Professor Grobstein, to some degree you have answered your own question about what studying the sensory side of the nervous system has to say about our perception of reality. We now recognize that it is limited in many ways, from our brains "making things up" when they are not sure about visual details to our ability to "see" with only a fraction of the sensory mechanisms available. But, while it would be nice to detect ultraviolet light, magnetic fields, or electrical signals, we have to acknowledge that our sensory systems can only be described relative to those of other animals, and not to the absolute standard of perfectly reflected reality, which is probably impossible. What I mean to say is that the input side of our sensory system is thousands of times too complicated for our needs anyway. Evolutionarily, our senses, combined with our dexterity and complex brain have allowed us to run away with control of the world in many ways. We don't need to sense any more than we do to survive.

Our lateral inhibition network is good for making our eyes quite sensitive to intensity, and combined with the sharp edges our nervous system values so much, we can see shapes and shades and therefore view the world in three dimensions. Also we have the huge advantages of seeing in color and being able to focus closely with the fovea area. By contrast, a frog, as I have been told, sees well a foot or so around him, and needs movement to distinguish shape. This tells me that he has a poor lateral inhibition network that is low in sensitivity. On the other hand, though, he sees in the round, and most certainly he has supplementary sensory mechanisms that we don't.

Maybe we see centers the same as edges, lack night vision, and are confused by some patterns. But we see reality just fine for our survival and nature keeps us from absolute power over all other organisms by denying us their sensory advantages. Similar to the confusing artificial patterns we saw in class are the patterns of camouflage our prey and natural predators (when they were actually our predators) use. The ability of a mosquito to sense our heat while we cannot see it coming in the dark until it is too late keeps it alive. The fact that sensory systems are at least somewhat balanced is an advantage to the reality we do not fully perceive because it creates a diverse world that we are competitive in and a part of, but not quite masters of.

Fair enough, as long as we accept (inherent in what you say) that "seeing reality just fine ... for survival" is equally true of ALL living organisms and not exclusive to humans. "Run away with control of the world"? There's certainly a concern there, but I suspect there's also a bit of hubris: I doubt mosquitos (and many other organisms) are much concerned (and may not in fact be much threatened; the most obvious threat we pose is to ourselves). It would (perhaps) be nice to imagine that nature was smart enough to make us participants but not masters (by giving us and other organisms offsetting sensory advantages), but I suspect nature has pretty much just been playing around and so its up to us to learn what we can from the different visions of different organisms (and different people), and to try and derive wisdom from it. PG