[Comp-neuro] Discussion -- time to get back to work :-)

james bower bower at uthscsa.edu
Fri Aug 22 17:41:00 CEST 2008

Thanks all for  your willingness to tolerate / participate in this  
free wheeling discussion.

It has been very useful for me - as I have already indicated, I am  
writing a book around these issues titled:

"What would happen if a graduate student reads this?"

Which, like the pithy quotes at the start of each chapter, was a plea  
made to a journal editor (actually the Journal of Computational  
Neuroscience ironically enough  ;-) )l by an anonymous peer reviewer  
(who will remain nameless), after all other excuses to hold back the  
publication of one of our papers had been overcome.

I would close with one final comment.  Not meaning to sound completely  
Kuhn focused, one of the points he makes about pre-paradigmatic  
science, which is what I believe biology to be, is that there is a  
lack of consensus in the field regarding the methods that are most  
appropriate at a particular point in time to best advance the field.   
In fact, until a field coalesces into a science, there is a strong  
tendency to tolerate a broad range of approaches -- avoiding any  
explicit conflict between them.  In this discussion I have resisted  
the urge to simply say - "yes, to each their own, all approaches are  
useful, lets figure out how to work together, each to make their own  
contribution".  The history of science has clearly shown that, while  
humans might naturally tend to reduce conflict by adopting this point  
of view, in fact, at particular points in time, some approaches are  
more useful than others.  The same history has also shown that  
scientific revolutions seldom if ever come from the middle of the pack  
or even from compromise.

That said, I have a great deal of respect for many of my colleagues  
with approaches different from mine and wish them well.  We won't know  
the answers to many of the questions raised here, probably, for a  
number of generations -- but, in my view, it is important that  
especially the new generation of scientists interested in this field  
recognize the depth of our ignorance, and the challenges they will  
face in moving our understanding of the brain forward.  This field  
represents a great opportunity - if one can avoid the sins of ones  
fathers (and mothers), the principle sins probably being arrogance, a  
failure to imagine exactly how complex the problem is, and, in my  
view, a lack of appropriate respect for the magnificence of the brain  
itself - ironically enough.

Thanks again,

Jim Bower


Dr. James M. Bower Ph.D.

Professor of Computational Neuroscience

Research Imaging Center
University of Texas Health Science Center -
-  San Antonio
8403 Floyd Curl Drive
San Antonio Texas  78284-6240

Main Number:  210- 567-8100
Fax: 210 567-8152
Mobile:  210-382-0553

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