Intelligent Design Minds Plants

Asked seriously: What if plants are smarter than we think?

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They probably are:

Trees can differentiate between threats, as well. They respond differently to a human breaking off one of its branches than they do to an animal eating at them—with the former, it will try to heal; with the latter, it will try to poison. Plants even share space with one another. In a 2010 study, when four Cakile edentula, or “sea-rocket plants,” were put in the same pot, they shared their resources, moving their roots to accommodate the others. If the plants were just acting evolutionarily, it would follow that they would compete for resources; instead, they seem to be “thinking” of the other plants and “deciding” to help them.

Cody Delistraty, “The Intelligence of Plants” at The Paris Review

This is really a riff on the question asked here yesterday: Is a brain really needed for thinking?

Depends on the type of thinking, maybe.

It’s true that plants can be as smart as animals. They even use the neurotransmitter glutamate to speed transmission within themselves. But that doesn’t mean that “salad is murder.

The question is not whether plants are “as smart as smart animals” (no) but whether many plants can use information to the same degree as many animals can (yes). It would make more sense to see that the reason they can is that nature is full of intelligence (not personal intelligences). And that the intelligence clearly did not get there by Darwinian means, as the above example illustrates.


See also: Is a brain really needed for thinking? The “blob,” now on display at the Paris Zoo, forces the question. In addition to the many puzzles we face in understanding the relationship between the immaterial human mind and the material human brain, we are discovering some life forms that can manage “sensory integration, decision-making and now, learning” without a physical brain.

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4 Replies to “Asked seriously: What if plants are smarter than we think?

  1. 1
    Eugene says:

    It is really rather arrogant of us to believe that plants are somehow “simple”, when we can’t even solve much of the single cell internal workings, let alone explain how those workings came to be. Further, a physical brain as we know it, could end up being no more than a “hardware accelerator” for the mind, where less powerful implementations of a mind could then also exist without such “hardware acceleration” support. Hence, at the limit, not just plants, but even single-celled organisms could then have their primitive “minds”, as strange it may seem to us. It is important to remember that we still do not know what “mind” really is.

  2. 2
    Belfast says:

    You beat me to it, Eugene. You must type faster.
    It is as though plants not only have a mind, but a mind of their own, which raises the point that perhaps ‘mind’ and ‘brain’ are a holdover of a classification problem.
    The old expressions, ‘the heart has its reasons,’ and ‘will to live,’ come to mind.

  3. 3
    tjguy says:

    Why is it that evolutionists are so often surprised by finding complexity where they never expected it? Why is it they always assume things are simple instead of complex? When will they learn? Probably never – at least not as long as they assume things evolved by random blind purposeless processes. Nature has surprised us many times and as a result we have an ever growing large pile of discarded evolutionary assumptions proven wrong by complexity in nature.

    Even IDers/creationists are sometimes surprised by the complexity at times also, but not because complexity does not fit our worldview; simply because it was something we did not know about. Complexity is far more easily explained by the ID/creationist view than the Darwinian evolutionary view.

  4. 4
    polistra says:

    “If the plants were just acting evolutionarily, it would follow that they would compete for resources; ”

    In fairness, this isn’t what Darwin proposed. He was saying that each SPECIES tries to maintain and increase its population. There are plenty of examples of individuals yielding dominance, or even sacrificing their lives, to maintain the species. Making room for other individuals is good for the species.

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