Behavior to Neurobiology: A Zoologist’s Approach to Nervous Systems

  • Donald Kennedy


This symposium was described as an exercise in contemporary history, and the participants were invited to discuss their work. That is a dangerous offer: the temptation is overwhelming to respond with the kind of history that sacrifices realism for plausibility. This dreadful urge overtakes many of us in the introductions to papers, wherein accident is readily transduced to the more elegant processes of reasoned choice and expected outcome. “The experimental system was chosen,” we write, “because it offered an opportunity to test the efficacy of alpha in the absence of competing inputs.” (Translation: when the work was nearly done, we realized that the input was pure alpha.) How often are such motivations remembered conveniently just about the time the introduction is being composed? Yet how comforting they are for the historians of science, whose trade is not much helped by the revelation that scientific progress occasionally resembles the blind staggers more than the measured tread of rationality. A similar conspiracy is engaged in by coaches and sportswriters, who, having a vested interest in the proposition that games are complex and intellectually demanding, insist on a level of retrospective analysis that participants find a little funny. But why should the coach, or even the players, tell on the writer who analyzes the play selection during the winning drive in the Rose Bowl? They know that half the plays were argued out in the huddle, but saying so wouldn’t really help the image of the game.


Motor Axon Abdominal Ganglion Efferent Innervation Excitatory Junctional Potential Modus Vivendi 
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© Birkhäuser Boston 1992

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  • Donald Kennedy

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