Intelligent Design Plants

Plant communications raise the question of intelligence in nature

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Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

Recent discoveries that plants can do many things that we used to think only animals could do raise some interesting questions. An interviewer at Scientific American asked forestry prof Suzanne Simard, author of a recent book, Finding the Mother Tree,


Your use of the word “intelligent” to describe trees is controversial. But it seems like you are making an even more radical assertion—that there is an “intelligence” in the ecosystem as a whole.

You used the word “controversial.” That comes from me using a human term to describe a highly evolved system that works, that actually has structures that are very similar to our brain. They are not brains, yet they have all the characteristics of intelligence: the behaviors, the responses, the perceptions, the learning, the archiving of memory. And what is being sent through those networks are [chemicals] like glutamate, which is an amino acid that also serves as a neurotransmitter in our brain. I call the system “intelligent” because it is the most analogous word that I can find in the English language to describe what I am seeing.

RICHARD SCHIFFMAN, “‘MOTHER TREES’ ARE INTELLIGENT: THEY LEARN AND REMEMBER” AT SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN (MAY 4, 2021)


The idea of intelligence in nature is controversial because nature is now known to be so full of active information that many question the claim that it could all have evolved by chance, as many prominent biologists believe.

… information is immaterial; if we are not looking, we don’t see it. But information, as such, doesn’t imply individual consciousness, suffering, or individuality. All such claims must be argued from other evidence.

Denyse O’Leary, “Plants help each other. Are they self-aware? Can they suffer?” at Mind Matters News

Takehome: It’s getting harder to avoid talking about the intelligence in nature and still make sense.

You may also wish to read: Can insects, bacteria, and plants have personalities, too? If personality amounts simply to observed individual differences in behavior, the answer is yes, though the issues are more complex for plants.

9 Replies to “Plant communications raise the question of intelligence in nature

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    The Darwinians should have listened to an obscure dissenter named Charles Darwin, who did lots of experiments on plant intelligence. And his science-denier son Francis Darwin took the subject even farther.

  2. 2
    martin_r says:

    Today it is not easy to be a Darwinist… actually, it is easy when you ignore the evidence and you don’t mind to believe in very absurd claims, sometimes also called as ‘scientific consensus’

  3. 3
    martin_r says:

    i as an engineer would like to understand, how any kind of communication can arise with no help from an engineer. Of course for a biologist, this is not a problem, because biologists (natural science graduates) have lots of theories but never made anything … Biologists believe in miracles …

  4. 4
    martin_r says:

    Not only a book, there is also a documentary movie by Suzanne Simard & Co.

    Intelligent Trees (2016)

    “Trees talk, know family ties and care for their young? Is this too fantastic to be true? German forester Peter Wohlleben (‘The Hidden Life of Trees’) and scientist Suzanne Simard (The University of British Columbia, Canada) have been observing and investigating the communication between trees over decades. And their findings are most astounding. ‘Intelligent Trees’ features the main observations that are covered in Peter Wohlleben’s book such as the stump that has been kept alive by it’s neighboring trees, the old tree-couple that looks after each other, the Mother Trees that suckle their offspring, etc… Special about this film is, however, that it goes beyond observations and claims, but match them with the latest underlying Forest Science Research.”

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6110712/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

  5. 5
    JVL says:

    Martin_r: i as an engineer would like to understand, how any kind of communication can arise with no help from an engineer.

    How about writing and speaking? Don’t think there were any engineers involved with those.

  6. 6
    ET says:

    Wow. HUMANS were the engineers that developed writing and speaking, duh.

  7. 7
    martin_r says:

    JVL, look at how ET replied, you better give us some other examples, if you can find some …

    PS: you as a Darwinist, dont you feel embarrassed when you read an article like the one about intelligent trees ? Isnt it too much to ignore ? Most atheists don’t care/ think about these things.. But you seem to think a lot, because you post comments all the time …

  8. 8
    JVL says:

    Martin_r: PS: you as a Darwinist, dont you feel embarrassed when you read an article like the one about intelligent trees ?

    I might disagree with the tone or the way the article is slanted. I’d have to have access to the actual paper to give an honest opinion about the science.

    Isnt it too much to ignore ? Most atheists don’t care/ think about these things.. But you seem to think a lot, because you post comments all the time …

    I’m not ignoring anything.

    Why are you labelling me anyway? You seem to have an us vs them attitude.

    Is the whole world, the whole universe black and white for you?

  9. 9
    Seversky says:

    The Day of the Triffids!.

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