a thinking brain

Wolf Kirchmeir wwolfkir at sympatico.ca
Sun Jul 4 10:38:23 EST 2004

Glen M. Sizemore wrote:

> GS: *We* will eventually see the futility of the notion that "neurons
> in the CNS cause behavior." Contingencies of reinforcement select and
> blend spontaneous behavior, and bring such behavior under
> discriminative control of features of the world. Physiology mediates
> this function. Such a view repudiates the primitive animism of
> mentalistic mainstream psychology.

If recent results summarised in Matt Ridley's _Nature Via Nurture_ are 
correct, then the mediation occurs in part (perhaps in large part) by 
switching genes on and off. Some of these genes are switched on (and 
sometimes off when their work is done) only once in an organism's 
development, which means that there are critical events that determine 
the path of an organism's development. "Event" may refer to a short-term 
stimulus, as when a baby learns to fear heights, which has been observed 
to occur within seconds;  or to ongoing repeated stimuli, as in the 
learning of language.

The behaviourist claim that behaviour is brought under "discriminative 
control of features of the world" IMO is supported by these results, 
since they provide at least a first view of how "physiology mediates 
this function." Whether this first view is generally correct or not will 
no doubt be discovered, but IMO it has the ring of truth.

I was going to blather about the problem of "I" at this point, but gave 
it up when I noticed I was producing nonsense. Another time, maybe.

As to whether neurons cause behaviour or not, that is in part a quibble 
about where to locate cause: in the external stimulus that triggers a 
neural net's functioning, or in the neural net itself. You might as well 
argue about whether the Sun causes photosynthesis. Pointless IMO.

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