Looking at biological systems as collections of organisms that work together is a far more useful and revealing lens than is assuming organisms are defined by nucleic DNA and the epigenetic relationships that orbit that core. For instance, our microbiome is a collection of organisms that live in and on us. They are a necessary part of what we need to function. Some of these specialize in acting as part of an immune response, destroying or keeping in check pathogens that might disrupt the community of relationships we depend on. With this larger “biological relationship economy” lens in mind, we can see that viral and bacterial organisms can act as part of our metabolism process, bringing nourishment, and as part of an immune response.
If this wider relationship economy lens is unpacked further, we can see that some forms of cancer may be the result of another collection of organisms that is attempting to defend its integrity. To illustrate, certain strains of the flu are caused by a virus that naturally grows in duck’s throats and is part of their microbiome. This virus attacks us by way of those who butcher ducks getting infected. This may be a type of cross-species immune response where the bacteria is attempting to act as a defender of the biological ecosystem system that it is part of.
Ecosystems can be thought of as biological bodies that extend beyond species and include groups of species and the environment they interact with. There are plenty of these cross-species integrated systems that are collectively aligned around the principle of both establishing mutual coherent integrity and the defense of that integrity by various means.
This “nourish and or defend coherence in the context of the environment” behavioral economy is the axiom on which every coherent organism within and entire ecosystems are based. The behavioral tax that must be paid toward defense is part of the process of coherent biological systems and happens on many levels. When humans are at the receiving end of defensive acts we experience it as a disease.
The array of behaviors in cancer, when taken as a whole, looks like something is deliberately trying to destroy our biological systems in a number of ways with a certain “understanding” or behavioral inclinations aimed at how to make that destruction happen. This principle is no different than when our natural killer cells, which are part of our native immune system, seek out harmful cells in our body and destroy them.
In other words; cancer may be due to our biological system being perceived as a pathogen in relation to another biological system – a collection of organisms that forms a collective body of nourishment and defense – that has sent out destructive agents the same way we produce various defensive immune response agents. Perhaps these defense vectors are in the form of transposons or viral packets, or bacteria suited with certain mechanisms, etc. which turn our native systems against themselves in order to protect the integrity of the system in which those defensive vectors (organisms, viruses, etc.) natively participate.
There are many kinds of cancer. Some may be a result of reversion theory, where our cells are thought to revert to unicellular forms when under prolonged attack but some other forms take on a far more sinister strategic approach to disrupting the systems we depend on for coherence that it makes me wonder if something is recognizing us as a pathogen and taking active defensive action to mitigate that destructive agency.
Of course, this is all speculation. I do know that biological systems are aligned around two foundational strategies, one, to establish coherence, and two, to defend that integrity against antagonists. If we were not blinded by looking at individual organisms and viral elements as separate biological entities, rather than parts of an integrated ecological network of interconnected organisms and environments that are collectively parts of the same body, we would be able to see the sources of disease. In other words, we may be the cause of our own disease because we fail to recognize how to play mutualistically in the broader social biological community.
Here’s an example of interspecies transmission of destructive agents that may be constructive in another biological relationship system context: