George Johnson, Inquiring Minds, Cancer, Evolution

I keep coming back to this episode of Inquiring Minds. Over and over. So I’m going to backdate post it on the blog,

Yale Rosen/Flickr (Wikimedia

In the book, Johnson cites a stunning estimate by MIT cancer researcher Robert Weinberg: About 4 million of our body’s cells are dividing and copying their DNA every second of every day. With every replication, there is a potential for mistakes, and a risk of developing cancer. Thankfully, we’ve evolved solutions to rogue errors, and our bodies can repair or destroy precancerous cells the vast majority of the time. Yet the risk can never be zero, because without this process of cell division and regeneration, we would quickly cease to live.

In fact, without the capacity for cellular mutation and the ability to pass on reformatted DNA to our offspring, our species would not have been capable of evolving. We wouldn’t be who we are today. “There’s something unfortunately natural about cancer,” explains Johnson. “It’s a natural tradeoff of evolution.”

To paraphrase a quote from this episode, If you live long enough you will eventually get cancer. The errors in cell replication that lead to cancer are the same errors that allow for genetic diversity. We get cancer because evolution occurs even within our own bodies, and most evolution produces bad outcomes. Cancer is definitely not the result of poor diet or GMO foods.

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