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Cancer and the inevitability of human suffering

23 January 2015


From the Revd Professor Alasdair Coles

Sir, - Canon Angela Tilby is right ("Carrying the cost of freedom", 9 January) to feel liberated by the fact that most cancers cannot be attributed to genetics or lifestyle. It is bad enough to have cancer, let alone be made to feel guilty that it was caused by our choices.

But she is wrong to think that there is no reason for cancers to exist. They - like many diseases - arise through random genetic mutations, interacting with environmental insults. The same mechanism underlies evolution, the means by which our Creator chose to create us. So God mandates disease and disability to be the necessary consequences of human existence.

At the heart of the process by which we are made in the image of God is suffering.

Alasdair Coles
Professor or Neuroimmunology in the University of Cambridge
Department of Neurology
Box 165, Addenbrooke's Hospital
Cambridge CB2 2QQ

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