The recent shift on how both the scientific community and the press relate to cancer is just another proof that we are currently undergoing a subtle change in the way we understand the world.

Yes, we continue to be fascinated with the notion of ‘the primordial cause’ and to go way out into the improbable in search for that cause while we still tend to ‘forget’ – or even actively chose to neglect – that most things, cancer included, usually are the result of a string of events and not of a single occurrence. Identifying only one event in that string as ‘the cause’ is rather ‘dense’, don’t you think?

Yet, despite of all of the above, this development has a bright silver lining. For the third time in the history of science and for the first in the history of popular media lady luck is being presented as a valid scientific explanation of anything. This very fact is a huge step towards a new understanding of how vast the world really is and of what we, mere human beings, might or might not be able to do/understand in/of it.

The first two instances when this has happened – Charles Darwin mentioning the role of hazard in biological evolution and Schrodinger using his famous cat to explain the intricacies of subatomic physics – the general public (and a considerable portion of the scientific community) somehow managed to avoid grasping the huge importance of hazard in nature and, frightened, found solace in the welcoming arms of God.

This is the first time, in my knowledge anyway, that God was not mentioned, yet, in connection with such an important subject for us all.

Good news, isn’t it?

For those who want to find out more about chance and cancer these two recent articles are a good starting point into the matter:

“Majority of cancers occur because of random mutations…” offers a succinct presentation of the development while
“Are two thirds of cancers really due to bad luck” brings welcome clarifications on the limits of the scientific method – statistical analysis – used by the authors of the original study.