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Do plants have consciousness?

  1. janesix profile image59
    janesixposted 2 years ago

    I decided to make a separate discussion on this topic that was being discussed in another thread, to see what other people think about it, who don't happen to be following that discussion.

    Do you think plants have consciousness?
    Amoebas?
    Lower animals? (I think everyone would agree that mammals and other higher animals do)
    Viruses?
    Does any living thing possess a consciousness of some kind?

    And what living creatures are self-aware?

    1. wilderness profile image96
      wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      Consciousness requires a brain, something neither plants nor very small animals have.  Even a starfish is lacking a brain, for instance, as do giant jellyfish, and cannot have consciousness.  And a brain, more than a simple nerve center or biological PLC, has consciousness.

      Self aware - I believe that most mammals are self aware, along with some birds and a handful of other animals.  No plants, no microscopic.  Not only a brain, but a bigger, more powerful brain than mere consciousness requires.

      1. janesix profile image59
        janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        That's really interesting.

        So you're saying that something like a lizard might not have consciousness, if it hasn't yet developed a more complex brain like cat or a chimpanzee?

        1. janesix profile image59
          janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          Oh, nevermind on that, I see you were talking about self-awareness with the more complex brain.

          1. Kathryn L Hill profile image84
            Kathryn L Hillposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            Well, in a front planter facing the west, a wild tobacco plant planted itself in a particular spot. The spot had just the right amount of space. It grew reaching up toward the sunlight... reaching, stretching, growing and growing, yearning, yearning for sun, sun and more sun consistently, every single day. Finally after months, blossoms of yellow bloomed on this faithfully reaching stalk... very suspicious to me.

            1. janesix profile image59
              janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              Yes, very suspicious to me too.

              That's why I like to anylize these things.

              I think any living thing MUST have consciousness of some kind.

              But this is more like an inner knowing thing, not a fact based thing for me.

            2. Phyllis Doyle profile image94
              Phyllis Doyleposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              I believe the tobacco plant was conscious of the right place to be for growth. This does not require a brain, but just an inherent 'knowing'.

              1. janesix profile image59
                janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                What's special about the tobacco plant?

                1. Phyllis Doyle profile image94
                  Phyllis Doyleposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                  It is a living thing.

                  1. janesix profile image59
                    janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                    I meant why is it special compared to other plants? You said it knows where to grow. Or do all plants know where to grow?

            3. Dr Lamb profile image60
              Dr Lambposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              Don't you watch Mythbusters?

          2. wilderness profile image96
            wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            Right.  A plant, or bacteria, can and does recognize it's surroundings and react, but that's not consciousness in spite of dictionary definitions.  And it certainly isn't self awareness.

            So somewhere a plant and us is a line for consciousness, even though all living things react to stimuli.  And somewhere between that line and us is another line for self awareness.  And both lines are dependent on brain complexity and functionality.

            1. janesix profile image59
              janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              So do you think a plant has some kind of "instinctual" reaction (to light or whatever)? Maybe not even an instinct, but just a physical reaction? Like, somehow it seems to me it has to "know" at some level, at least, that there's not enough water or soil nutrients, so it's time to lengthen the roots further into the soil. What mechanism would it even use for that? There in no nervous system to process the information.

              1. wilderness profile image96
                wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                Sure it knows.  It knows to open with daybreak and close (flower petals) with nightfall.  It knows to release chemicals upon attack (some of them) to warn others of the species to defend themselves, and to defend when those chemicals are in the air.  It knows to snap shut (venus fly trap) when a bug is in the flower.  Plants have many reactions to many stimuli. 

                But no brain.  All hardwired, apparently - the bug moves something, which causes the fly trap to close, much as your touching the accelerator makes the car go.  A physical connection, kind of.

                And cells, both ours and bacteria or even a virus, do the same thing.  White cells swarm and attack an invader, while others cells make more white cells when the body is under attack - all without the brain saying to do so.  A virus will search out, and attach to, specific types of cells in our body.  And amoeba will engulf food and absorb it, a jellyfish will grab a fish and bring it to center without ever having a brain.

                Lots of ways to force things, both living and not, to react to specific stimuli without having a brain.  I can design a system whereby if my computer gets a certain electrical signal from the telephone line it will run the furnace to a higher temperature in the house - no brain required of the computer or the furnace.  Just particular, hardwired reactions - very common in factories and I've installed and worked on some.

                1. janesix profile image59
                  janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                  Yes, you're right. You can make a robot or something follow a certain set of directions to actually do something physical. And they don't have life or consciousness.

                  But we programmed them.

                  What programmed the plant or the amoeba?

                  The DNA?

                  What programmed the DNA?

                  1. wilderness profile image96
                    wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                    A computer can self program.

                    And a DNA string can come together by accident, whether 10 genes or a thousand.  It can even come together through the "forces" of evolution, which is the most likely answer.

                2. Jerami profile image77
                  Jeramiposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                  You are right !!!    A brain is not required for a level of intelligence to be.
                  I wonder where the largest collection of inelegance is gathered together without a brain to contain it.

                  1. wilderness profile image96
                    wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                    Well, not the Democratic party! smile  That was bad - I retract it.

                    If you're going to call the involuntary actions of a plant an "intelligence" then a computer should be as well.  Perhaps the answer is a super computer?  Or a thousand tons of biomass in the form of plankton or bacteria?

    2. Phyllis Doyle profile image94
      Phyllis Doyleposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      This is really very interesting to ponder on. I just now published an article on a totemic belief system, which is animism. Animism is the belief that everything has a spirit and a meaning/purpose in life.

      1. janesix profile image59
        janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        Can you share the general idea here? I think I know what you're talking about, but not quite sure.

        1. Phyllis Doyle profile image94
          Phyllis Doyleposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          If the totemic belief system is true,  and every thing has spirit, then that thing must have a conscious. Totemism, or animism,  is a system of belief in which each human is thought to have a spiritual connection or a kinship with another physical being, such as an animal or plant, often called a "spirit-being". The Australian Aboriginals, as well as Native Americans, believe in this kinship of human and plant, human and animal spiritual connections.

          1. janesix profile image59
            janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            That's interesting. Do you believe that?

  2. calculus-geometry profile image86
    calculus-geometryposted 2 years ago

    Janesix, there's a great article about this in the New Yorker

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013 … ntPage=all

    Believe it or not, the idea of plants possessing some kind of quasi-intelligence is an area pursued by some botanists.  It's on the fringe of plant science, and its proponents don't outright claim that plants have anything comparable to a brain. What they study is chemical signalling between plant cells that sort of parallels what goes on between neurons in the brains of higher life forms.

    1. janesix profile image59
      janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      Thanks, I'll check that link out.

  3. janesix profile image59
    janesixposted 2 years ago

    OK!

    Tackle this one, please, guys.

    What makes instincts happen?

    Take it to the lowest level, some kind of single cell organism or something.

    I can see how it can move by chemical reaction, electric stimulation etc, but what gives it the URGE to eat? Or pull away from danger in a primitive sense of pain or fear?

    Where do those instinctual urges come from?

    1. Kathryn L Hill profile image84
      Kathryn L Hillposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      (My tree man talks about the "compatibility" of trees. I have a tree I did not want … a carob tree. It died within a year. I also wanted a certain Hibiscus bush gone. It also died within a year. I have to be careful how I think about my plants.)

    2. Phyllis Doyle profile image94
      Phyllis Doyleposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      Wow ! now that is deep. I will have to meditate on it. What about talking to plants? Some people claim that by talking often and gently to their plants, touching them softly, there is a remarkable difference in growth and health of the plant.

      1. janesix profile image59
        janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        I've heard of that, and also how plants grow better with nice music (harmonious). I personally don't have much experience with plants. I occasionally get one, neglect it, and it dies. I even feel bad about it, so I don't get them anymore.

        1. wilderness profile image96
          wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          That's me, too, Jane.  It makes me wonder if people that talk to the plants, stroke them, etc. also take better care of them.  Feed and water on a proper schedule, provide proper sunshine, etc.

      2. Dr Lamb profile image60
        Dr Lambposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        Why not try educate and then meditate? You should watch Mythbusters as well.

    3. janesix profile image59
      janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      Anyone have any ideas?

      1. Jerami profile image77
        Jeramiposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        Good morning janesix...   My instincts tell me that every cell contains some degree/measure of information.  And in many instances they communicate in some way with each other.
        While  the fetus is still developing within its host, every cell of the fetus is learning all that it is capable. This is the only reason I can think of for why a fawn, only minutes old knows to learn to stand and run from danger within minutes of its birth. It also knows what to run from and to.
        IMO there is a wealth of knowledge available to be learned that is yet to be found written in any book.
        There is something to be learned from anything we can touch see or hear smell or taste; or we might say... all these things have something to teach us.                                                                                One might say all things have access to a disembodied form of  intelligence and or wisdom.
        It can't be that simple !  can it ?

        1. EncephaloiDead profile image60
          EncephaloiDeadposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          In other words, pure guesswork.



          Where, from thin air?

          1. janesix profile image59
            janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            From scientific experimentation, and new information and facts as they come to light, or are discovered.

            Unless, of course, you feel science already knows everything there is to know.

            1. EncephaloiDead profile image60
              EncephaloiDeadposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              Which get written down in books, thus contradicting what he said. Instincts have very little to do with it, as does thin air.

              1. janesix profile image59
                janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                Ok. I get why you said that now.

                ( I don't agree of course, but I'm not arguing the point for now)

        2. janesix profile image59
          janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          "One might say all things have access to a disembodied form of  intelligence and or wisdom. " I definitely think so. But I can't prove it.


          It can't be that simple !  can it ?

          I think it can:)

          1. Jerami profile image77
            Jeramiposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            me too!

        3. Dr Lamb profile image60
          Dr Lambposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          A fawns brain is hardwired to get up and be afraid, much like ours is to breath, eat and poop. It's hard for us to understand this because human brain continue to develop until the age of 25. But we are not born self aware and have to learn languages. the only reason why we don't stay inside until we can walk on our own is our brains wouldn't fit the exist passage.                                                                               

          One might, but they would be a little out of touch with reality. See us humans need to be educated. If left alone we would not even develop a language. The only information we have access to is that which we can see, hear or tough and that which is taught to us. Don't confuse the subconscious with anything that it isn't.

      2. Dr Lamb profile image60
        Dr Lambposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        Instinct comes from the subconscious part of your mind. Don't forget that much of your mind is not accessible to you. But it will tell you stuff from time to time. We don't think about breathing, but our brains are delivering the information to the necessary body parts. There is no fibre optic cable connected to anything else.

        1. janesix profile image59
          janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          Yes, I get that in animals. But what about plants? Or an amoeba, who doesn't have a brain? What makes them feel hungry, or back away from danger(fear, survival instinct)?

          I'm trying to reduce this to the lowest factor, if you're getting me.

          1. wilderness profile image96
            wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            Conjecture only, as I have no real knowledge, but...

            Memories are thought to be the pattern of interconnections between brain neurons.  Evolution can make a heart with valves - can it not provide neuron interconnections such that give "knowledge" without learning?  Instant information, even before birth?  Is that instinct?

            As far as an amoeba, it is almost certainly a combination of chemical and electrical responses.  Given a static charge here, electrons will travel to here to balance electrical charges.  And chemical reactions are much the same, in that under the right conditions reactions will occur.  So things happen as a result.  The cell is running out of "X" chemical?  Any "X" chemical in the are is drawn into the cell as a result.

            But I re-emphasize I am NOT a cellular biologist.

          2. Dr Lamb profile image60
            Dr Lambposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            They don't have brains, so don't have instincts, only the need for food.

            1. janesix profile image59
              janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              Thank you also for thinking about my questions and answering. I appreciate it.

              I know that several of you are more intelligent than I am, but I still desire to understand these things. It's nice that you guys are willing to do my rationalizing, where I have trouble getting to the bottom of things.

  4. bronwynp profile image61
    bronwynpposted 2 years ago

    I am on the bandwagon that they do not have a brain, therefore no form of conscious thoughts or consciousness.. Only a nervous system.

  5. 0
    Emile Rposted 2 years ago

    It's an interesting question. I think the term consciousness is used differently amongst us. If we simply use the term to mean awareness of surroundings then, yes, it would be difficult to argue that a plant was not aware of its surroundings.

    From an evolutionary standpoint, I'm uncertain how anyone could argue that a plant was not aware on some level. It has to survive, thrive and multiply within the environment it finds itself in. It isn't as if it can pack up and leave.  Plants have evolved to use sunlight as a primary energy source. Many have evolved to entice bees and others insects to pollinate  for them. Flowers, without other life forms to appreciate and use them, would have been a rather pointless endeavor for the stationary plant.

    I've read studies where beetles were introduced on one side of a forest and the particular species of tree which would be endangered by their presence somehow signaled (A crazy word to use, but appropriate; I think) the rest of the trees in the forest of that species and the ones not infested yet began to emit more sap to create a surface resin to ward them off. Now, it can be argued that the roots are, to some degree, interwoven and the reaction of one tree was slowly shared by the others through that means; but the individual plants had to be aware on some level to react.

    Studies have shown that some flower seeds, when planted with seeds from the same plant mixed with seeds of another of the same species are aware that they are, somehow, different. Seedlings from the same individual plant will work together to compete for sunlight and nutrients; to the detriment of the seedlings from another plant of the same variety. This is a level of awareness. And could be initially interpreted as the possibility of a level of self awareness, in some ways.

    You might find the following interesting:

    2.1 Creature Consciousness

    An animal, person or other cognitive system may be regarded as conscious in a number of different senses.

    Sentience. It may be conscious in the generic sense of simply being a sentient creature, one capable of sensing and responding to its world (Armstrong 1981). Being conscious in this sense may admit of degrees, and just what sort of sensory capacities are sufficient may not be sharply defined. Are fish conscious in the relevant respect? And what of shrimp or bees?

    Wakefulness. One might further require that the organism actually be exercising such a capacity rather than merely having the ability or disposition to do so. Thus one might count it as conscious only if it were awake and normally alert. In that sense organisms would not count as conscious when asleep or in any of the deeper levels of coma. Again boundaries may be blurry, and intermediate cases may be involved. For example, is one conscious in the relevant sense when dreaming, hypnotized or in a fugue state?

    Self-consciousness. A third and yet more demanding sense might define conscious creatures as those that are not only aware but also aware that they are aware, thus treating creature consciousness as a form of self-consciousness (Carruthers 2000). The self-awareness requirement might get interpreted in a variety of ways, and which creatures would qualify as conscious in the relevant sense will vary accordingly. If it is taken to involve explicit conceptual self-awareness, many non-human animals and even young children might fail to qualify, but if only more rudimentary implicit forms of self-awareness are required then a wide range of nonlinguistic creatures might count as self-conscious.

    What it is like. Thomas Nagel's (1974) famous“what it is like” criterion aims to capture another and perhaps more subjective notion of being a conscious organism. According to Nagel, a being is conscious just if there is “something that it is like” to be that creature, i.e., some subjective way the world seems or appears from the creature's mental or experiential point of view. In Nagel's example, bats are conscious because there is something that it is like for a bat to experience its world through its echo-locatory senses, even though we humans from our human point of view can not emphatically understand what such a mode of consciousness is like from the bat's own point of view.

    Subject of conscious states. A fifth alternative would be to define the notion of a conscious organism in terms of conscious states. That is, one might first define what makes a mental state a conscious mental state, and then define being a conscious creature in terms of having such states. One's concept of a conscious organism would then depend upon the particular account one gives of conscious states (section 2.2).

    Transitive Consciousness. In addition to describing creatures as conscious in these various senses, there are also related senses in which creatures are described as being conscious of various things. The distinction is sometimes marked as that between transitive and intransitive notions of consciousness, with the former involving some object at which consciousness is directed (Rosenthal 1986).
    from

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness/#ConCon

    You might take particular note of the fifth alternative. They say that one's concept of a conscious organism would depend upon the particular account one gives of conscious states. So, the idea of consciousness of any living thing is up for debate.

    I would go on to argue that all matter which exists within the universe has some level of awareness of a state of being.

    1. Phyllis Doyle profile image94
      Phyllis Doyleposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      My gosh, Emile, this is really interesting and I can clearly see it is all up for debate. Well done !

    2. janesix profile image59
      janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      Thanks, Emile. That was awesome.

      If this is correct, then it doesn't take a brain for consciousness. It is not a product of the brain. Which is what I think is true anyway.

  6. Dr Lamb profile image60
    Dr Lambposted 2 years ago

    There is a big difference between reacting to ones surrounding and being aware of ones self in that surroundings.

    Chimps, Bottlenose dolphins, Bonobos, Elephants, Orcas, Gorillas, Magpies, Orangutans and Humans older than about a year and half (I think) recognize themselves.

    An animal can be awake (conscious), but not be self aware.

    1. janesix profile image59
      janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      Yes, I agree. There's a difference in being aware of surroundings, and being self aware.

  7. janesix profile image59
    janesixposted 2 years ago

    Wilderness

    "As far as an amoeba, it is almost certainly a combination of chemical and electrical responses.  Given a static charge here, electrons will travel to here to balance electrical charges.  And chemical reactions are much the same, in that under the right conditions reactions will occur.  So things happen as a result.  The cell is running out of "X" chemical?  Any "X" chemical in the are is drawn into the cell as a result."

    This is great, thank you. It's kind of what I'm looking for. Not exactly, but close enough for now. Maybe I can ponder it and shut up and stop bugging you guys for a while. Thanks for trying to answer and putting up with my "nonsense" questions:)

    1. wilderness profile image96
      wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      More than welcome.  Just don't take it as gospel, because I'm just thinking out loud.

      1. janesix profile image59
        janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        Oh, I won't. Just gave me a clue to how things might work. It's more than I had before. I will have fun googling biology and amoebas later on tonight:)

        Are you in any scientific field, by the way? You seem to have the right kind of mind for it.

        1. wilderness profile image96
          wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          I was a chemist earlier in life.  It didn't really last long, quickly changing into middle management and mechanic (what combinations!) followed by electrician, but I have the requisite college hours and degree.  Also have a good bit of physics and math, but all the schooling was decades ago and things have changed.

          I do think it "set" the pattern I use to reason, though.  The details learned are long gone, but the method of coming to them is still active.

          1. janesix profile image59
            janesixposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            That's awesome:) I suspected you might have some kind of training of that sort. You are good at looking at a problem, breaking it down, and reasoning things out.

            I simply don't have the mind for it, unfortunately. I am too scattered and distractable, among other things. All I've really got going is a deep desire to know what's going on around me. Eventually, I hope to at least come to a partial understanding, if I can ferret out the details and processes of how the world works.

 
working