The Smart Plant
A Look into the Controversy Behind Plant Intelligence
Plants have long been excluded from the conversation regarding intelligent functioning in living things. This mindset dates back to ancient times, when plants were assigned a low-functioning and unintelligent rung on the scala naturae. In comparison to animals, plants have evolved to respond to their environment with a modular body plan, which lacks a nervous system and ‘intelligent’ organ, such as a brain. Despite this, research has demonstrated that plants are able to sense their environment, transmit sensory information throughout the entire organism, and respond to this sensory information with appropriate physiological responses. Also, plants have been shown to demonstrate aspects of learning and memory -cognitive functions once thought to be restricted to ‘intelligent’ beings (i.e. animals). The argument against plant intelligence is largely semantic-based, and stems from the concept that the word ‘intelligence’ cannot be applied to organisms which lack organs responsible for intelligent functioning. To truly appreciate the intelligent functioning of plants, we must eliminate this semantic barrier through a re-evaluation of our conventional understanding of intelligence. Perhaps this would require us to view intelligence, not as a quality unique to animals, but as a biological property, which in varying degrees is present in all life forms.
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