The crisis in neuroscience
The dominant paradigm in neuroscience, the linear causation paradigm, has led to a number of conceptual confusions about how the brain generates behavior. Because biological organisms are collections of closed loop control systems, their behaviors cannot be explained by a sequence of causes and effects. On account of simultaneous actions of forward and feedback paths in the closed loop, a major emergent property of control systems is circular causation. Methods used to analyze input-output systems are not only inadequate for understanding circular causation; they can produce misleading results. I shall use specific examples from the history of neuroscience to illustrate the fallacy of the conventional input/output analysis of behavior. I shall also discuss why a seemingly simple mechanism like negative feedback control can have complex and counterintuitive properties, and why generations of students, influenced by modern engineering conventions and the cybernetic tradition, have misunderstood the central features of control theory.