The immune system is dead! Long live the immune system!

Ian A. York iayork at
Fri Feb 11 08:28:59 EST 2000

In article <880mlu$tn2$1 at>,
Jamie Cunliffe  <cunlij at> wrote:
>First, I quote Thomas Kuhn, "…. the defenders of traditional theory and
>procedure could almost always point to problems that its new rival has
>not solved but that for their view are no problems at all."

Kuhn was wrong.

His views made a big splash, but his predictions turned out to be
wrong.  When you actually look at the structure of scientific revolutions,
they don't always--or even often--follow Kuhn's predictions.   If you're
going to quote philosophers of science, you might want to quote some whose
ideas aren't obselete.

>That said, you are talking about "damage" and "danger" here.  Is DNA a
>normal constituent of the ECF? Is DNA a normal constituent of spilt
>cells? Therefore, is it characteristic of "mess" or "disorder? A recent
>paper suggests that dendritic cells see particular DNA sequences as
>something that is to be cleared up.

I've talked to a few people about the danger theory.  This sort of thing
invariably comes up.  It turns out that the "danger" signals they cite are
in fact the products of the day-to-day stresses of living, things that
happen every day, every minute, and that we don't notice.  A rat given
warfarin will (if it's not resistant) bleed out, because of the tiny
micro-damage to capillaries that happens all the time.  Is that
danger?  Sure, if you think that DNA per se is a danger sign.  Is it
abnormal?  No. It's "normal damage".

A signal that's there all the time is not a signal, it's background.  Be
very careful about what you're defining as "danger"

Finally, you have misinterpreted the experiments.  The DNA per se was
*not* acting as a danger signal; unless, that is, you feel that DNA inside
a cell is a somehow abnormal, because the DNA iteself dd not trigger an
immune response.

>1) Put into 100 words or less your belief about the fundamental
>features of how the system works. I can't accept the reply that it is
>too complicated for that - history will be against you. It might seem
>too complicated for that at the moment but in the future all will agree
>that the fundamental principle is easily understood.

Tsk.  Either you believe Kuhn, in which case the fact that history is
against me makes me as likely to be right as wrong, or you don't believe
Kuhn, and you're playing silly little word games to try to strengthen
your theory.

The immune system can't be encapsulated into 25 words, or 100 words.  It's
a product of evolution that does the things it does without consulting a
little instruction slip.   There *is* no fundamental principle to the
immune system, other than "helping the host reproduce".  

>2) In the same number of words demonstrate that you have understood
>what I am saying. Until you have done the second, authoritative

If you want to play word games, go somewhere else.  If you want to discuss
biology, go understand evolution, and then we'll talk.

But I wouldn't be idiot enough to demand you encapsulate evolution in 100
words or less.  

    Ian York   (iayork at  <>
    "-but as he was a York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a
     very respectable Man." -Jane Austen, The History of England

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