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Trees, we are told, express emotions and make friends

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From forester Peter Wohlleben at Daily Mail:

There’s increasing evidence to show that trees are able to communicate with each other. More than that, trees can learn.

If that’s true — and my experience as a forester convinces me it is — then they must be able to store and transmit information.

And scientists are beginning to ask: is it possible that trees possess intelligence, and memories, and emotions? So, to cut to the quick, do trees have brains?

It sounds incredible, but when you discover how trees talk to each other, feel pain, nurture each other, even care for their close relatives and organise themselves into communities, it’s hard to be sceptical.More.

No one familiar with the area now doubts that trees communicate, for example to organize defenses. The maple tree famously does that:

Two studies published in 1983 demonstrated that willow trees, poplars and sugar maples can warn each other about insect attacks: Intact, undamaged trees near ones that are infested with hungry bugs begin pumping out bug-repelling chemicals to ward off attack. They somehow know what their neighbors are experiencing, and react to it. The mind-bending implication was that brainless trees could send, receive and interpret messages.

All life forms seek to continue to live; that is what distinguishes them from inanimate objects.

But claims that trees have emotions and friends or that rocks have minds are usually intended to diminish human reason and emotion by confusing complex inherited behaviour patterns (which probably require design) with the initiation of new information (which requires intelligence).

The same goes for claims that apes really use a language like humans or are entering the the Stone Age.

The nonsense may be moderately okay except for the troubling political implications.

See also: What can we hope to learn about animal minds?

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