When I was on liberty in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, back in 1967, a young lady showed me something interesting. She called it "bashful grass". It looked more like clover or fern, a weed maybe, than grass. You touched the plant and the leaves would close up quickly in reaction. After the contact with the plant is broken, the plant will slowly unfold its leaves again. It amazed me. It's also called "Sleeping Grass" and it can be found a number of places.
Video of plant in action (12 second video)
We all have heard of the Venus Flytrap. It reacts to the insects caught in its mouth-like flower and closes up to trap them and, eventually, digest them. This is called "thigmonasty" or "seismonasty". Botanists consider these reflex actions, not intelligence.
But can plants be intelligent? Or are they simply reactive? First, we'd have to understand just what intelligence means. Basically, it is the ability to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to use a language, to think independently. Currently, we (as a species) do not consider plants to be intelligent.
Of course, we once didn't consider the so-called lower animals to be intelligent once either. We thought they functioned entirely by instinct. Then we began to see that they could think independently, learn a language (sign language).
We thought animals didn't dream and that dreaming was, therefore, a sign of intelligence. Anyone who had a dog or cat has witnessed the evidence that they dream. So we decided that tool making was a sign of intelligence... until we found that some animals do make tools.
The reality is that we decide what intelligence is. Someday, we may decide that plants do exhibit intelligence.
There has been a belief, starting back in the 60s or 70s, that talking to plants helps them grow. The idea is credited to Dr. Gustav Theodor Fechner, a German professor, in 1848. His idea was that plants were capable of emotion and would, therefore, respond to emotion. He wrote about this in his book "The Soul-life of Plants". Some experiments have been done in this regard but the weirdest was one done by the TV show "Mythbusters"...
"Seven small greenhouses were set up on the M5 Industries roof. Four were set up with stereos playing endlessly looping recordings (as having the MythBusters actually talk to the plants could contaminate the samples with their expelled carbon dioxide): Two of negative speech, two of positive speech (Kari and Scottie each made one positive and one negative inducing soundtrack), a fifth with classical music and a sixth with intense death metal music. A seventh greenhouse, used as a control sample, had no stereo. The greenhouses with the recordings of speech grew better than the control, regardless of whether such talk was kind or angry. The plants in the greenhouse with the recording of classical music grew better, while the plants in the greenhouse with the recording of intense death metal grew best of all."
Most scientists thought that talking to plants helped them grow because you exhaled carbon dioxide which they need. The more you talk, the more CO2 they get and the greener and bigger they get. The Mythbusters' experiment controlled for that and showed, once again, scientists just ain't all that smart.
I am beginning to think that we have no idea just what intelligent life is.
A Night Unremembered
2 years ago