Can Immunology Corroborate the Two-in-One-Flesh Image in Genesis?

DONALD DEMARCO

Science, which is immune to political or fashionable trends, bears witness to the unique nature of the conjugal bond between a man and a woman.

Our immune system, certainly one of the great marvels of nature, equips us with 100 billion (100,000,000,000) immunological receptors. Each of these tiny receptors has the uncanny natural capacity to distinguish the self from the nonself.[1] Consequently, they are able to immunize or protect our bodies against the invasion of foreign substances that could be harmful to us.[2]

Marvelous as nature is, it is never extremist. From a purely immunological point of view (from the standpoint of an all out defensive strategy), a woman's body would reject the oncoming sperm, recognizing it as a foreign substance. But this is precisely the point at which nature, we might say, becomes wise. If our immune system regards sperm as a potential enemy, then fertilization would never take place, and the human race would have come to an early demise with the passing of Adam and Eve.

But something extraordinary occurs that makes fertilization and the continuation of the human race possible. Traveling alongside the sperm in the male's seminal fluid is a mild immunosuppressant. Immunologists refer to it as consisting of "immunoregulatory macromolecules." This immunosuppressant is a chemical signal to the woman's body that allows it to recognize the sperm not as a nonself, but as part of her own self. It makes possible, despite the immune system's usual preoccupation with building an airtight defense system, a self-to-self union or, from an immunological perspective, a "two-in-one-flesh" intimacy.

What is well known is that male semen carries spermatozoa that have the capacity to fuse with the nucleus of the woman's egg (fertilization). What is less known is the presence of the mild immunosupressant it carries that allows the woman's immune system to welcome the male sperm as part of her own flesh. Nature is congenial to heterosexual procreativity.

With regard to sodomy, on the other hand (whether hetero-or homosexual), a pertinent question can be raised: What happens when semen is deposited in the rectal area rather than in the vaginal tract? How do the spermatozoa and the immunosuppressant function when they are placed in this particular bodily environment?

  1. Sperm have the capacity to penetrate the nucleus of cells. While the physiological target of a sperm cell is the oocyte (egg), they can penetrate somatic cells as well. When this occurs with a somatic cell, this fusion of sperm with somatic cells may result in oncogenesis (the development of cancerous malignancies). In an article entitled, "Sexual Behaviour and Increased Anal Cancer," authors Richard J. Ablin and Rachel Stein-Werblowsky, report that "anal intercourse is one of the primary factors in the development of cancer."[3] They make the following observations: a) Spermatozoa are capable of penetrating somatic cells and fuse with their nuclei. b) Nuclear fusion, other than in normal fertilization, can result in malignant transformation in the invaded tissue. c) Immunoregulatory macromolecules may directly and/or indirectly contribute to an immunopermssive environment favourable for the perpetuation of spermatozoa (or otherwise)-induced tumours and/or be a factor for tumorigenic-associated infectious agents.[4] Daling et al., writing for the New England Journal of Medicine, state: "Our study lends strong support to the hypothesis that homosexual behaviour in men increases the risk of anal cancer."[5] In addition, Melbye et al., reporting in the International Journal of Cancer find that "Being single and having practiced anal intercourse appears to be associated with anal cancer and case reports have suggested a recent increase in the number of cases of anal cancer."[6] The medical literature on this point is extensive.

  2. Scientists have confirmed that when the male immunosuppressant is deposited in the rectal area an "immunopermissive environment" is created. This environment, in which the immune system is not working as it should, is favorable for the perpetration of spermatozoa-induced tumors and other pathologies. It is as if, in this instance, the immune system becomes confused and welcomes its enemies. Researchers have documented a decreasing immunocompetence in a substantial proportion of HIV-positive homosexual men, particularly those with a history of intraepithelial abnormalities.[7] It has been shown in a number of studies that, unlike all sexually transmitted disease, where both partners are equally susceptible to the disease, in homosexual males, immunosuppression appears in the anal sperm recipients but not in the partners who deposit the sperm.[8]

Immunology, on a scientific level, corroborates the notion of the "two-in-one-flesh" meaning of marriage as recorded in Genesis. It offers yet another example of the compatibility of science and faith.

Nature does not make accommodations to politically based ideologies or individual preferences. This is a point that Dr. Jeffrey Satinover makes throughout his book Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth.[9] Heterosexual intercourse is biologically completely distinct from male homosexual intercourse, and the consequences of these acts are similarly divergent.

Furthermore, the vagina is an effective biological barrier against viruses. By contrast, the distal colon and rectum, which are designed to absorb water and nutrients in the final stages of the digestive process, possess a rich lymphatic network within the rectal mucosa (the lining of the rectum). Therefore, the distal colon and rectal area is designed to facilitate absorption, including absorption of the immunosuppressive components of male semen, if exposed to them.[10]

One researcher states that, "The risk of anal cancer soars for those engaging in anal intercourse. According to one report, it rises by an astounding 4,000 percent, and doubles again for those who are HIV positive."[11] Despite the well-documented adverse medical consequences associated with sodomy, this damaging practice has been strongly supported in certain influential circles. Indeed, even the Supreme Court (in Lawrence et al. vs. Texas) has specifically upheld male to male sodomy. According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes ['The right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe'], just as heterosexual persons do."[12] In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia saw the Lawrence decision as allowing politics to usurp law:

Today's opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.[13]

Science in itself, like nature, is immune to political or fashionable trends. Politicians and lawyers, however, are more vulnerable to the seductions of the Zeitgeist. But in looking closely and carefully at what the science of immunology can tell us about the natural functioning of spermatozoa and the male immunosuppressant, we have even more reason for upholding and honoring the wisdom of marriage as the potentially procreative union of a man and a woman. In this regard, we have added reason to feel awe when we re-read the passage in the first chapter of Genesis that refers to marriage as a union of "two-in-one flesh." Immunology gives us reason to believe that this phrase is not a mere metaphor, but is descriptive of a reality unique to the conjugal bond between a man and a woman.

Immunology, of course, does not tell us what marriage is. But it does underscore the radical importance of the body and the fundamental importance for life of the distinctiveness of the sexes. On the other hand, Al and Tipper Gore's book Joined at the Heart (2002), to take but one example among many that represent a growing trend,[14] by employing a metaphor, fails to appreciate the corporeal solidity of marriage.[15] It is difficult to see how, by missing what is elementary to marriage, one could properly appreciate the subsequent psychological, spiritual, personal, and religious levels of marriage for which the body has prototypic significance.

Immunology, on a scientific level, corroborates the notion of the "two-in-one-flesh" meaning of marriage as recorded in Genesis. It offers yet another example of the compatibility of science and faith.


Endnotes:

  1. Daniel E. Koshland Jr., "Recognizing Self from Nonself," Science 248 (1990): 1273; F.M. Burnet, "Immunological Recognition of Self: Such Recognition Suggests a Relationship with Processes Through Which Functional Integrity Is Maintained," Science 133 (1961): 307-311.
  2. These include prostaglandins of the E series, complement inhibitors, transforming growth factor-beta receptors for Fc fraction of gamma-globulin and the more recently described glycodelin-A. See R.W. Kelly, "Immunosuppressive Mechanisms in Semen: Implications for Contraception," Human Reproduction 10 (1995):1686–1693; W.S. Yeung et al., "Glycodelin: A Molecule with Multi-Functions on Spermatozoa," Society of Reproduction and Fertility Supplement 63 (2007): 143–151.
  3. Richard J. Ablin and Rachel Stein-Werblowsky, "Sexual Behaviour and Increased Anal Cancer," Immunology and Cell Biology 75 (1997): 181–183.
  4. Ibid., 182.
  5. J.R. Daling at al., "Sexual Practices, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and the In-
    cidence of Anal Cancer," New England Journal of Medicine 16 (1987): 937–973.
  6. M. Melbye et al., "Immune Status as a Determinant of Human Paillomavirus Detection and Its Association with Anal Epithelial Abnormalities," International Journal of Cancer 46 (1990): 203–206.
  7. M. Melbye et al., "Changing Patterns of Anal Cancer Incidence in the United States, 1940–1989," American Journal of Epidemiology 139 (1994): 777–780.
  8. G.M. Maviigit et al., "Chronic Immune Stimulation by Sperm Alloantigens," Journal of the American Medical Association 251 (1984): 237.
  9. Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Hamewith Books, 1996).
  10. T.C. Quinn et al., "The Polymicro Origin of Intestinal Infections in Homosexual Men," New England Journal of Medicine 309 (1983): 573–582; D.C. William et al., "Sexually Transmitted Enteric Pathogens in Male Homosexual Population," New York State Journal of Medicine 77 (1977): 2050–2051.
  11. M.A. Melonakos, R.N., "Why Isn’t Homosexuality Considered a Disorder on the Basis of Its Medical Consequences?" National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) (May 15, 2004), 2, http://www.leaderu. com/orgs/narth/medconsequences.html.
  12. Lawrence et al. v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003). The purposes Justice Kennedy had defined just prior to this quote by quoting himself from Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).
  13. Lawrence et al. v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).
  14. Two examples are: 1) Mother Outlaws: Theories and Practices of Empowerment Mothering, ed. Andrea O’Reilly (Toronto, ON: Women’s Press, 2004), 126, where the author extols the "new" family in which "gendered demarcation and embodiment is [sic] forever displaced"; 2) Margaret A. Farley, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (New York: Continuum, 2006), 288: "the justice ethic appropriate to heterosexual relationships is the same justice ethic appropriate to same-sex relationships."
  15. Al and Tipper Gore, Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2002).

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Donald DeMarco. "Can Immunology Corroborate the Two-in-One-Flesh Image in Genesis?" Linacre Quarterly Volume 77, Number 2 (May, 2010): 181-185.

The Linacre Quarterly is the official journal of the Catholic Medical Association. Continuously published since 1932, the Linacre Quarterly is the oldest journal in existence dedicated to medical ethics. The Linacre Quarterly provides a forum in which faith and reason can be brought to bear on analyzing and resolving ethical issues in health care, with a particular focus on issues in clinical practice and research. Subscribe here.

THE AUTHOR

Donald DeMarco is adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College & Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut and Professor Emeritus at St. Jerome's University in Waterloo Ontario. He also continues to work as a corresponding member of the Pontifical Acadmy for Life. Donald DeMarco has written hundreds of articles for various scholarly and popular journals, and is the author of twenty books, including The Heart of Virtue, The Many Faces of Virtue, Virtue's Alphabet: From Amiability to Zeal and Architects Of The Culture Of Death. Donald DeMarco is on the Advisory Board of The Catholic Education Resource Center.

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