This is one of the most important things we have to recognize:
Ramón y Cajal was in the forefront of neuroscience, and had dazzling, substantive, convincing and irrefutable research work to offer up. His opinion on fixedness, immutability, unchangingness in the nervous system was pretty much conflated with his actual research for the next century.Just because someone is very good at what he or she does doesn't mean they are right about everything else. I think it is based on the same principle as the Halo effect.
What I don't get however is how those people were able to explain what learning is. If the brain is a fixed structure - then how are we able to learn new skills?
And even if it's just new synapses forming - that is a form of plasticity as well?
Looking back from where we are now it all seems to be so obvious - how could anyone resist the idea of a changeable, plastic, constantly adapting brain?
That I guess is the big lesson we can learn from history: it's always easier to see the connections in hindsight.
It's always nice to have a paradigm to work from - but at the same time we have to recognize it's weaknesses and work on finding solutions which eventually will lead to a new and better one.
Just look at how Wall and Melzack went from the Gate-Control-Theory to the Neuromatrix Theory.