Experiments and intelligence

While arguing that plants have intelligence (though an Aristotelian would call it sensation), Anthony Trewavas claims that one of the main reasons why “plant intelligence” was so difficult to discover is that plants in a laboratory do not display the behavior that is so forceful in arguing for such intelligence. After all, plants in a lab live in a stable environment, with all their needs catered to by grad students, and are subject to (at worst) only contrived and isolated stresses. Lab-plants are cut away from the hurly-burly of live, complex environments and look stupider than they are as a result.

The finding generalizes: intelligence is a forsight by which we dominate an environment, but intelligences knowingly working within contrived environments take those very contrivances into account, and use them as shortcuts or labor saving devices.  The grad student watering the plant is being used by the plant as an extension of its roots, such that the roots themselves need not make any special effort to do anything fascinating. Again, Pavlov’s dogs used Pavlov as an extension of their nervous system-  he was simply a sixth canine sense for detecting food, even if he proved to be less than a perfectly reliable instrument.  What appeared to be conditioning of the dog was equally the dog’s assumption of a person into his nervous system.


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