your hand is not as bad as cutting off your whole arm, it’s still pretty bad.  One way of arguing it is suggest that much less harm would be caused by chopping off a babies earlobes but few would consider that a valid procedure.  
    Hitchens did a wonderful take down of an arrogant rabbi who tried to minimise the impact of MGM.




  • Reckless   #39


    For me it is a political choice to prioritize FGM over MGM not because they are not equally mutilations and when performed on the non consenting, a moral outrage, but because the huge list of medical and psychological downsides to FGM means it is a genital mutilation battle we can win with near global support, better bringing folk to consider, then tackle MGM. Further, if by insisting the two must be tackled by societies co-equally and we thereby retard the banishment of FGM, we have not done the better thing.

    Standing on principles is too often virtue signalling when it is rather moral pragma that daily improves us.


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  • Michael, ah yes it comes flooding back.

    Bannon can only operate with small groups of people. In this way he can present exactly the narrative they need to hear.  I think he has narratives for everyone, all posited on some truth to root them, but all ultimately conflicting, requiring the separation of his audiences into types. This makes him a very effective puppeteer (that and his psychopathy) who could never actually operate directly in the glare of full public exposure… 


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  • phil rimmer says:

    For me it is a political choice to prioritize FGM over MGM not because they are not equally mutilations and when performed on the non consenting, a moral outrage, but because the huge list of medical and psychological downsides to FGM means it is a genital mutilation battle we can win with near global support, better bringing folk to consider, then tackle MGM.

    There seems to be a highly promoted MGM program in Africa, which is based on reducing the chances of HIV infections from unprotected sex or poor hygiene.

    This includes a new high speed conveyor belt circumcision system.

    A randomised trial in Rwanda found that male circumcision was performed much faster with the PrePex device, but the healing time was longer, the International AIDS Society reports. The trial among 217 men compared male circumcision performed with Prepex, a procedure that does not require stitches, with conventional male circumcision surgery. The average time to complete the procedure was 3.1 minutes with PrePex, compared to an average of 15.4 minutes for traditional surgery; time to complete healing was seven days longer for PrePex-assisted surgery.

    The reported rate of complications with PrePex was 2.7 percent. In an article in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, the authors conclude that PrePex takes significantly less time than conventional surgery, is safe and bloodless, and seems suitable for nurses to perform.



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  • It has this new fast procedure.

    Thoughtful, meticulous planning and engineering led to a simple, easy to use device. The PrePex device applies controlled radial elastic pressure to the foreskin between a rigid Inner Ring and an Elastic Ring to gently stop distal blood flow. The necrotic foreskin and the device are removed after 7 days.
    No Injected Anesthesia, No Surgery, No Sutures and No Sterile Settings.

    There is a video on the link.

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  • Sorry but, I am fully in line with stopping circumcision for religious reasons and having it done in a safe way but think it started for practical reasons. I am circumcised and apart from thinking about what could have gone wrong, suffer no trauma or ill effects. Hitchens has gone into his stubborn mode in that video. The only complaint I have had sexually is that I go on for too long but that depends on my mental state…a boy likes to be wooed. I feel I can spend more time thinking about my parents needs.


    I can remember the the first time I was actually glad of my ‘condition’. It was when puberty kicked in and we were in the boys changing room. That sickly sweet smell of uncut penises I will never forget or get used to.


    FGM  is the equivalent of when MGM goes wrong. Whole other thing. Cutting your hand off being the same as cutting your arm off is not a good comparison. Phil cut off the skin on the top of his finger and it now works on touch screens. Both my sons had to be done because their forskins were too tight and infections were happening too often. Neither has had any problems since.

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  • Note: My comments above were meant to be factual and not boastful or an advert FOR circumcision. I just think there is a balance to be found here and Hitchens, for me, has gone into ‘extreme’ territory which I don’t find very helpful.

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  • Alan, there can be no moral problem with adult elective circumcision. Body modification is a thing, and we are under no illusion that we are made in God’s image or, for that matter evolved to meet our most pressing contemporary needs. Pleasure, absent of procreative correlates, has no evolutionary function, which may thus underachieve on our behalf. Premature ejaculation is no problem as far as procreation and evolution are concerned. Indeed it may be a boon and selected for.


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  • Following on from adult elective body modifications. I find it very telling that elective adult female circumcision is not a thing. Never, ever clitoridectomies.

    A little labioplasty for aesthetics and discomfort seems to be all.

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  • Don’t know what I did to lose my comment on that link but,


    does it mean that orgasms and ejaculation evolved separately?

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  • Olgun

    Evolutionarily, what would be the explanation for men having orgasms only? I suppose it’s possible since that’s what we women have but not very adaptive, is it? Encourages extinction, ha!

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  • Laurie

    In the article it says either or, or both at the same time. I suppose I was going along ‘tantric’ lines and not shooting blanks.

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  • Laurie


    No damning of evolution. Not making myself clear that’s all. Along the lines of nurturing. All fits in my model of evolution at least.


    Not it sure how to take you lately?

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  • Olgun #59

    Laurie can answer for herself, of course, but I simply understood her to be saying that if it’s a choice between a good sex life and evolution getting its way in the most efficient way possible, she’ll go for the good sex life any day.

    I know life is horribly stressful just now, but you’re among friends here – truly.

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  • Marco

    Not sure any more Marco. This feels like it’s been going on for too long now, jumping on my mistakes. I came here to learn and have my mistakes corrected in an intelligent progressive way. I am not afraid to be wrong. Even so, I’ll accept it as being my fault. Onwards and upwards.

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  • Olgun, you’re worrying me. I honestly don’t think anyone’s jumped on you … I don’t even think you’ve made a mistake (not that it would matter even if you had). And I don’t think anything’s happened in this conversation that deserves the term ‘fault’. I honestly think there’ve been some crossed wires, that’s all. It happens. Please don’t feel picked on – you really aren’t being.


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  • Olgun hold on! It’s not you, it’s me!  My mom fell on November 1, broke her hip, had hip replacement surgery and did a two month stint in physical therapy rehab (nursing home). I’ve been on a high stress schedule this whole time. She’s eighty and according to stats she’s in some serious jeopardy of death. Last week she lapsed into a state of dementia and lost much physical strength too. I’m now in a state of panic and starting to face the reality that she might be in the 30% of eighty year olds that just don’t pull out of hip fractures. A nurse mentioned hospice yesterday and I had a total denial reaction. “What?! No way. We’re not in that category yet!” She stared out the window.

    I really thought I was composing myself enough to comment in a neutral fashion but obviously that’s not the case. I’ve been short with you and my negativity is showing. Phil has posted very interesting ideas and videos in the past couple months but I have no time or attention span to contribute.

    Please STOP overthinking this. I really appreciate your contributions and I know we have much in common to talk about having to do with cultural connections that we share. Please carry on and take everything I say with a grain of salt. I do think my challenges will get worse before they get better. I never want to cause you distress. I think it’s been a couple years now that your mom died. This must sound familiar to you.

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  • Laurie


    My heart breaks. Don’t even give this episode another thought. My thoughts and love are with you and your family. Keep strong. There is nothing you are doing that your mum would not be proud of. Find solace in knowing you are doing everything you do for the right reasons to help her. All my best.



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  • Deep sympathy from me too, Laurie. It’s many years now since my mother died, but I remember her decline and the awful sense of helplessness and impending loss in her last few weeks only too well.

    Take care – of yourself as well as her. And remember: you’re among friends here too xx

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  • Laurie.

    Deeply sorry to hear this about your mum. I hope you have good support around you and that you know you’ll find our best endeavors to support from here. The realities of life are what particularly bind us here in a common understanding. I take great consolation in knowing I have kindred spirits over there, up north and around the corner.


    I’ve been very absent with all too brief and unhelpful posts for a while now. Work still looms over me. So apologies for not weighing in on posts of yours I have greatly appreciated.

    It seems to me we are all on the same page on issues of sex. Hurrah for non-reproductive afternoon delight. I am just delighted you supported the idea that we MGM’s may not feel in the least violated, personally. (My anecdotes were way too indelicate.) And this is problematic for generating outrage. You and I might find the intellectual outrage of non-consensual violation, but so many men might not.

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  • I utterly despise religion. I am  as about devout as they come, I have recently however been reading about the Lourdes apparitions.

    Story goes the young Bernadette was observed by a sceptical Dr. Dozous hold a candle flame that licked her fingers/hands for 15 minutes and showed no burn marks.

    In addition, the “vision” apparently revealed herself as the immaculate conception, something that Bernadette had never heard before as per the official investigation into the event.

    Anyone got a rational interpretation on this?



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  • David #69

    My take? Dr Dozous either lied or hallucinated or was simply mistaken.

    Plus – the ‘official’ investigation was carried out by someone with a vested interest (let me guess: the Roman Catholic church, yes?) Just out of interest, how would you go about carrying out an investigation that could reliably conclude that Dead Person X had never heard Religious Phrase Y?

    We can’t prove any of these things, but human error/human bias/human deception are all infinitely more likely than that anyone was ever conceived ‘immaculately’.


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  • 71
    Michael 100 says:

    David #69. Although I’m not an expert on this subject, I have a few thoughts.  As a child, growing up in the 1950s, the stories of Lourdes were a frequent topic of conversation in the catholic school which I attended. I sang the Lourdes hymn so often that the words and melody are still etched into my brain —it’s sadly amazing. I suspect that the legend gained the favor of the church fathers as a reaction to the Age of Enlightenment of the late 1700s. Remember, these so-called apparitions occurred in the 1850s. My understanding is that the French revolutionaries were atheists. Again, without medical expertise, I suspect that Bernadette Soubiroux was probably suffering from schizophrenia or some such mental impairment. I have always considered the “cures” that take place at the shrine, like all “faith healing” to be a combination of fraud and placebo effect. If I remember my history correctly, after the Papal States were taken away from Pius IX, the first Vatican Council announced the doctrine of papal infallibility.   On December 8, 1854, Pio Nono, delivered the doctrine of the immaculate conception, so how convenient that the immaculate conception, herself, appeared to dear sweet Bernadette Soubiroux in 1858.  I don’t know the story of Dr Dozous, but I suspect Marco is correct that the doctor either lied or hallucinated. 

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  • Thanks Marco For your reply.

    The article I was reading says that Bernadette was an ill educated girl and that no priest/parent or teacher ever mentioned the phrase “imaculate conception” to her beforehand. Therefore validating her claims and the alleged apparition

    I know it’s highly likely she’s heard it somewhere, just messing with my mind thats all.

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  • The article I was reading says that Bernadette was an ill educated girl and that no priest/parent or teacher ever mentioned the phrase “imaculate conception” to her beforehand. Therefore validating her claims and the alleged apparition

    But it doesn’t validate them, does it? How could anyone know that no one ever mentioned the phrase ‘immaculate conception’ to her? How could anyone possibly know that? I couldn’t even prove to you that I had never heard a given phrase before, and I’m right here, right now, in flesh and blood. How on earth could anyone prove it of someone else?

    It’s a strange thing with all these ‘how can you possibly explain that’ stories – the claim being made is always infinitely more outlandish than any of the natural explanations that the purveyor of the stories always dismisses as too farfetched to be believed.


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  • Thanks for your replies

    religion has wrecked havoc with my mental health since attending a catholic school, having creationist teachers, and identifying as LGBT hence my devout atheism.

    It’s been a long struggle to untangle all that catholic dogma. Hearing stories like this are set backs I look to avoid with the help of some fresh eyes.

    Cheers folks

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  • It’s a familiar story, David, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live with, I know. Horror stories fed to us when we’re young and defenceless, by people we’ve been taught to trust and believe, go horribly deep and can take an awful long time to shake off. Which is precisely why they do it, of course.

    From what you’ve posted today and also in the past, it does sound as if the remnants of past Catholicism still have quite a hold over you. Do you think it might help if you were to put your Catholic books aside and read something else instead? Richard Dawkins’s A Devil’s Chaplain always strikes me as an excellent introduction to scientific/rational thinking, and highly readable and interesting as well – excellent inoculation against dogma of any kind. Or almost anything by Carl Sagan. Or Christopher Hitchens. And there’s The God Delusion, too, of course, if you haven’t already read it. Or failing that, anything really – anything that isn’t about religion, anything that will fill your mind with other thoughts. History, geopolitics, classical music, car mechanics – whatever.

    The hideous teachings of Catholicism – which really are grotesque, when you think about it – don’t deserve to have a hold over you or anyone else. No one deserves to go through life burdened with terror or guilt. It may be hard, even impossible, to rid yourself of the thoughts altogether, but maybe there are ways of turning the volume down on them, and reducing their power over you? I hope you can find some way forward, David.


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  • Marco

    Thanks for your sincere reply. I genuinely have came a long way and it’s something I don’t shun away from I totally have been a victim of religion. It’s evil. I try however to take a reasoned approach to things, as opposed to being biased I like to attack religion with science and reason.

    I have spent a lot of time and effort doing exactly as you say and educating myself which has been my therapy over the years.

    its like trying to unlearn how to ride a bike I suppose, discussing with like minded people is always a refreshing tonic

    Thanks again Marco



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  • Well, I sincerely wish you all the best for your journey, David. People can be very cruel, and never more so than when their cruelty is being done in the name of some so-called ‘god’. Ultimately it’s all about power, of course: it’s far easier to control someone they can threaten. It really is despicable.

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  • Phil #67


    No problem Phil. You just keep plugging away doing all the good stuff you are doing. My ego shouldn’t get in the way. I am just glad it picked up on something being wrong with Laurie (Marco didn’t. He’s rubbish at this ;)) and she got a little off her chest. Hope it helped in its own way.



    It just seems to me that it wouldn’t take much for me to change from victim to having fingers pointed at me at the swimming pool changing rooms. Looking into the future and seeing that men are now comfortable with having their prostrate checked but there are public information films telling men its ok to have a circumcision if they are suffering health problems. Maybe even a film out, The Last of the Roundheads.

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  • 79
    Michael 100 says:

    David, as a product of catholic schools myself, I can relate to what you say about your mental health. I find it interesting, however, what you say about creationist teachers. I was in catholic high school in the 1950s. My biology class was taught by a religious sister who dressed in a nun’s habit, as all sisters did in those days. The sister had no problem teaching the theory of evolution. One day, one of my classmates asked the sister about the Book of Genesis, and the sister replied: “we’re in biology class now. We’ll talk about the Bible in religion class.”  I think the sisters in those days had the attitude of Father George Coyne, who Professor Dawkins interviewed in a series that can be found on YouTube, and which I recommend if you haven’t already found it. 

    I realized I am an atheist in about 1965. I think there was a large exodus from the church during the late 60s and early 70s.  It must have been that as the more intelligent clergy left, their ranks were filled by the fundamentalist elements of the church.  Others, like George Coyne are able to somehow reconcile science and religion, or maybe he just puts them into separate compartments of his brain. Most of us don’t find that particular compartmentalization either helpful or healthy —let alone real.

    One other memory from the old days. I remember the day a sister, who I think was a professor at the congregation’s college, came to our biology class. She said she had come to tell us about a relatively new discovery of molecules called DNA and RNA.  During her talk she said the discoveries were changing a lot of scientific understandings of life.  The point is that in those days I had no difficulty fully respecting scientific reality. When I realized that religion was based entirely on myth it was easy to let religion go.
    Back to the issue of your mental health, just remember that you are now on terra firma. As professor Krause pointed out in his book The Greatest Story Ever Told, So Far, you probably feel like the denizens of Plato’s cave who emerged from the world of shadows into the world of light.

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  • Micheal 100


    Back to the issue of your mental health, just remember that you are now on terra firma.

    I like that.


    Welcome David


    I still suffer anxiety about cutting my nails at night. I hope the video below helps to put that question thats bothering you into perspective.


    (Great presentation)


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  • 81
    Michael 100 says:

    Ollie, that’s a wonderful YouTube video by David Christian.  Toward the end of his remarks, he mentions how close humanity came to annihilating ourselves during the Cuban missal crisis.  It reminded me of Daniel Ellsberg’s book The Doomsday Machine.  The video is now on my list of videos to watch frequently. In Steven Pinker’s book, Enlightenment Now, Pinker makes a case for the proposition that we as a species are moving away from war.  Although Pinker is clear that history doesn’t move in straight lines, let’s hope that humanity will heed Christian’s and Ellsberg’s warnings and follow the path of the Enlightenment philosophers and keep moving toward a war-free world.  Thanks for the recommendation.

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  • Phil comment 40

    >For me it is a political choice to prioritize FGM over MGM not because they are not equally mutilations and when performed on the non consenting, a moral outrage, but because the huge list of medical and psychological downsides to FGM means it is a genital mutilation battle we can win with near global support, better bringing folk to consider, then tackle MGM. Further, if by insisting the two must be tackled by societies co-equally and we thereby retard the banishment of FGM, we have not done the better thing.
    >Standing on principles is too often virtue signalling when it is rather moral pragma that daily improves us.
    I have sympathy for this view Phil, however I feel it does not do too much harm to point out as Hitchens did in this case the flaw in thinking MGM is okay.  So we could draw an analogy to feminism and equal rights for African Americas in the 1950’s America.  Both parties were being mistreated but I’d argue that African Americans in USA in the 50’s were at risk of lynchings in the South.  So I would agree that priority no. 1 would have been civil rights for African Americans however this is no reason why feminists should not have been complaining then is it?

    The way I look at it is cutting bits off babies is clearly bad unless there is some medical imperative to do so.  Many of the forms of FGM are far more barbaric so yes they should be priority no.1 but no reason not to speak on behalf of the boys.


    In terms of prevention of AIDs with circumcision.  I’ve seen conflicting reports in just how effective it actually is.  One report I saw had the improvement at only a couple of percent, in which case I’d argue you run the risk of setting up a false sense of security.  Condoms are clearly better.  I’m inclined to think circumcision shouldn’t be carried out until closer to sexual maturity if not held off until adulthood.  Any thoughts I’m open to changing my mind,  I haven’t looked at the research in years.





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  • Hi Olgun,

    > I just think there is a balance to be found here and Hitchens, for me, has gone into ‘extreme’ territory which I don’t find very helpful.

    You are of course perfectly entitled to your opinion on this.  I think this was perfect.  It is not extreme to point out that pointlessly removing parts of peoples sexual organs without consent has lead to many tragedies, including, cutting off the penis or end of the penis by accident, Ultra Orthodox rabbis sucking the foreskin off and infecting boys with herpes, server infections and death.  No surgery is without risk, and doing this to babies is unnecessary.  If adults wish to have the procedure done then they can do so as you rightly suggest.  In the case of your sons, my nephew was in a similar boat and had to have the procedure done for medical reasons and this I have zero problem with.  Any balance can be addressed when the boy is a man and can make his own mind up, aware of the risks and possible complications.  I suspect the Jews fear this as very very few would volunteer for the ritual on reaching adulthood.  I too was circumcised and I have no idea how it has effected me,  I can’t remember it, but because for no better reason than fashion at the time I will never have had the choice.

    Now this doesn’t upset me, other than the fact that non-medical circumcision is clearly wrong.  I think we who would stand up for those boys who would if given a choice choose not to have that choice removed from us do not call out nonsense then what do we stand for?  Watch again, and forget Hithens and listen to what the Rabbi said.  “My son cried more at his first hair cut than at his bis”  If that isn’t astonishing dismissal of peoples problems with the practice and pure arrogance I don’t know what is.  Trouble is I think we are acclimatised to it in much the same way that we were acclimatised to homophobia and sexism in the 60-70’s.  Sometimes someone like the Hitch has to be very blunt and very rude to get people to sit up and take some notice.


    forgive me if I seem angry at you,  I’m not, all circumcision makes me mad.  I didn’t always think like this though I’ve said much the same as you on numerous occasions.  I may be becoming unreasonable or biased but just feel it needs to be said.  Cheers

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  • Reckless #82


    The (Chinese) research is now in and clear. Elective male adult circumcision is rational and on average improves sexual experience by delaying ejaculation. There is some evidence that male adult elective circumcision may be a health benefit in some circumstances. There is no hypothesis that FGM does anything except impoverish sexual experience, indeed that is its raison d’etre. Its health and psychological impacts are a litany of potential horrors.


    Adult consent is the vital ingredient here in our campaign against the religious practice of cutting bits off children. Our campaign against FGM is super-charged by the demonstrable catastrophes of its outcomes

    The adult practice of elective circumcision is potentially rational in the case of male circumcision. Using the language of “mutilation” as the universal terminology is divisive and may well fail to win as many men to our otherwise common cause if our move against FGM was made contingent upon it. For females it would be the sign of mental ill-health.

    I am very happy if we don’t hinge our arguments on “naturalness”, that terrible device used by ad agencies. I am very happy that we do bundle up our complaints about religion in these matters and other matters and present them as violations of the rights of children, and the theft of their own right to choose. The horror show of FGM, that ultimate in paternalistic abuse and subjection, all the worse for its co-option of females against females, must go with no possible risk of its delay.

    Other prioitisations would be, say, existential threats like denial of health services. Then would come permanent choice denials like male circumcisions or very early indoctrination of toxic concepts like hell and original sin. Moral utilitarianism demands we make the most progress with our resources.


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  • Olgun #78

    I am just glad it picked up on something being wrong with Laurie (Marco didn’t. He’s rubbish at this ;))

    It’s a fair cop, guv 🙂

    (‘She’, by the way. Just in the interests of transparency.)

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  • Reckless #83

     ……has lead to many tragedies,……


    I was in a hall with over four hundred people waiting for the circumcision boy to turn up from “surgery” years ago when a scream went up as the news filtered through that they had botched it up and cut off the head of his penis. I wasn’t comfortable being there from the start as this was my first, and last, but was more concerned of the fact that these “celebrations” were becoming so commercial and so large. Mixed in with that was my concerns for the right to do this to a six year old but not so much of religion as we Turkish Cypriots were much more secular in those days. It was more a traditional event rather than religious one though, it probably was reinforced by religion. I don’t remember much about how we all left the building as my brain seems to have blocked much of it out.




     Ultra Orthodox rabbis sucking the foreskin off and infecting boys with herpes, server infections and death.

    I try to dismiss all religious connections with events and get back to why these things happen along practical lines. All I could come up with is that at one time, people thought they were passing on protection from the adult to the child through their saliva to prevent infection. Watching animals lick their wounds and even have other members of the group add their saliva might be the factor here? They then had to explain why some got worse rather than better and religion steps in to fill in the gaps in knowledge but, as Alan has already highlighted about aids in SA, circumcision might have been for practical reasons in the first place. I read an article, after Alans prompt, from 2015 on SA townships and circumcision, that I now can’t find again, where the government are encouraging circumcision but have put an age limit on it of eighteen years old. They are also trying to get people to have it done by professionals in the right conditions instead of these wandering circuses. Still, young boys are wandering off having it done illegally because they want the status of “being a man” and ignore the risks.



    No surgery is without risk, and doing this to babies is unnecessary.


    I agree and not condoning a one size fits all policy but haven’t worked out how to get around the problem. Both my sons had to be done although I have to admit that the younger one could possibly have gotten away without it but I had a sudden guilty feeling that they should both be the same and some sort of respect for my parents trying to make up for the fact that I had married an English girl. Fucked up thinking. This might suggest that I too would have had to be done and my father before me and so on. An hereditary thing. If that is the case, then comes the question of when is the best time to do it? I don’t have any trauma from having it done at the age of four so I am glad I got it out of the way. My boys were ten and seven and they seemed to have coped with it well too. I have an English friend who had to have it done in his fifties and he went out on a bike ride the next day (ouch). I don’t know him well enough to ask if it has had any effect on his sex life and how his wife responded to the sudden change. So much to think about.


      Watch again, and forget Hitchens and listen to what the Rabbi said.  “My son cried more at his first hair cut than at his bis”

    I did listen to what the Rabbi said but gave him a point because of Hitchens aggression. How are we quantifying the trauma? I don’t think Hitch was being specific enough. The trauma when things go wrong are at one end of the scale and our lack of trauma at the other. Dawkins is much much better at being precise where it is needed. Religion is nonsense. Lets get on with the science of the rest I say.



      …..I’m not, all circumcision makes me mad.

    I guess I am saying it shouldn’t.

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  • 90
    Michael 100 says:

    Olgun #88.  That looks like a very interesting video.  I’ll watch it when I get home tonight and can pay attention to it.  I have always enjoyed David Attenborough’s work.  By coincidence, there is a story on Huffpost this morning under the headline

    Insects Are Dying En Masse. Here’s Why That’s Actually Horrible.

    Among other things, the story notes:

    Scientists have warned that a human-caused sixth mass extinction is now underway on Earth. Vertebrate species, both on land and under the sea, are threatened at a global scale because of human activities.
    But according to the new review, the proportion of insects in decline is currently twice as high as that of vertebrates and the insect extinction rate is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles.

     Here’s the link to the story:

  • Micheal #90


    Attenborough is such an important part of my life, I find myself mourning his death before the event sometimes.


    I was watching a program on the building of the new sewage system being under London but was alarmed to see that, because of the old system, when there is an overflow, untreated sewage goes directly into the Thames. I had no idea that was still happening. I reported here that last year had been a better year for insects in my garden than the previous two years which were pretty bad. Not up to what I’m used to though. Hope this year is even better but not hopeful after reading your link. My morning coffee in the garden in summer is not the same without them. My garden is quite small so I get to see them pretty close.

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  • Feb 11, 2019 at 6:13 am
    phil rimmer says:

    So HIV risk reduction about 60% from three randomised trials of male circumcision.

    Regardless of other issues, I think it is stupid for all except the most brainless Catholic indoctrinated communities, to promote this as a counter for AIDS WHEN HAVING UNPROTECTED SEX!

    Surely, promoting condom use would be a safer solution, for any group with intelligence!

    Who wants a 40% group still risking spreading  AIDS?

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  • Alan.

    I totally agree if that is promoting this alone.

    But we all know that turning the infection risk/gain down in a feedback system can see the reduction in infection levels.

    We all know that unprotected sex will still happen when there is no corner shop pharmacy.

    We all know that belt and braces has merit. With still appalling death-rates and the innocent affected by the guilty, pulling all the levers has merit.

    Idealism can be the death of the possible. Like the ideal of abstinence only and total fidelity.



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  • Alan


    Do I remember a discussion in which we discovered that in places like townships, free government condoms were controlled by gangs who sold them on pricing some people le out?

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  • Phil,

    Agreed adult circumcision I have no problems with and if the benefits outweigh the risks that’s fine too my problem is with all circumcision on children without medical reason.  I agree that FGM is in most cases more server.  There are different variants – some I believe just nick the hood of the clitoris which I still disagree with but significantly different to remove of the whole clitoris. All of it is barbaric as it is mutilation on a child for religious reasons.  I would likewise reject cutting off a child’s earlobes.  But yes of course most FGM is worse than most MGM but I can chew gum and walk at the same time.

    Alan,  thanks for the data will look into that it’s been some time.  60% is obviously pretty good but I would think condoms would still be significantly better, and as this can be carried out in adulthood then I’d think it’s best left until the person can consent.



    I would suspect that any benefits gained in pre-antibiotic times would be likely outweighed by risk of infection.

    >I did listen to what the Rabbi said but gave him a point because of Hitchens aggression. How are we quantifying the trauma?

    My point in listening to the Rabbi only is to focus on the arrogance of his statement.  I can accept you have an issue with how Hitch responded so take him out the equation and imagine he said that to you.  He is literally diminishing the suffering of males babies and any further complications and minimising it but suggesting the procedure is on par with having your hair cut.  Forget Hitchens response, what would you think about it being brushed off.  Boys having the heads of their penises cut off, boys getting STDs at 8 days old for a religious observance and he minimises these harms by claiming his son cried more getting his first hair cut?

    I acknowledge you are not defending circumcision, perhaps I’m over reacting, I’m outraged that religion allows these harms to happen to babies for me its one of those things that illustrates just how much we’ll let go by the goal keeper in the name of religion.  Here in Australia we only just had the first conviction, only to have it overturned because in-spite of the fact that this woman did cut her two daughters (nicked the clitoris) as it healed the conviction was overturned!!!  Now touch a girls clitoris and if it is established you actually did this you will go to jail but apparently cut a girls clitoris and as long as it heals that’s just fine!  The religious are getting a free pass for abusing their children.



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  • 96
    Michael 100 says:

    Olgun #88 ,  as I suspected, the Attenborough video was as beautiful as it was informative. For a few years, when I was much younger, I managed some colonies of honey bees, so I have respect for insect intelligence. Each individual may only respond to chemical stimulation —at least as far as we know— but collectively, the colony is a living organism that seems to be greater than the sum of the individuals. In any event, thanks for the tip.

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  • Reckless #95

    I get your point about the Rabi Reckless. He sounds just like you describe him. I just want to get to the real issue and ask are we winning the fight? The case in Australia was the prosecutions fault. They picked the wrong case to make the point.


    Inthink we we are all saying the same thing here. Just differ on how to deal with. I applaud the SA government for using tradition to solve the problem whilst giving out condoms at the same time. Female condoms too but the gangs are making that route difficult (if memory serves me right). If we don’t do it scientifically it leaves gaps for religion to jump in. It’s tantamount to the pope banning condoms.

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  • Micheal #96

    Saw two beautiful robins building a nest in a Jasmin I have up against the house at the back door. Just watched them for a second but one of them spotted me. Read that they move their nest if they are discovered. They seem to have gone. Clever little things.

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  • I see the level of religious delusional ignorant bigotry in parts of the USA, reached new heights!

    Mississippi officially made talking about Richard Dawkins, the famed atheist and biologist,  to minors illegal.

    Bill A.C.A. 5-71-226, otherwise known as the Anti-Youth Subversion Act, passed both houses of the legislature by an overwhelming margin. It was signed into law by Governor Andrew Canard. Governor Canard praised the bill, and stated that he hoped that it would serve as an example for other states to emulate:

    Today we struck a blow for religious freedom in the great state of Mississippi. For too long our children have been unprotected against the nefarious teachings of Richard Dawkins.

    Poetically, the governors signing the bill is named “Canard” so those who are well educated will know Canard is French for duck, which in cricketing terms, looks like his score for competence in office!


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  • 103
    Michael 100 says:

    Olgun #100  Robins are nice birds.  They are plentiful in the part of the country where I live – mid west United States.  What amazes me is that they do not fly south in the winter.  Even in -16 c weather, as we are having now, the birds are still here.  How they survive is beyond me, but they do.  We also have a lot of cardinals which also spend the winter with us.

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  • Hi Olgun,


    >I just want to get to the real issue and ask are we winning the fight? The case in Australia was the prosecutions fault. They picked the wrong case to make the point.


    First I pretty much agree with your other points so I don’t think there is that much room between our positions.

    Onto your points above.  ‘Are we winning the fight.’

    I’d say its barely started.  FGM has been a problem in this country for some time and in spite of it occasionally being raised as doctors reporting seeing evidence when dealing with children who have had it done to them and claiming it is a problem in the Muslim community and yet this is the very first attempt at a conviction.  This is saying essentially that religion gets a free pass.  If we look at this from a comparative harm standpoint this is an astonishing fact.  I personally know of two former colleges of mind charged with sex crimes with a minor, one was a blow job given to a 15 year old boy by a female staff member and another was a teacher sending a dick pict to a student.  I mean not to minimise the confusion and abuse that these acts were but both were prosecuted immediately both teacher we quickly removed (withing minutes of the principle becoming aware) the teacher was removed from the school having not even allowed to pack their desk until after students had left.  All of this is right an good.  And yet in this same country, a parent can have their daughters clitoris actually cut (in some cases cut off) and there has has only been one prosecution.  So  I would say we have barely begun to fight for justice for these children and any victory will only be able to be compared when this has reached sufficient volume that the public are as outraged as I am.  There are very few voices in the media and this gets almost zero attention except on sites like this.

    “The case in Australia was the prosecutions fault. They picked the wrong case to make the point.”

    So let’s be clear they had evidence that the girl has been cut (at least in the newspaper I relied on for the information – reasonably reliable but still).  This was not in dispute (as I understand it).  What caused the acquittal was there was no long lasting damage.  So back to my comparison, would you rather someone subjected you to a picture of their dick or they cut your penis with a razor?  One crime gets you charged with a sex crime one gets you acquitted because in the  case of the girl in question her clitoris healed. Now if some pervert (even a parent) touched their daughters clitoris for sexual gratification they will be charged with a sex crime and the child will be taken into care of the state or send to a relative, the offending parent will be facing jail time and end up on the sex register.  If the same girl has her genitals touched in the act of cutting them for a religious ritual so long as there is no lasting damage then that is okay apparently.  No the SA case should have been a slam dunk.  Putting a knife to any child’s genitals for anything other than medical reasons by a qualified person should be considered a serious assault – even if it heals.  It wasn’t that they picked the wrong case to make a point, they weren’t making a point they were prosecuting an assault. They were doing their job for the first time in this type of case. That the legal system is so screwed up that it did not convict on the evidence is just evidence that our legal system leaves a lot to be desired.

    In short both FGM (especially FGM) and MGM should be illegal on children for anything other than medical grounds.  Any adult who would prefer to have their foreskin off or their clitoris removed is perfectly able to organise that for themselves and if they wish to do so without anaesthetic with a Rabbi sucking the foreskin off is perfectly able to subject themselves to that ritual on their 18th birthday.  Before that no.  The law should clarify this position clearly and unambiguously.







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  • Sorry Reckless. It’s meant to be one link. Outside U.K. must need a sign up?



    Long links make most of the screen disappear on iPhone so you can’t see the post comment button. I tried to split the link to Reckless hence the problem.

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  • Only here Mods. Since the new format. I seem to remember another site that had the same problem and it was just a rap-around instruction needed. That’s how they described it anyway.

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  • Olgun says:



    I see the issue of FGM is to be addressed in English school sex education.
    Secondary school pupils in England will be taught about the dangers of female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2020.
    The new guidelines, to be announced on Monday, form part of the introduction of compulsory relationships and sex education classes in secondary schools.

    The new guidance says secondary schools should address the physical and emotional damage caused by FGM.

    The practice was outlawed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2003 and in Scotland in 2005.

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  • Hi Olgun

    I’m doing relatively better.

    I’ve accepted certain inevitabilities having to do with my mom. I got her into the best place I could find and I’ll be dropping some serious cash on a lawyer who will take over fighting insurance payments and terrible taxation terror. I feel better now. Not completely better though. I’m still reading here as usual. Thanks for the support. Carry on!


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  • Phil,

    It’s interesting really. I had a meeting with a palliative care/hospice psychologist the other day. I noticed that he prompted me express feelings about the current medical decline of my mom. I did say all the usual things he must hear every day in his job but for the rest of that hour I edged the conversation over to –

    This is why we can have nicer things, wonderful even…

    …and how people in the evolutionary sciences deal with long expanses of time in our hypothesizing, theorizing and speculating. It can take some practice to really become proficient with these vast expanses of time.

    An understanding of the infinite life forms that exist in our world now and in the very long history of this world is mind boggling and overwhelming. That all of those living things came into existence, struggled to stay alive, managed to reproduce, and then in the end, expired, leaving behind the next generation to do the best they can to carry on, isn’t this the most mind wrenching emotional story ever told?

    I now wonder if I may have thrown the poor psychologist into an existential crisis. As he was going along the front walkway toward his car I added, “There’s nobody like the evolutionary science bunch to really walk right up to the stark reality of death and look it straight in the eye!”

    Errr. ok. I may have hit the guy with too much information. We have another meeting today so let’s see if he shows up. 😀 If he does, I’ll assure him that although I do go into grief situations with no fluffy fairy stories to ease me through, I do carry in my mind at all times:


    There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.


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  • It is often said by people of reason that Evolution is true and proven, which it is to say: That the processes have been well studied, tested and verified, which they are. But what about whether they are the deepest insight into nature?

    Something inside of me often reminds me that there is always a likelihood of a deeper understanding that, while producing the same measured results as our current understanding, provides deeper insights.

    By deeper insights I am always drawn to the case of classical mechanics, which does at relatively slow speeds provide an almost perfect experimental verification of Newtons laws. Newtons laws did appear complete, that is to say, nothing told the 17-19th century physicist that a deeper understanding existed beneath the surface and was to be waiting to be discovered. yet it was.

    On evolution, why are evolution biologist and modern philosophers or reason so quick to dismiss the existence of a missing deeper understanding. For example, we do not know whether the survival of the fittest principle is the only driver to evolution, perhaps it is. It certainly experimentally is a significant driver to evolution, but there is no proof that it is the only driver. We don’t know if the evolution path to the eye was directed by some deeper principle, or resulted from biased accidents alone.

    I think that people need to more careful when they claim the “evolution is settled”. What we we think of as evolution may be the earlier equivalent case to classical mechanics, that is experimentally accurate, full of relevant and valid insights, but incomplete.

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  • Olgun, #108

    The website manager is going to look into it, but in the meantime he’s suggested a workaround that should do the trick for you:

    Rather than paste the link directly into your comment, create a hyperlink on one of the words in your comment: like this, which, if you click on it, will take you to your link from comment 106.

    To do this, simply highlight the word you want to create the hyperlink for, click on the Insert/Edit Link icon above the comment box (3rd icon from the right) and paste the URL you want to link to in the box that then appears. Then click on Apply.

    To the right of the box where you paste in your URL, you’ll see a cog icon – clicking this brings up the Settings and enables you to select ‘Open link in new tab’, which avoids people navigating away from the page when following your link.

    Hope that helps.

    The mods

  • Laurie,

    Heh!  The guy has to learn. It seems here is poetry like none he’s heard before.

    Our story has no trite and tedious happily ever after. It is a Magical Mystery Tour, a real adventure, especially now we are in fast track mode with our new cultural cortex evolving and our brains nearly unwired at our beginning, a universe with choices and change like never before.

    That Dawkins, however, can write!




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  • Jonathan Pfeffer  #119

    On evolution, why are evolution biologist and modern philosophers or reason so quick to dismiss the existence of a missing deeper understanding. For example, we do not know whether the survival of the fittest principle is the only driver to evolution, perhaps it is. It certainly experimentally is a significant driver to evolution, but there is no proof that it is the only driver.


    Jonathan,  if that caricature is your current level of understanding of the field of Evolution Science,  I think with respect it is you who are in need of deeper insight here,  before you demand it of others.

    Rest assured, reputable scientists will always follow the evidence, wherever it leads.

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  • Hi Jonathan,


    Thanks for dropping by and offering your thoughts. Hope you stay and chat a little. Its an interesting question/proposition.


    First, I would suggest that evolution in its broadest terms is undoubtedly true. The principle of Common Descent is the least likely to be subverted and the fact that most evolutionary progress is entirely consistent with Darwinian Evolution involving a natural selective pressure on very slightly mutating replicators. However that is not the totality of evolutionary process. Life possible saw early evolution in a mode called RNA World where there were no neat replicators parceled  consistently up in little fatty bags, but raw, raggy replicators little fragments and huge globby masses with little likelihood of self similarity in bulk a few generations later.

    In related process even now we see processes like horizontal gene transfer when DNA can migrate laterally between cells. Entirely non-Darwinian, but consistent with the expectation of common descent.

    Only recently we have discovered Epigenetics a means by which genes may be passed on but their activation may or may not be, in a sub heritable process, lasting a generation or two. This looks like a junior version on Lamarkian Evolution. A child badly abused and neglected between 2 and 10 say, will develop a defensive psychopathic personality due to the bath of cortisol in which its brain developed. Her off spring will often have a degree of this trait also.

    One huge evolutionary trait was decidedly non-Darwinian involving ingestion (invagination!) of one simple cell by another. This gave rise to complex differentiated cells that could function together in a body (of a plant or animal). One prokaryote dell ate another without digesting it, eventually becoming a complex Eukaryote cell. This was hugely unlikely  and for survival after invagination needed huge surpluses of food to sustain the new fatty Prokaryote while evolution paired down all the duplicated machinery. Simple life started quite quickly, but complex life needed much more time especially for svelt low energy eukaryotes to evolve to facilitate the Cambrian explosion.


    I suspect no geneticists believe they know anything like the totality of evolutionary processes.  If you are looking for interesting deep processes that have helped shape our evolutionary trajectory. I suggest Andreas Wagner’s Arrival of the Fittest. This reveals the work of his Zurich research team. They have found that the solution space for functional proteins (the little nano-machines that DNA actually make) is a millionfold richer in its useful proteins than we thought and even more remarkably these are arranged across the entire solution space in patterned ways that  make them easy to stumble across and maintain function in pleitropic (multifunction) genes whilst one function evolves usefully.

    If it is intelligent design you hanker after, this is not a negatable (scientific) hypothesis. You cannot exclude evolutionary trajectories at different times unknown to us that left vestigial traits that could be later co-opted together in ways that cannot be explained by a single evolutionary path. ID is unscientific and cannot be researched. We have to await the discovery of “rabbits in the pre-Canbrian”. None have been found to date, nor any attribute that cannot have an evolutionary account formed from known processes.

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  • Feb 25, 2019 at 11:15 am
    Jonathan Pfeffer says:

    On evolution, why are evolution biologist and modern philosophers or reason so quick to dismiss the existence of a missing deeper understanding.

    I think with a bit of study you will find that the FACT that evolutions is happening all the time in all the ecosystems of the world – IS settled!  The particular details of various species iare covered by scientific theories.

    For example, we do not know whether the survival of the fittest principle is the only driver to evolution, perhaps it is. It certainly experimentally is a significant driver to evolution, but there is no proof that it is the only driver.

    Some further study will identify the main well known mechanisms which drive evolutionary processes.

    Fundamental to the process is genetic variation upon which selective forces can act in order for evolution to occur. This section examines the mechanisms of evolution focusing on:

    Descent and the genetic differences that are heritable and passed on to the next generation;
    Mutation, migration (gene flow), genetic drift, and natural selection as mechanisms of change;
    The importance of genetic variation;
    The random nature of genetic drift and the effects of a reduction in genetic variation;
    How variation, differential reproduction, and heredity result in evolution by natural selection; and
    How different species can affect each other’s evolution through coevolution.

    As far as thousands of working biologists who publish their results in the world’s top scientific journals are concerned, they are researching the details of HOW evolution works in biology and genetics, NOT IF it works.

  • Olgun,


    Thanks for the addition good news,

    LaurieB,  I’d like to add my well wishes to you also, sorry you’ve been having a tough time by the sounds of it.

    To everyone, Cardinal Pell has been convicted of his charged for paedophilia and now is in jail.  A long time coming.  For anyone interested in the sorry saga the excellent Australian Broadcasting Commission program 4 corners will be covering it new Monday (Australia Monday of course) after that it should be available on Iview but it will probably end up on you tube ABC (Australia) doesn’t seem particularly interesting in pulling their own content off you tube.


    I agree with what Phil says above, but I’d add that even horizontal gene transfer and genetics requires that the genes that get passed on are in existence before they are passed on horizontally as often happens with bacteria. Of course genes mutate and this doesn’t require survival of the fittest but to populate themselves across a population they need to get into other members of the species.  Hence even these would be subject to evolutionary pressures.  If a bacteria develops a gene that is harmful then cross transfer of that harmful gene will harm it and any bacteria it shared it with.  Of course a look at the Selfish Gene will give you the concept that the genes exist in their own right and are competing and cooperating for survival within an organism by way of that organisms survival.

    I for one find evolution through natural selection an extremely elegant although brutal idea.  However I like most here I think would happily accept any reasonable modification or upheaval should it be demonstrated.  How do you fell about other well tested theories, the Earth being round, gravity etc.  Of course as is the case of gravity it is not fully understood but when you can use the calculations to send voyager to Jupiter and after months have it arrive within 74 km of the planned destination then you know you must be onto something right?  I’m wondering why you worry about the eye?  Every other part of an organism has been subjected to similar assaults from nature.  Why it is always the eye?  Skin is pretty remarkable too as is the liver, mantis shrimp claws that vaporise the water in front of their strike they are so fast.  Anyway a good thought but evolution through natural selection is very parsimonious.  That’s probably why it sticks.

    I remember hearing Carl Sagans first wife Lynn Margulis arguing that horizontal gene transfer was more dominant than was accepted and most (including Richard Dawkins) were prepared to accept it played a big part in micro-organisms but there was no good evidence for this being significant in multicultural organisms.  Or at least she didn’t bring any to the table that was terribly convincing beyond micro-organisms.  But it was a lively but respectful debate.  Other ideas are out there there just isn’t the evidence yet for some other mechanism other than those discussed being as significant.

    Phil and Alan might want to check my thinking here as they are both far better read on this than I.  But these would be my thoughts for what they are worth.





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  • Laurie #116


    Good to hear. Logic sees us through. Needs must. To see my eldest sister praying for help while my middle sister and me got on with the job of making our mum comfortable. Nearly every nurse commented on how well we were looking after her. Some poor sods had no one. It seems to have brought a closeness from my children towards their dad that I never had before. We all kept others in touch through WhatsApp the whole time. Helped the whole family chip in when they could.

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