Academic Talks to Plants, Plants May Talk Back By James Reed

     This, I suppose, is one of the more amusing things to come from this week’s coverage of the madness of the university: academics talking to plants, and speculating about plant communication:

“A senior research fellow at Australia’s University of Sydney believes plants are intelligent and can communicate. Monica Gagliano’s personal anecdotes about our CO2-breathing fellow terrestrials include her “being rocked like a baby by the spirit of a fern” and getting advice from an oak tree … about a grant application. According to The New York Times, “plants have directly shaped [Gagliano’s] experiments and career path.” Some of her published studies conclude that “plants are, to some extent, intelligent” — they can “hear” and even interact. Gagliano realizes her claims may come off as, well, “delusional” and could harm her career. Nevertheless, she says “I want people to realize that the world is full of magic, but not as something only some people can do, or something that is outside of this world. No, it’s all here.” A group of biologists who published a recent study titled “Plants Neither Possess nor Require Consciousness” refers to Gagliano’s views as “a new wave of Romantic biology.” Scientist Heidi Appel said Gagliano “commingl[es] science and spiritual experiences.”

     Here is the abstract from Trends in Plant Science attacking the new “field” of plant neurobiology:

•    “Although ‘plant neurobiologists’ have claimed that plants possess many of the same mental features as animals, such as consciousness, cognition, intentionality, emotions, and the ability to feel pain, the evidence for these abilities in plants is highly problematical.
•    Proponents of plant consciousness have consistently glossed over the unique and remarkable degree of structural, organizational, and functional complexity that the animal brain had to evolve before consciousness could emerge.
•    Recent results of neuroscientist Todd E. Feinberg and evolutionary biologist Jon M. Mallatt on the minimum brain structures and functions required for consciousness in animals have implications for plants.
•    Their findings make it extremely unlikely that plants, lacking any anatomical structures remotely comparable to the complexity of the threshold brain, possess consciousness.

In claiming that plants have consciousness, ‘plant neurobiologists’ have consistently glossed over the remarkable degree of structural and functional complexity that the brain had to evolve for consciousness to emerge. Here, we outline a new hypothesis proposed by Feinberg and Mallat for the evolution of consciousness in animals. Based on a survey of the brain anatomy, functional complexity, and behaviors of a broad spectrum of animals, criteria were established for the emergence of consciousness. The only animals that satisfied these criteria were the vertebrates (including fish), arthropods (e.g., insects, crabs), and cephalopods (e.g., octopuses, squids). In light of Feinberg and Mallat’s analysis, we consider the likelihood that plants, with their relative organizational simplicity and lack of neurons and brains, have consciousness to be effectively nil.”

     Look, I can see where all of this is going. We are going to see a new movement of hyper-veganism arising where even eating plants is immoral, so humans will just have to starve to death!
I take this as a reduction to absurdity of the whole lot of this, and to affirm my point, I will now chomp into some juicy tomatoes. No, I will brutally cut up the tomatoes, and grill them with cheese. Go try me for tomato genocide! I might as well throw some pieces of ham in as well.

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Wednesday, 19 February 2020
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