Our superiority over plants

May 21, 2018

Apparently, they’ve done experiments that show that plants can ‘communicate’ with each other. They can pass on information about the environment, and they can pass on carbon via fungal pathways underground.

I learnt all this through an episode of the Seriously… BBC podcast called Is Eating Plants Wrong?

Now, I know the title is just click bait for this generation’s millennial, grasshopper mind, #FakeNews generation. We’re all part of that, y’know? But it reflects the conclusions it came to: plants can detect environmental conditions and tell their friends. In fact, they tell their family in preference to just any old flower nearby.*

By the end of the episode, we’ve been told that our preconceptions about plants are wrong. They’re not merely idle and passive machines that process chemicals, unable to deal with alterations in their environment. They’re ‘cleverer’ than we think. Perhaps we shouldn’t eat them, because they could be sentient.

We’re not as cleverer as we think

I see it another way. As with many things in science, we’re starting from the point of view that we are the clever ones, to which plants (not to mention our fellow animals) need to aspire. Humans, and our close cousins, are not called primates by accident. We’ve labelled ourselves the primary animals – ladies and lords of all we survey!

Not only history, but biology too is written by the victors.

Maybe it’s not that plants are more intelligent than we think. Put it like this instead: plants are not so inferior to us as we think.

Although we’re happy to say that the league table rankings have closed a little, it’s never mentioned that maybe it’s us who have slipped down a little…

*That might be as much to do with chemical compatibility as it does with ‘decision-making’ on the plant’s part, but that’s another story…