Biology 466    Unsolved Problems Fall 2010

What Have You Learned So Far?

That some of what's in the textbooks is wrong (maybe ten percent; sponges are an example).

Major discoveries are just lying around, waiting to be noticed. Many of them are in old copies of referred journals. You should now understand what it means for a journal to be "refereed".

Rosalind Franklin's data wasn't a tenth as important to Watson and Crick as

    a) Chargaff's rules,

    b) Schroedinger's and Delbruck's realization that low mutation rates mean genes must be encoded in covalent form,

    c) Pauling's approach of making chemical models & trying different fits,

    d) Pauling's other idea that self-copying molecules ought to have two complementary halves.

    e) Avery's discovery that genes are DNA, and f) Chemical knowledge that DNA structure is a chain of alternating sugars and phosphates, with ATC and G being side chains, among many other facts.

Experimental design often requires formulating two or more alternative, competing theories.

But in the case of conical sea urchin egg cell cleavage, computer simulations were needed to find out in what situation two alternative theories make opposite predictions. But computer simulations and other mathematical predictions are "black" boxes for most biologists, so they aren't persuaded.

Sometimes there aren't two, or even one, obvious theories to explain data (Danowski)

You are now qualified to make good arguments, pro and con, about either Karl Popper's or Thomas Kuhn's ideas of how science works. And also to argue with post-modernist Marxist anti-scientists.

What about the elementary notion of scientists

    (1) seeing phenomena,
    (2) inventing hypotheses ,
    (3) testing hypotheses?

How well do these three stages fit Watson & Crick? How do they fit "sponge plumbing"?

How well do they fit the current situation with regard to the Danowski Phenomenon?

As you learn more about the history of immunology, notice how many "revolutions" (in Kuhn's sense) have occurred.

Notice also that most biology textbooks cover up these revolutions with fairy tales, such as the story about Edward Jenner supposedly noticing that milkmaids had good complexions, and gotten the idea of infecting people with cowpox as a method of strengthening immunity against small-pox.

Actually, Jenner noticed that blacksmiths (!) tended not to die as frequently when he deliberately infected them with small-pox (!!), which most of his medical practice consisted of. For centuries before Jenner, infection with mild cases of smallpox was used to produce immunity.

The amino acid sequences of antibody binding sites are produced by random recombination of V, D and J base sequences of DNA. Antibodies specific for all of your own molecules are made. Your own molecules have no special "self" property. Therefore they cannot possibly be "recognized".

What happens is selective killing or inactivation of lymphocytes whose binding sites fit any molecule present in your body when you were an embryo. Autoimmune diseases result either from failure to eliminate some anti-self lymphocytes, or from further VDJ recombination of antibody genes, or from mutation of those genes. Hardly anyone gets these simple facts through their thick skulls.

Why do Nazi submarines not sink American ships anymore? It's because all the Nazi submarines were sunk or withdrawn, NOT because they recognize American ships as "self", or anything like that.

You could discover cures for all autoimmune diseases: Reactivate the unknown embryonic mechanism that "weeds out" all lymphocytes whose antibodies fit molecules that are normally in your body early during development. Please discard the idea that these have any "self" property.


back to index page