from TheGuardian Website
The plant neurobiology debate
is shaping up to be the biggest botanical bunfight
since the Romantic era.
clouding scientific objectivity
about plants' feelings,
The latest salvo in the plant consciousness wars has been fired by US, British and German biologists who argue that practitioners of "plant neurobiology" have become carried away with the admittedly impressive abilities of plants to sense and react to their environments.
While plants may,
...the vexed biologists argue that is no reason to believe they choose their actions, learn along the way or occasionally get hurt in the process, as some plant neurobiologists assert.
Bothered by claims that plants have "brain-like command centers" in their root tips, and possess the equivalent of animal nervous systems, the critics counter there is no proof of sentient vegetation or structures within plants that would grant them what the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has called,
Lincoln Taiz, a botanist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and seven like-minded researchers writing (Plants Neither Possess nor Require Consciousness) in the journal Trends in Plant Science, where plant neurobiology made its debut (Plant Neurobiology - An Integrated view of Plant Signaling) in 2006, state:
Taiz told the Guardian:
The broadside drew a robust response from the University of Sydney's Monica Gagliano, who conducts research on the cognitive abilities of plants, including,
She said the criticisms failed to take account of all the evidence and focused only on work that supported the authors' viewpoint.
Taiz draws on work by the US researchers Todd Feinberg and Jon Mallatt, who explore the origins of consciousness by comparing simple and more complex brains in animals.
They conclude that while animals ranging from insects and crabs to cats and monkeys have sufficient brains to be conscious, other organisms fail the test.
The debate is shaping up to be the biggest botanical bunfight since the Romantic era when plant biologists argued for more than a century about sex in plants.
As the purists argued nothing so obscene would be happening in flower beds, extremists on the sex side envisioned plants not only having sex but being full of lust and passion.
Taiz believes the rise of plant neurobiology is driven by the environmental crisis that poses an ever-increasing threat to life on Earth.
But Gagliano is having none of it.
Where the debate leaves Prince Charles, who not only talks to his geraniums but positively instructs them, is unclear.