Is the Network Theory Tautologic?

  • A. Coutinho
  • L. Forni
  • D. Holmberg
  • F. Ivars
Part of the Nobel Foundation Symposia Published by Plenum book series (NOFS, volume 55)


Amongst many divergencies, there is at least one point in which Wittgenstein and Popper not only agree but use the same rhetoric example. When explaining tautologies, Wittgenstein writes “For example, I know nothing about the weather when I know that it is either raining or not raining”1. Popper, elaborating on falsifiability, rather than verifiability, as a criterion of demarcation for admitting a system as empirical or scientific writes: “Thus, the statement “It will rain or not rain here tomorrow” will not be regarded as empirical, simply because it cannot be refuted; whereas the statement “It will rain here tomorrow” will be regarded as empirical”2. Those who know well all the writings of Niels K. Jerne, cannot avoid to recall the last sentence in the Introduction to the 1977 Annual Report from the Basel Institute for Immunology: “... immunology may turn out to be like meterology: we know all the basic elements, but we cannot foretell the weather tomorrow in Basel”3.


Network Theory Internal Recognition Antibody Repertoire Idiotypic Network Antibody Diversity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    L. Wittgenstein, “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”, Rontledge and Kegan Paul, London (1961).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    K. R. Popper, “The logic of Scientific Discovery”, Hutchinson, London (1959).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    N. K. Jerne, Introduction, in “Basel Institute for Immunology, Annual Report 1977”, Basel Institute for Immunology, Basel (1978).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    N. K. Jerne, The natural selection theory of antibody formation, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 41: 849 (1955).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    N. K. Jerne, The somatic generation of immune recognition. Eur. J. Immunol., 1: 1 (1971).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    N. K. Jerne, Towards a network theory of the immune system. Ann Immunol. (Inst. Pasteur), 125C: 373 (1974).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    N.K. Jerne, The immune system: a web of V-domains, Harvey Lectures, Series 70, Academic Press, New York (1976).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    S. Ohno, The significance of gene duplication in immunoglobulin evolution (Epimethean natural selection and Promethean evolution), in “Immunoglobulins”, G. W. Litman and R. A. Good, eds., Plenum Medical Book Company, New York (1978)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    A. Coutinho, The self-nonself discrimination and the nature and acquisition of the antibody repertoire. Ann. Immunol. (Inst. Pateur), 131D: 235 (1980).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    N. K. Jerne, in “Idiotypes: What they said at the time”, Basel Institute for Immunology, Basel (1980).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    N. K. Jerne, in “Idiotypes: Antigens on the inside”, Editiones “Roche”, Basel (1982).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    G. Adam, and Weiler, E., Lymphocyte population dynamics during ontogenetic generation of diversity, in “The generation of antibody diversity”, A. J. Cunningham, ed., Academic Press, London (1976).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    P. Bretscher and Cohn, M., A theory of self-nonself discrimination. Science, 169: 1042 (1970).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    A. Coutinho and Möller, G., Immune activation of B cells: evidence for “one nonspecific triggering signal” not delivered by the Ig receptors. Scand. J. Immunol. 3: 133 (1974).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    A. Coutinho, The theory of the “The nonspecific signal” model for B cell activation. Transpl. Rev., 23: 49 (1975).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    L. Forni, and Coutinho, A., Individuality of immune systems: the thousand ways and one way of being complete, in “The Immune System”, C.S. Steinberg and I. Lefkovitz, eds., vol. 1, Karger, Basel (1981).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    A. Coutinho, Forni, L., and Bernabe, R.R., The polyclonal expression of Immunoglobulin variable region determinants on the membrane of B cells and their precursors. Springer Sem. Immunopathol., 3: 171 (1980).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    E.-L. Larsson, Gullberg, M., Beretta,.A., and Coutinho, A., Requirement for the involvement of clonally distributed receptors in the activation of cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Immunol. Rev., 68:in press (1982).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Coutinho
    • 1
    • 2
  • L. Forni
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. Holmberg
    • 1
    • 2
  • F. Ivars
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ImmunologyUniversity of UmeåSweden
  2. 2.Basel Institute for ImmunologySwitzerland

Personalised recommendations