Monday, July 23, 2012

Plants, Again (Or Poor Me: Only the Evidence Is on My Side!)

I met with mockery from Ed Feser and other Neo-Aristotelians for suggesting that plants might be sentient. (Notice how Ed used comics implying that, if Callahan thinks plants might be sentient, then he must think they are monsters ready to attack humans! Note: Aristotelians think that, say, frogs are sentient. Does that mean they constantly fear attacks by monster frogs?)

One argument I met with is that plants have no sensory mechanism, so, one should conclude, no sensations. Beh:
We are naturally more familiar with the sensory systems in animals than those in plants, but plants have developed equally sophisticated systems. While plants apparently lack the capacity to communicate with one another by sound [which more recent research shows is untrue!] they have, for example, at least three different light-sensing systems, each of which involves a different light-absorbing mechanism and controls an entirely different set of functions... plants can do almost everything animals can do, but usually rather more slowly... -- Plantwatching, Malcolm Wilkins, p. 9, emphasis mine
The book goes on to detail how plants have short-term memories, can count, and will move limbs out of the reach of foraging animals.

But I am probably going about this the wrong way: if I really want to understand plants, instead of reviewing the work of people who have spent their whole lives studying plants with the latest technology, I should read what Aristotle and Aquinas thought about plants before experimental botany came into existence.

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"If your approach to mathematics is mechanical not mystical, you're not going to go anywhere." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb