View Full Version : ImmunoAlienation

James Brody
January 14th, 2007, 08:35 PM
"Immunoalienation denotes the process through which the definition of self, as defined by the immune system, progressively deviates from genetically determined definition of self." Breznitz, 2001

David Brudnoy was a Libertarian Jew and a talk show host on radio station WBZ. He also made me aware of Peter Brimelow's Alien Nation, a systematic exposure of the impact of our 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act. David died of AIDS December 9, 2004 but he, Brimelow, and the Israeli psychologist Shlomo Breznitz told similar stories but at different times and with different metaphors.

Breznitz, one of dozens, spoke in June of 2000, at a NY Academy of Science Conference on the Unity of Knowledge. Stu Kauffman and Ed Wilson opened the meeting but looked past each other; however, the behavior geneticist David Rowe, neurobiologist Eric Kandel, and neuroscientist John Morgan Allman gave talks that challenged conventional wisdom in an otherwise average two days' meeting.

Breznitz told a story about the little boy who cried, "Wolf." If the boy doesn't emit a warning, sheep disappear. If he yells and the wolf hides, the boy is discredited. A clever wolf, therefore, will trigger a warning and eat once the kid is thrown into time out.

More formally:

- Breznitz assumed that a distinction must exist between Self and non Self in order for self to repel invaders.

- There is theoretically a "real self" (SELFr) that is relatively static and an "immune self" (SELFis) that is defined by the immune system's history. SELFr is exemplified by MHC, SELFis by a dispersed cloud of antibodies; the former is genetically anchored, the latter is a shaped by developmental experience.

- SELFr should match SELFis but the latter builds an arsenal of antibodies that diverges from the former. With time and repeated invasions, SELFis and SELFr match less and less.

- Two invasion strategies work: a massive one that overwhelms defenders before they mobilize* and a subtle one that gains acceptance of the invaders as native citizens. Slow invasions allow the invaders to be recognized as part of Selfis.Tumors, for example, that start tiny and grow slowly eventually appear in older people when the tumor may be too large to treat.

- The immune system has a decision problem: If the system is too reactive, the elements of SELF may be attacked and the system remains on high alert for unnecessary intervals, if too unreactive, the system collapses.**

These tactics resemble those of seduction and rape; they also parallel the behavior of citizens in nations.

1) Our assumption of a "universal human nature" blurs the distinction of Self and non Self. Invaders, however, have an acute awareness of Self and non Self. Invaders might also see an invaded territory as empty (Rushton, 2005) because it contains so few of their own kind. Invaders sometimes maintain their identity by demanding special treatment, but without alarming their hosts.***

2) Invade slowly by sending only a few members at a time and let them form small enclaves that attract more members and grow larger. Do not send an army but take a generation to grow one in situ.

3) Males often display traits that mothers carry but hide! Conceal threat, therefore, by sending the meek and the women first, the ones who will conform to local custom (passing as Self), mate with aggressive males, and rear aggressive sons. Also "imprint" the young by means of private schools and secret curricula taught in your native tongue.

4) Take control of the host's core centers for communications, whether rail, air, postal, or electronic (Barabasi, 2002).

These are the strategies that Europeans once used on North American aborigines: Our current invaders from the south and from the Middle East thus do to us what we once did. These invasions happened to the Romans, to North American Indians, to Europeans, and it now happens to us. Furthermore, our invaders know that we made nests but no children and now have no immune system! My irreverent nature also wonders if Breznitz votes as a socialist or in accord with what he knows of immunology!


* Ewald (1994, 2000) makes a strong case that massive invaders, such as Ebola, are self-limited because their targets become obviously ill and less contagious when the rest of us isolate them. The lethal dangers are those that first let us infect each other when we send our kids to school and the rest of us go to work.

** Swets, Tanner, and Birdsall (1961) presented a similar analysis for sensory systems. Detection thresholds are often very tiny but the decision to report "present" or "absent" varies widely as a function of context (instructions, distractions, and consequences).

***Jacques Chirac announced it illegal to give the poor food that might contain pork derivatives. The UK faces demands for same-sex medical practitioners and medications consistent with Islamic law. Mullahs try to stand and pray on American airliners. Mexicans demand open employment, health care, freedom from arrest, and Social Security Totalization but do not grant them to gringos in Mexico City or to Latinos who come into Mexico from the south.


Barabási, A-L (2002) Linked: The New Science of Networks. NY: Perseus.
Breznitz S (2001) Immunoalienation: A behavioral analysis of the immune system. In A Damascio, A Harrington, J Kagan, B McEwen, H Moss, & R Shaikh (Eds). The Unity of Knowledge: The Convergence of Natural and Human Science. Annals of the NY Acad. Sciences, 935: 86-97. His address as of 2001: Director, Center for Study of Psychological Stress, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, 31905. ISR. email: breznitz@psy.haifa.ac.il
Brimelow P (1995) Alien Nation: Common Sense about America's Immigration Disaster. NY: Random House.
Ewald P (1994) The Evolution of Infectious Disease. NY: Oxford.
Ewald P (2000) Plague Time. NY: Basic.
Rushton P (2005) Ethnic nationalism, evolutionary psychology, and Genetic Similarity Theory. Nations & Nationalism. 11(4), 489-507.
Swets J, Tanner WP, Birdsall TG (1961) Decision processes in perception. Psychological Review, 68: 301-340.

Copyright, James Brody, 2007, all rights reserved.