Aug 17, 2019 | Updated: 07:24 AM EDT

Scientist Attempts to Debunk the Growing Trend of Plant Neurology

Aug 13, 2019 06:00 AM EDT


The field in which plants are believed to maintain a consciousness, self-awareness, and have the ability to feel things such as happiness or sorrow is called "plant neurology".

A 2006 article in Trends in Plant Science was the first time that the idea of plants being a more intuitive life form came to the public's attention. Plant neurology states that plants possess a nervous system similar to what you might find in some animals.

However, plant biologist Lincoln Taiz says that the likelihood of this being true is "effectively nil". Taiz and his colleagues elaborate on their opinions in an article that was published in Trends in Plant Science in early August.

"There's nothing in the plant remotely comparable to the complexity of the animal brain," says Taiz, an author who works at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "Nothing. And I'm a plant biologist. I love plants" - not because plants think like humans, he says, but for "how they live their plant lives."

While some plants do exhibit extraordinary behavior such as the carnivorous Venus flytrap's ability to detect a meal within their clutches and other plants that emit odorous chemicals to prevent becoming a meal themselves, plants simply do not use a brain-powered nervous system to perform these feats, instead they have a system that is all their own, he says.

In his article, Taiz expounds on the very basic facts of evolution, stating that plants do not possess such an evolved nervous system because they simply do not need it and therefore, it was never developed.

"In claiming that plants have consciousness, 'plant neurobiologists' have consistently glossed over the remarkable degree of structural and functional complexity that the brain had to evolve for consciousness to emerge." says Taiz in the article.

Taiz references the research of neuroscientist Todd E. Feinberg and evolutionary biologist Jon M. Mallatt to further support his beliefs.

"Their findings", he says, "make it extremely unlikely that plants, lacking any anatomical structures remotely comparable to the complexity of the threshold brain, possess consciousness."

Taiz concludes his argument by stating the absolute grim reality of what a plant would go through if these abilities were in fact inherent.

"Imagine a forest fire. It's unbearable to even consider the idea that plants would be sentient, conscious beings aware of the fact that they're being burned to ashes, watching their saplings die in front of them," Taiz says. The horrifying scenario illustrates "what it would actually cost a plant to have consciousness."

Consciousness with immobility, would be nothing short of torturous for any being that was aware of its situation.

Whether or not plants actually possess some level of consciousness is a debate that will rage on until one side can provide concrete evidence proving their theory. But until then let us continue to appreciate what plant life does for Earth and all living things therein. 

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