On the Progress of Curing and Preventing Cancer: The Need for More Philosophy

This, my first blog post, is my submission for the Rhio O’Connor Essay Scholarship Competition. As mentioned in the “About David” section of this site, I am interested in the application of philosophy in all intellectual and scholarly disciplines, especially, when there is some additional scientific nuance. Such is the case in dealing with cancer theory and cancer research methodology. Unfortunately, due to length constraints, I could not go into nearly the particulars that I would have liked to, so my thoughts on topics like the application of the Quine-Duhem Thesis on pharmaceutical research must be left aside for another paper.

Another discussion worthy of this paper is cancer genomics. I have a hard time seeing what will truly be achieved by this, other than more pharmaceuticals, and maybe that’s the plan. The problem is that there seems to be little chance of establishing what is causing errors in DNA replication, when dealing with cataloging the subsequent errors in code. I fully admit that my knowledge is probably not nuanced enough on the topic, and, given that I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with someone researching in the field of cancer genomics, to see how he or she might have responded to philosophical enquiries into the purposes of the project, I omitted this from the paper. However, I do believe my knowledge of molecular biology, and so forth, are adequate to deal with the subject; I simply wasn’t sure to what degree my thoughts held weight, so cancer genomics were not discussed in the paper. I also wanted to comment on the possible philosophical view of human organism as integrated with its external environment, which is to say that the boundary of the flesh is an artificial one, but, again, space did not permit. An important note: Any additional philosophical speculation on the theory of cancer, beyond what was provided as an example in the concluding paragraph, would have been beyond the scope of the paper. Overall, my primary intention was to illustrate how a much more adaptable form of thinking, as manifested by philosophy, could yield positive results in the curing and prevention of cancer.

I would like to thank Jacqueline Taylor for editing the paper, and Dr. Judith Taylor M.D., oncologist and hospice specialist, for the discussion on related topics.  Any remaining errors, in terms of editing and content, within the body of the paper are mine.

I was able to keep the essay to 1,500 words, not counting the in-text citations. Please feel free to submit feedback via email or in the comments section.

On the Progress of Curing and Preventing Cancer: The Need for More Philosophy

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Filed under Philosophy of Science, Popular Science

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