Sunday, June 29, 2014


Long time no see...
Well, it's been a while since my announcement that I wanted to start this blog series, and I must admit, I've been rather busy and unable to sit down and dedicate any time to it. Not to mention I haven't written anything this month, and I've been aching to. I will begin the series by talking about "ad antiquitam," or appeal to antiquity, because it's rather easy to tackle, and because it's quite possibly the logical fallacy most often used when defending the practice of the forced genital cutting of either sex.

AKA: "Because it's old"
Ad antiquitam is the fallacy of appealing to antiquity, culture, and/or tradition. It assumes that a belief or an assertion must be automatically correct by mere virtue of age. "It's always been done this way," the old refrain goes. "My father, his father, and his father did it." Simply put, it's nothing more than a habit with no real decision making process. Capitalizing on comfort in the familiar, it is a philosophy at best, which is often embellished by talk of continuity.
This is the way is always been done, and this is the way we'll continue to do it.

The practice of circumcision long precedes any attempt to scientifically "study" its so-called "medical benefits." In fact, it seems no discussion about circumcision "research" and "scientific discoveries" is complete without an obligatory reference to the antiquity of the practice, be it the fact that it is commanded to Jews in the biblical book of Genesis, or the fact that the practice predates Judaism, being depicted on ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, as if the antiquity of the practice were of any relevance. 

We've all seen this image before...

The age of a belief may attest to experience, but it has no relevance to its truth. It is fallacious to assume that something is "better" or "correct" merely because it is old. Progress is defined by replacing the older with the better. The fact that a belief may be thousands of years old does not automatically make it correct. Old values aren't necessarily "the right ones." And yet, the fallacy prevails, and interested individuals and parties continue to appeal to it.

Slavery too has been around since the time of the Egyptians.
Child labor was practiced into the 20th century in this country.

Women used to not be able to vote.

Traditionally, women are subservient to men.

In older Asian culture, women walk several paces behind their husbands.
Of course, female circumcision is also several thousands of years old, and it's a very important custom to different tribes in Africa, as well as Muslim sects in South East Asia, but for whatever reason ad antiquitam is not a valid argument here.

In Indonesia, an infant girl undergoes "sunat" to fulfill religious and cultural tradition.

Not too far away, an infant boy undergoes circumcision for precisely the same reasons.
(Notice the mother: "Shh! Quiet!")

And there are other instances where ad antiquitam doesn't work.

A father slashes his child's head for the Holy Day of Ashura
Child marriage in India
 Ritual scarification

In short, ad antiquitam ultimately fails as an argument for male infant circumcision, which is why circumcision advocates who appeal to age and tradition must ultimately fall back on arguments of "potential medical benefits." Attempting to make arguments sound legit by dressing them up in pseudo-science is yet another form of logical fallacy, but that's a topic for another blog post.

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