Even scientists sceptical of "plant intelligence" acknowledge that plants are "smart." The question comes down to the nature of "intelligence,"
and astounding new findings in plant neurobiology challenge the current definition. Plant neurobiologists study how plants investigate and respond to
their environments - NASA and the National Science Foundation fund research in plant neurobiology - and The First Symposium on Plant Neurobiology is
coming up in May, 2005. Says University of Utah biologist Leslie Sieburth, "If intelligence is the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge, then,
absolutely, plants are intelligent." Yet the debate continues to rage.
As trowel-wielding scientists dig up a trove of new findings, even those skeptical of the evolving paradigm of "plant intelligence" acknowledge that,
down to the simplest magnolia or fern, flora have the smarts of the forest. Some scientists say they carefully consider their environment, speculate
on the future, conquer territory and enemies, and are often capable of forethought - revelations that could affect everyone from gardeners to
Indeed, extraordinary new findings on how plants investigate and respond to their environments are part of a sprouting debate over the nature of
intelligence itself. ..."The attitude of people is changing quite substantially," says Anthony Trewavas, a plant biochemist at the University of
Edinburgh in Scotland and a prominent scholar of plant intelligence. "The idea of intelligence is going from the very narrow view that it's just human
to something that's much more generally found in life."
...the late Nobel Prize-winning plant geneticist Barbara McClintock called plant cells "thoughtful." Darwin wrote about root-tip "brains." Not only
can plants communicate with each other and with insects by coded gas exhalations, scientists say now, they can perform Euclidean geometry calculations
through cellular computations and, like a peeved boss, remember the tiniest transgression for months. ...To a growing number of biologists, the fact
that plants are now known to challenge and exert power over other species is proof of a basic intellect.
"If intelligence is the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge, then, absolutely, plants are intelligent," agrees Leslie Sieburth, a biologist at the
University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The First Symposium on Plant Neurobiology
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The main arguments against plant intelligence are centered around the idea of plant "self-consciousness," and the debate is heated.
On one side, "We now know there's an ability of self-recognition in plants, which is highly unusual and quite extraordinary that it's actually there.
But why has no one come to grips with it?" asks Scotland's Dr. Trewavas.
On the other side, "There is still much that we do not know about how plants work, but a big part of intelligence is self-consciousness, and plants do
not have that," says Heike Winter Sederoff, a plant biologist at N.C. State.
History of Plant Sciences
Resistance to proofs of plant self-awareness and intelligence are somewhat mysterious, on a superficial level. At a deeper level though, it becomes
clear that this resistance is fundamentally political.
Current US political trends are based on narrow concepts of human intelligence and promote replacing democracy with a "meritocracy" - the ideas have
their roots in Galton's eugenics, were developed by Leo Strauss for political/economic application and now, are pushed broadly in US public policy by
Sir Francis Galton
Strauss and Wolfowitz
The politics of "plant intelligence" in a nutshell:
1. Acknowledging plant intelligence involves broadening the current definition of intelligence, and upsetting established dogma;
2. Such a new definition of intelligence would acknowledge more people as more worthy; and
3. In short, redefining "intelligence" would destroy the current strategy to remake democracy in America as a narrowly-defined elitist "meritocracy,"
where ones' right to vote is determined not by citizenship but rather, by "merit."
ATS: The neo-conservative political ideology (Straussism)
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