neuroscience training?

David Longley David at
Wed Mar 10 08:19:49 EST 2004

In article <qbnn409hsv2h1nrgslhugmcsgu8b9d2d71 at>, Doktor DynaSoar 
<targeting at> writes
>On Sun, 07 Mar 2004 12:33:15 GMT, "Glen M. Sizemore"
><gmsizemore2 at> wrote:
>} GS: Yeah. I admit, I was looking for a fight.......sparring match,
>} really.....never get ugly with people you respect......still looking for a
>} match, though......but you don't do conceptual, philosophy.
>} Tell me, though, Dr. D. what did in the "ether?" Was it really that
>} Micholson and Morley experiment? Or was it Einstein's conceptual analysis?
>Interesting choice. It's one of my favoritess from The Golem. For
>something that's "done in", an awful lot of people keep trying it. I
>suspect we'll see it in a new suit coming from M-brane theory. After
>all, Einstein's cosmological constant was "done in" until they
>discovered dark energy, or what ever it is that causes the effect
>they're observing. IIRC, the OPTIS project is an M-M test headed for
>the space station.
>} Despite psychology's mistrust of all things philosophical, one leg of
>} psychology's epistemic triangle (cf, Machado et al) is conceptual analysis.
>} Just a thought. I guess the matter-of-fact way that you linked neuroscience
>} and cognitive "science" unnerved me. (See below).
>} } DD: The TOTE theory (test-operate-test-exit) of Miller, Galantner and
>} } Pribram was firmly rooted in both information processing theory, and
>} } that of top-down executive control from the frontal lobes.
>} }
>} } GS: Information as in stuff like "The nucleus accumbens receives
>} information
>} } from..." This is the way "information" is typically discussed, and it is
>} } homunculism. Then, when called on it, they fall back on technical usages
>} of
>} } "information" as if their explanation was about that all along.
>} DD: Informnation as in Shannon's negentropy, but better described using
>} Gabor's "logons" than bit, as well as his equations to describe the
>} relevant electrical fields and how they relate to the information
>} carried. Kapinsky's "information metabolism" would probably serve as
>} an even better concept, but Gabor's math would still cover it best.
>} GS: So everyone's use of the term "information" in cognitive psychology and
>} cognitive neuroscience is like the usage above?
>One thing I am certain of is that not everyone agrees on a particular
>theory of information. You appeared to be asking for clarification of
>my use of the term above, and I gave that.
>} Also BTW, how would
>} you get a non-human animal to "tell you it is in pain" without examining
>} "pain reflexes," escape, or avoidance (or without measuring physiology that
>} has deemed relevant because of its relation to tail-flick, escape, and
>} avoidance - mostly tail-flick, though)?
>I assume you mean "how could I tell" rather than "how would I get it
>to", because in my opinion it'd be expressing it anyway. I couldn't
>verify pain, but I could observe distress from its behavior.
>} } DD: While there is a great deal being contributed to neuroscience without
>} } consideration of cognitive phenomena,[...]
>} }
>} } GS: Which are what exactly? Subjective experiences? Or are they the
>} fanciful
>} } processes that are thought to be "behind" experience and behavior? Or do
>} you
>} } just use "cognitive" as a synonym for "neurophysiological?"
>} DD: Like the work the director of NIDCD is doing on taste buds. From the
>} molecular conformations of receptors, to receptor action, to the
>} complex interconnections between cells, and what signals may be
>} combined in what ways and result in the wide assortment of sensations.
>} GS: So "cognition" is "physiology?" Or is it that "cognition" is any part of
>} the physiology relevant to sensation and perception? Also, isn't the
>} question of "...what signals may be combined in what ways and result in the
>} wide assortment of sensations" a thinly-veiled reference to the "binding
>} problem?" Anyway, I can talk about sensation and perception in the language
>} of behavior - because sensation and perception IS behavior. The physiology
>} that mediates such behavior is just that. It is not "cognitive processes"
>} and it is not "the physiology of cognitive processes;" it is the physiology
>} of behavior.
>} Dr. D.Or, things that "suggest that the plasticity of neuronal systems inthe
>} NAcc related to cocaine self-administration and their response
>} following 6-OHDA lesions is more complex than restoration of DAergic
>} tone."
>} Dr. D.These contribute to neuroscience. They make no use of cognitive
>} phenomena.
>} GS: Hmmm.....I'm not sure what you are saying now. I have no big problem*
>} with either of the two research programs above (yes, I am aware that the
>} latter is from Sizemore et al.). But, as I alluded to earlier, the problem
>} with cognitive psychology (and the fields it has corrupted) is its
>} conceptual leg. Not all important questions can be answered by experiment,
>} and that is because the questions pertain to the cogency of the concepts
>} (assumptions) that underlie the endeavor, and these are not what is
>} "tested."
>Are you sure you read what I wrote? I said these things contribute to
>neuroscience WIT
>} Dr. D. I'm not sure who your argument is with, but it's not me. I'm getting
>} some responses from you that are clearly canned, and aimed at what
>} you're assuming I mean.
>} GS: They are aimed at cognitive "science." And they are "canned," in part,
>} because I have thought about these issues for 20 years, and my training is
>} behavioristic, and conceptual analysis is second nature to behaviorists. In
>} your case, you seem to "endorse" cognitive psychology in a nearly completely
>} thoughtless manner. (See below).
>} } DD: [...]it either doesn't remain that
>} } way as it is picked up and used by those who attempt to put the
>} } deconstructed pieces of the puzzle back together,[...]
>} }
>} } GS: You mean like how the alleged mind or real brain is supposed to create
>} } an internal picture of the world?
>} Dr. D. Sorry, I don't do movies either. "The world is its own best
>} representation."
>} GS: Then you are not a cognitivist.
>You're wrong on two counts. First, your box isn't big enough to hold
>me. Invariably when people pronounce someone to be "a" something,
>they're throwing in the baggage that they want to see carried so they
>can keep that person pegged, whether on the for or against side. Karl
>is a consummate philosophical debater and became so primarily because
>all manner of philosophy oriented types tried to fit him in a box for
>whatever reasons of their own. He gladly debated tham and proved them
>wrong in their assumptions based on both the evidence of his other
>opinions and behaviors and on their own assumptions. He always came to
>the conclusion that they were simply full of shit. I don't waste my
>time developing the philosophical bent to carry on such debates, as
>the result sufficies for me.
>Second, that quote is from JJ Gibson. His optical flow theory stands
>as an oustanding example of a theory of a neurobiological system
>supplanting a cognitive construct. It means precisely the opposite of
>the "internal representation" that much of menial cognitive psychology
>is held sway by. It is itself no more based in cognitive psychology
>than was Darwin when he observed earth worms plugging their holes with
>pieces of paper that had been cut in the very rough shape of a leaf.
>His thoughts resulted in ecological psychology, which to my mind at
>least can be summed up as "behaviorism in context". He himself would
>probably only accept that as a step in the process, as his most
>important work IMO was in outlining neural system which performed the
>functions noted.

Prima facie, that's quite a strange thing to assert.

Gibson didn't outline a neurophysiological theory (in any of his three 
books or any of his papers as I recall). In just about every respect he 
encouraged those working on perception to think of the senses as 
perceptual systems, and to ask what the head's in side of rather than 
what's inside the head. He was critical of the notion of "the retinal 
image" and just about everything else which conventional physiology (and 
neuroscience today) tends to take for granted. In this respect his 
contributions were very much like Skinner's (except couched in a 
different language), and philosophically, he comes across much like a 

>} Dr. D. I mean that good, low level, hard core reductionist science is great,
>} but either someone comes along and tries to put together the big
>} picture....
>} GS: The "big picture" lies in behavioral phenomena and known behavioral
>} processes.
>"A year before his death B.F. Skinner wrote that "There are two
>unavoidable gaps in any behavioral account: one between the
>stimulating action of the environment and the response of the
>organism, and one between the consequences and the resulting change in
>behavior. Only brain science can fill those gaps. In doing so it
>completes the account; it does not give a different account of the
>same thing." This declaration ended the epoch of radical behaviorism
>to the extent that it was based on the doctrine of the "empty
>organism", the doctrine that a behavioral science must be constructed
>purely on its own level of investigation.

That really is just rubbish and it's an egregious misrepresentation not 
only what Skinner meant, but what is done today!

>   However, Skinner was not completely correct in his assessment.
>Brain science on its own can no more fill the gaps than can single
>level behavioral science. It is the relation between data and
>formulations developed in the brain and the behavioral sciences that
>is needed."

As I see it, Glen's good a god job at bringing out some of your (till 
now) 'hidden' assumptions.

>} } DD: [...]or it tends to serve only as a starting point for yet another
>} } adequate lab report.
>} } } GS: Sorry, don't know what you're driving at here.
>} Dr. D....or someone doesn't, and all that remains for this stuff is to serve
>} as a launching point for more of the same. It's adequate science, but
>} adequate science doesn't make for much progress. The cognitive science
>} I know and follow serves as a good framework to try fit fit the pieces
>} together within, and when they don't, we figure out if the pieces are
>} incomplete or the theory needs fixed, or both. Or more.
>} GS: So-called "cognitive processes" are assumptions. They are interpretive
>} and can be overlaid on any data. The hallmark of cognitive "science" is
>} representationalism; without that interpretation, "cognitive psychology" has
>} no identity. Those who say things like "The world is its own best
>} representation" are straying from cognitive "science." But their view of
>} behaviorism is so twisted, and entirely composed of what its critics say
>} about it (rather than what behaviorists have actually written) that they do
>} not see that they are behaviorists and that the behavioral portion of their
>} work is better cast in the language of behavior analysis (where it can then
>} make contact with the 70 years of research and empirical systematization).
>} The "big picture" is composed of response classes, discrimination,
>} generalization etc. etc. etc.
>It's pretty apparent you know far more about makes you angry than you
>do about the field and what it's good for and how to use it as such. I
>hope you enjoy your opinion, as I have not intention of trying to
>change it. I've already spent far too much time explaining and
>re-explaining myself against your assumptions and inaccuracies.

No. Seriously - you should listen to what he is saying. You just have 
some of your facts wrong. Glen gets pretty angry about it because trying 
to fix these destructive misconceptions and misrepresentations is like 
plugging sieves or herding cats!

> You
>have some very good points and some solid reasons behind them, but
>there's also enough turbulence involved and too little interest on my
>part to resolve things.

Well, that, I predict, will be your loss. What he's highlighting are 
some seriously obstructive prejudices on your part which will, I think 
(and I'm pretty sure I'm being fair in my assessment) just going to 
hinder your efforts elsewhere. For what it's worth, my advice is - don't 
underestimate the force or importance of the criticism.

>} GS: OK. BTW, I don't mention the university or universities with which I am
>} affiliated - I don't "hide" it (obviously, I use my real name) but I don't
>} typically mention them because I don't wish to be censored in this sort of
>} forum.
>Censored on usenet due to affiliation? Do you mean "criticized"?
>Because usenet is one of the few places it's almost entirely
>impossible to censor someone. If anyone were to take stuff on the net
>seriously, a couple hours of research of my various other activities
>would definitely mark me as completely unemployable at best. Of
>course, anyone who developed their opinion about a person from usenet
>and tried to take action on it in real life would be rather easy to
>discredit and humiliate into the ground.

Surely you don't really believe that? If you do, please explain.
David Longley

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