The notion of input/output boxes in smaller and smaller divisions down to individual neurons doesn't really have much effect upon my degree of comfort with the brain=behavior paradigm. I believe as much as I can believe anything that the nervous system is responsible for behavior. The concept of boxes is a very convenient way to study n.s. organization. I like the idea of an "I-function" box as a temporary pigeon-hole for all of the sticky concepts of individalism and identity we have begun to explore. Eventually, though, we are going to need to open that box, and make a new paradigm that incorporates different levels of consciousness and will into all different levels of behavior. The neurobiology of Freud, maybe.
The sheer number of boxes is something with which people seem to be very pleased. When we think how stimulation of just one neuron in a squid can result in a huge spasmic reaction, the potential of the billions of connections within the human brain is astounding. Although we must use a lot of neurons for just one reflex action, there are still a nearly limitless number of unused ones at any given moment. Some creationists attempt to dismiss the theory of evolution by the magnitude of improbability of the existence of human beings according to evolution (millions of species mutating and reproducing in just the right way, in just the right environmental conditions, to create our great species in all its glory.) To them, it seems just too fantastic to believe that this could happen by chance. This improbablity isn't lost on many of the supporters of evolution. Instead of discrediting evolution, though, those who consider the improbablity are more awed and impressed by how fortunate it is that our little brains have their opportunity to exist inside our little bodies. I get the same feeling of awe at the magnitude of the improbability of so many little cells and so many thousands of connections for each cell creating the thought processes that I think I feel inside my head. The box concept is not harder to believe, but it makes the human nervous system seem that much more incredible.
Fair enough. And yes, we will certainly have to open boxes to be sure what's inside has some chance of acccounting for their properties. The improbability (or lack thereof) is a larger issue, still very much up in the air. PG