"From terra firma to terra plana –

danger is shaking the foundations: deconstructing the immune system"

This page includes a brief synopsis of the article "From terra firma to terra plana – danger is shaking the foundations. Deconstructing the 'immune system'." It was published in 1999.

PubMed entry

Reproductions of the article

Synopsis and main points


Please note that reference 6 was left out in the published article. Therefore, in the original, references number 6 to 18 in the bibliography should read 7 to 19 (in the body of the article the numbers are correctly presented). Reference 6 is in "A Sense of Self " . Please also note that there is also a "lapse of concentration" error at the top of page 216 (first paragraph where "irritable" bowel disease should read "inflammatory" bowel disease.

Things that I would (now) want to change:

In the section "Towards the apotheosis" I have put the following bullet point which would be better stated in the second (italicised) version:

It should also be emphasised that macrophages and other phagocytes act rather like primitive free living amoebae. In common with amoebae, phagocytes retain a primordially acquired capacity to recognise and ingest organic debris and micro-organisms; this is their original "diet"; it is their source of energy and nutrition. All specific microbe recognition arises from this primordial property and this is why phagocytes are recruited to the sites of damage (inflammation) to be first destructive and then constructive (the M2 phenotypes).

Reference 6, [Schaffner K, Bandeira A, Dembic Z, Fuchs E, Green D, Langman RE, Weigke WO. 1997. A sense of self: models of immunologic tolerance: A debate. In HMS Beagle: A bioMedNet Publication] is no longer available on the internet as far as I can discover. Email me if you want to read it [jamie at morphostasis.org.uk - edit this appropriately into a standard email address.]

"... provoked by Polly Matzinger's hypothesis of a danger-driven, adaptive immune system "

I noticed this comment today (20200629) on a Google search link that led directly to this article in Science Direct (Elsevier). I had forgotten that I had written this in the article and wish to clarify the inclusion. Since no one else appears to want to bring attention to this general point, it is left to me to point out that this statement does NOT mean that I needed Polly Matzinger's ideas as the the base to start this article. My ideas had matured long before the 1994 danger article. It seems to me that my part in the history of the development of these ideas is still largely suppressed – whatever the underlying reason is for this. Should you think that I have simply barged in on someone else's good ideas then you are wrong; you should read and understand my Precedence web page and also the various links that led to the multiple rejections of my pre-1994 submissions. My morphostasis.org.uk web site also reproduces most of the correspondence relating to the development of my ideas. To repeat a point made in this Precedence article, broadcasting this for attempted self aggrandisement is NOT an honourable goal; doing so, to bring attention to ideas that may help to explode our understanding of immunology, is an honourable and essential process. Suppressing parallel/alternative views may well be regarded as a dishonourable goal unless it has a hidden altruistic purpose. Polly Matzinger, with her particular personality, has certainly helped greatly in prising open the (metaphorical) clam of a disbelieving cognoscenti. I would probably never have gained enough clout to do that through submitting my writings to journals and through badgering key people (as the correspondence confirms). I think, in retrospect, that I was naïve to expect that immunologists, steeped in traditional perspectives, would see the value of these ideas.