‘Round, ‘Round, Get Around

Let’s have a look at correlation vs. causation.

What, that doesn’t sound like much fun? How about if the underlying subject is sex?

Yeah, I thought that’d do it.

Research from the University of Montreal has observed that men who have had sex with more than 20 women have a greatly reduced risk of developing prostate cancer. The likelihood drops by almost one third(!), and they are 19% less likely to develop the most aggressive form of the cancer.

Let me head off a great number of issues right away, some of which will occur to some readers as we go, since information of this kind tends to inspire people to  not look directly at the facts. This is about straight men, and gay men were found to not benefit in the same statistic for various reasons. Complete monogamy can in theory also achieve a similar benefit, but the history did not bear this out as statistically likely. Dodging or casting aspersions on the source counts as being completely pathetic. I shall assume you can avoid the most egregious logical fallacies.

Got it? As the man said in Star Wars: Stay on target!

Right, then. Let us take as true that, as a statistic (and statistic probability is what cancer is actually all about, from worldwide population trends down to the cellular level), sex with more than 20 women enormously reduces the likelihood of prostate cancer. Why should this be the case? This is where correlation and causation come into play.

Correlation is a mutual relationship, connection, or interdependence between two or more things. That is, there is something which relates them in some functional way, but one may or may not be the cause of the other. If we assume not, what could be their relationship?

One theory put forward is that men with a mental, hormonal, or lifestyle predisposition to having many sexual partners are more likely to have higher resistance to things like cancer in the first place. Admittedly, this was suggested by unscientific sources and was not noted in the study, but it does sound reasonable.

Causation is the subset of correlation in which one effect is in some way a cause of another. We already know that frequent sex does serious good to a prostate, so causative theories suggest themselves.

Most obviously, more lovers could well yield much more sex than monogamy. Men who move on when a woman becomes disinterested – or who keep more than one – are rewarded with refreshed frequency and thereby reduced odds of cancer. Yes, it is definitely possible for one woman to have enough sexual energy for the task; it does not, however, appear as statistically likely. Pleasuring one’s self also doesn’t seem to have the same effect – the body is not fooled, it appears. But that’s for a different article.

The causative notion was obvious enough that the researchers were asked if having a lifetime of many lovers would be a good medical recommendation. They said, “We’re not there yet.” That answer might keep them out of trouble, at least for now.

Which of course brings up the reasons the aforementioned dodging is so prevalent in discussions like this. How does scientific, statistical, and otherwise empirical fact figure into a subject so enmeshed in morals, religion, and political correctness? Not easily, and that is another statistical fact. There are competing goals within a society, but we who serve Love must also love Truth if our philosophy is going to hold together.

It can hold together, though, never fear. There is an answer to this quandary. I know how this works with the rest, but there are several pieces to it that will have to be put into place. We’ll cover them all as I find the best ways to introduce them to our conversation.

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Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.