Cancer is a sexually transmitted disease.
Well, not entirely, but much, and perhaps most cancer, it seems, is a symptom of sexually transmitted disease.
We know this is true of cervical cancer. We even have a vaccine against the virus that leads to (the vast majority of cases) of cervical cancer.
But not just cervical cancer. The same virus that causes cervical cancer is also suspect to being responsible for many cases of throat and stomach cancer (through oral sex), and some cases of breast cancer.
What happens is that a virus enters a healthy cell. This is a virus that has found a way to divide by causing the cell it infects to divide and to then divide with the host cell. It does this by altering the genes of the cell it infects to create a string of mutations that lead to unrestrained cell division – thus, to cancer.
I learned about these facts in watching an episode of a series of lectures from Stanford University on Darwin's Legacy. (See: Darwin's Legacy: Lecture 8.
One of the speakers was Dr. Paul Ewald. He argued in his presentation that 20% of known cancers are caused by sexually transmitted viruses. Much (most? all?) of the remaining 80% are also caused by viruses – we simply do not know yet. We have no better explanation as to how a cell can undergo the specific set of changes responsible for becoming a cancer without undergoing other changes that would be fatal (though lung cancer from cigarette cancer and radiation-induced cancers suggest it is possible).
Still, we have reason to believe that many if not most people who get cancer has acquired a sexually transmitted disease that has the capacity to mutate cells to bring about unrestrained replication.
I wrote in my last post that it is possible to make a conservative argument without being either a half-wit or a self-serving demagogue. This fact about cancer (added to facts about other sexually transmitted diseases) suggests a line of reasoning that can be used to defend a conservative position on issues of sexual morality.
One of the ways to prevent the spread of a disease is to cause people to have an aversion to those activities that lead to the spread of the disease. We use our tools of praise and condemnation to get people to wash their hands and to take other precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. If there are activities going on in society that lead to the spread of those diseases, the government steps in. It closes schools and mass transit systems, closes the bath houses in San Francisco. It requires that certain health standards be met and closes down any business that is conducted in a way that contributes to the spread of the disease.
The worse the disease, the stronger the steps that are taken, both in terms of government action and in terms of moral condemnation, to inhibit behavior that leads to the spread of the disease.
One class of behavior that contributes to the spread of some of worst diseases is sexual behavior. The cancer research above tells us that it contributes to the spread of even more and more dangerous diseases than we thought. So, it follows that there is legitimate reason to use moral condemnation and legal sanction against activities that tend to promote the spread of disease. This would include prostitution, pornography, adultery, and promiscuity.
The sexual drive is a primal drive – there is no chance that we can eliminate it. However, we can mold it by encasing it in a larger web of desires that can affect how people act on their sexual desires. If we hold monogamous lifelong relationships up to be the ideal – praising those who enter into those relationships and condemning those who do not – then one effect of this will be to do a better job of containing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases including cancer.
On this matter, it is possible to criticize liberal views and the types of activities that liberals tend to allow for sending a mixed message to children. If children heard a consistent message of condemnation of prostitution, pornography, adultery, and promiscuity, then they would adopt stronger aversions to it. Every time a child encounters a message of moral acceptance for these activities, he acquires less of an aversion. This means a greater chance of engaging in these types of activities and a greater chance of contributing to the health problems that arise from these activities.
I do not know how far it is possible to carry this argument. However, it is not relevant to the point that I make here. I would like to hear competent and honest conservatives advance this argument as a way of contributing to the public debate. There is a position here that ought not to be ignored. Even if it is wrong, it is not obviously wrong. It is not a view of half-wits and self-promoting demagogues.
However, modern-day Republicans have shown such a massive disregard for truth, honest, and intellectual integrity that they have simply destroyed their credibility. They no longer have the ability to carry these arguments very far because their tolerance of everything from outright deception to torture shows that they do not have enough moral character to be trusted.
The result is that we are not debating issues that actually deserve some serious social debate.