The danger of "Danger"

cunlij at cunlij at
Thu Jun 3 16:47:38 EST 1999

I was interested to read Donald Forsdyke’s article on intracellular
self/non-self discrimination.

“Innovation is nothing but judicious imitation” (Voltaire). So, if
there is a fundamentally new perspective in immunology, that will
breach the impasse that prevents us really understanding what is going
on, then it is inevitable that many people will have developed ideas
that almost make the break over into a new “revelation”.

“Almost”, you will probably have noted. And, I contest, that applies to
Donald’s view of intracellular self/non-self discrimination. I
wholeheartedly agree that the process begins intracellularly.
Similarly, I agree that its roots are in dealing with internal
(intracellular) disorder. But, self/non-self discrimination? No, I
don’t accept that one.

Danger (Matzinger), integrity (Zembic), entropy (Zembic and Forsdyke),
intracellular surveillance (Forsdyke), and a host of other ideas
emanating from many eminent immunologists (Janeway, Cohn, Langman,
Coutinho to name a few) and their many predecessors can all be
judiciously imitated (parasitised?) to mould - I contend - a deeper

Order is what the system is interested in. In a colony of cells derived
from one zygote cell, and within each individual cell of that colony,
order is what is required of the goup of cells totalling (in homo
sapiens) some 10 to the power of 13 in number. Disorder is actively
monitored and corrected where possible. The greater the disorder, the
greater the homeostatic (morphostatic) response.

Further information can be found at the following website . This
includes synospses of three published articles, the full text of a
fourth and background arguments/comment.

So if you want to challenge your beliefs, try a visit. Spread the word
if it leads you to question rigidly held dogmas. “What really makes
science grow is new ideas, including false ideas.” (Karl Popper). Right
or wrong, it should make you think.


In article <3753E2E0.34D5 at>,
  forsdyke at wrote:
> Hello,
>       Of late, the word "Danger" has repeatedly surfaced in the
> immunology literature as some entity that will allow us to do without
> self/not-self discrimination. What is really meant is that the
> conventionally accepted form of self/not-self discrimination has not
> sufficed to explain immunological phenomena.
>       You are crossing a field when suddenly you hear the sound of
> pounding hoofs. The adrenaline begins to raise. You turn and see a
> in full charge. Quick! Over the fence. Now I submit that both you and
> the bull acted in this way because you sensed some threat (danger) and
> that the sensing required a certain foreknowledge about what
was "self"
> (or at least a member of your own species), and what was "not-self".
>             "Danger" is pure intellectual laziness. It explains
> but allows plausible handwaving which suffices, it seems, to satisfy
> reviewers and (more importantly) the immunologists who review the
> applications of other immunologists. While this situation prevails, it
> is,... well,... dangerous for an immunologist to become "not-self"
> (non-immunologist) and venture to contemplate how "Danger" might be
> detected in our bodies (professional suicide in the present peer-
> environment).
>      But here in a Discussion Group, such heresies might be tolerated.
> It is probable that the critical peers who review your applications
> too busy (or not sufficiently computer-literate) to come to suspect
> you might have strayed from the fold.
>      So where to start? Well, for some years the notion of
> self/not-self discrimination has been lurking in the shadows. Few
> immunologists have been prepared to do the necessary homework to
> understand;(it involves learning about entropy and the physico-
> state of the cytosol). The URL below might be worth a visit for those
> sufficiently unworldly to stray from the well-beaten path.
> Sincerely, Donald Forsdyke. Discussion Leader. Bionet.immunology

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