This is a very interesting article that has the unfortunate title “Plants Can Think And Remember.” (Unfortunate because the many links to it that I have seen come with snarky comments like “Whatcha gonna do now vegetarians??”)
It reminds me of a great joke: Three scientists are on the committee to decide mankind’s greatest invention. The engineer is arguing for the internal combustion engine, the doctor is arguing for the X-ray machine and Martha Stewart is arguing for the Thermos. “The Thermos, you’ve got to be kidding?” Sez Martha “Well you see it keeps hot things hot and cold things cold.” They look perplexed. “Yeah, big deal.” Martha: “How does it know??”
The article is about some pretty sophisticated ways that plants respond to signals in their environment. That is very cool. Kudos to the Plant Kingdom. But while, there may be something in the underlying research that justifies saying that plants “think”, I rather doubt it, and it is definitely not to be found in this journalistic account. Look:
In their experiment, the scientists showed that light shone on to one leaf caused the whole plant to respond.
“We shone the light only on the bottom of the plant and we observed changes in the upper part,” explained Professor Stanislaw Karpinski from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland, who led this research.
When I light a match to the coals at the bottom of my charcoal chimney, eventually all of them ignite and turn red even the ones on the top. My charcoal can think.
Then there’s stuff about “memory.” But I already knew that plants had memory. When I give my grass water today, it is green next week. When I don’t give my grass water today, it is brown next week. The grass changes its color next week depending on whether I give it water today. It remembers.