Defending Life discusses the relationship between hosts and parasites. A major contention of the book is that the immune system depends ontologically on the ecosystem in which it is embedded; it would not have the features it has if it was not related in one way or other to parasitic agents and to the host's own cells and tissues. To sustain the argument, life is investigated at all layers - from molecules up through cells, organisms and ecosystems. Together with the inverse course, which goes from ecological contingencies down to gene-expression profiles, the approach facilitates an advanced understanding of immunocompetence as well as its converse, immunoincompetence. The emphasis on analytical abstractions, coherent patterns and generative mechanisms makes possible the distinction between genuine causality and coincidental associations, and thus increases the understanding of why we observe what we observe. The book contains detailed descriptions of the immune system and the microbial world as well as methodological and conceptual clarifications.
Introduction Preface1 Tracks of thought1.1 Organismal maintenance1.2 The war metaphor1.3 Metaimmunological musings2 Immunobiology2.1 The received view2.2 The integrated view2.3 The many and the one3 Adaptive plasticity3.1 Totalities of involvement3.2 Equipping the adaptive toolbox3.3 Exemption explained4 Natura naturans4.1 Situating life4.2 Social evolution4.3 Coevolutionary dynamics5 Disabled defences5.1 Failure to perform5.2 The re-enacting of ancient conflicts5.3 Environmental challengesReferencesIndex
From the reviews: "Defending Life is one of the serious efforts to understand the science of immunology theoretically ! . This book is not only an important contribution towards understanding the restrictions under which immunology now functions, but it provocatively suggests how the discipline might reorient itself to address more effectively not only the molecular mechanisms of immune reactions, but also their regulations and organization. ! a propitious step towards the full adoption of immunology by philosophy of biology as a member in good standing." (Alfred I. Tauber, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Vol. 51 (2), 2008)