Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 30: Nov-Dec 1983

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Cancer: the price for higher life?

For unknown reasons, plants and the simpler animals, such as sponges and jellyfish, do not get cancer. But all laterally symmetric organisms are prone to cancer. According to James Graham, the acquisition of cancer-initiating onco-genes by organisms (also an unexplained event) has forced these afflicted organ-isms to develop all sorts of defenses against external forces which might, with the help of the oncogenes, trigger cancer.

Typical biological defenses include systems to insure accurate replication of cells, to destroy transformed cells, and to protect or immunize the organism against invading systems. Efficient im-mune systems in turn permitted life to invade mutagenic environments (such as sunlight) and to shed restrictive body coverings. In other words, cancer may have been a blessing in disguise -- the price of higher life|

(Anonymous; "Cancer: The Price for Higher Life?" New Scientist, 99:766, 1983.)

Comment. Note how easy it is for us to say "developed" this or that characteristic in response to some applied force. Exactly how such responses are made is a major mystery. And why do oncogenes exist? Are they a product of chance? They hardly confer short-term survival capability.

Reference. The existence and insidious-ness of cancer pose many questions. These are broached in BHH23-35 in our catalog: Biological Anomalies: Humans II. To order, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #30, NOV-DEC 1983. 1983-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987