Are plants conscious?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Musika, Mar 26, 2018.

  1. Musika Registered Senior Member

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    Last edited: Mar 26, 2018
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  3. Edont Knoff Registered Senior Member

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    Doesn't "conscious" include a sort of "ego", and the knowledge to be an individual?

    But plants for sure have communication skills with other plants. And maybe some fungi and insects.
     
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  5. Musika Registered Senior Member

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    Consciousness seems to suggest an awareness of the self and also the environment.


    The article says that some can communicate with each other and also caterpillars.
     
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  7. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    What will vegetarians eat now?
     
  8. Edont Knoff Registered Senior Member

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    I started wondering about that too when I noticed that the radishes in my fridge were actually still alive when I took them to slice them ...
     
  9. Musika Registered Senior Member

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    I think the argument for vegetarianism is not so much that it escapes the ethical problem of one living entity being food for another, but rather that it represents the ethical choice of a living entity with developed consciousness.

    Even though sticking a knife in any living entity draws protest, its poor form to legitimize the law of the jungle on that fact.
     
  10. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    But there seems little need for a consciousness that responds instantly to it's surroundings the same way an animal would who would have options for immediate action. I'm willing to consider that consciousness exists on a spectrum.
     
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    It depends on how 'consciousness' is defined. If it just means responsiveness to the environment, it blends together with causality. After all, if you hit a billiard ball with a cue stick, the ball responds by moving. I have no problem with thinking that plants are part of the world of causality and hence 'conscious' in this extremely minimal (and probably misleading) sense.

    But we typically use 'consciousness' to mean something more than that. What that 'more' entails is rarely spelled out with any precision, it's much more intuitive.

    But it certainly suggests not only the ability to respond to particular aspects of the environment (causal linkage to them) but also the ability to extract information from the environment. (That's what our senses do.) We see this ability in the more sophisticated multicellular animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates. So these organisms become data processors and their behavior is more and more dependent on how that data is assessed.

    And beyond that, for most people 'consciousness' suggests self-awareness. That's pretty mysterious since we haven't yet clarified what a 'self' is. But it seems to suggest not only responsiveness to ('awareness of') causal properties in the physical environment, but also 'awareness of' the organism's own internal data processing functions. So there isn't just 'awareness of X', there's 'awareness that "I" am aware of X' or alternatively 'this is how "I" assess X'. I guess that I'd say that 'self-awareness' arises when an organism ceases only being able to respond to its external environment and becomes able to respond in a similar way to its own inner process as well.

    Is it plausible to think that plants are able to do the latter? In my opinion 'no'. They lack any sign of the increasingly complex nervous systems that make it possible in animals.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
  12. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Response to one's environment is one of the basic requirements of life.
    Yes, plants are alive.

    Consciousness is distinct from merely being alive.
     
  13. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    . . . said Frantisek Baluska, a plant cell biologist at the University of Bonn in Germany and co-author of the study. “They’re living organisms which have their own problems, maybe something like with humans feeling pain or joy. In order to navigate this complex life, they must have some compass.”

    Set aside the feelings of pain/ joy and the other manifested evidence associated with brains[*] -- the showing of experiences, qualia, etc as opposed to the usual nothingness -- and there really is no consciousness. The latter is merely a label for yet another dynamic structure of mechanistic interactions (i.e., machine-like arrangement). But with specialized functions for an organism dealing with and navigating through the environment (made possible by the complexity of such systems).

    IOW, there's a developmental continuity from the simplest microscopic interactions sported by the universe to the macroscopic biological and artificial domains. The supposed emergence of the latter, as well as descriptive cut-outs like "information processing" and "consciousness", are purely useful conceptual discriminations introduced by humans. Not literal realization of anything radically "new" (the capacity for organization and reciprocal transfers of energy were already elementarily the case beforehand).

    Thus any proposed demarcation between "animal consciousness" and "plants having consciousness" is similarly a conceptual distinction-making of humans (not immutable or objective). A boundary set for one category or structure of mechanistic interactions being different from another also not necessarily being universal in even society. But potentially varying in definition / qualifications according to what's practical for a particular technical discipline, expertise, or folk-culture commonsense tradition.

    - - - footnote - - -

    [*] As for pain / joy and other internal manifestations occurring in a context other than observed outer body behavior -- those phenomnal affairs lack an underlying theory of explanation to account for them (all the hypotheses are generalized ideas in the territory of philosophy of mind, not science). A future "_X_ scheme of wiring" that yielded an appearance of green color or a foul odor would be prescriptive instructions for engineers and technicians in a vocation, not a scientific explanation of how it can happen. For instance, alchemists learned how to combine substances to produce a particular compound -- but lacked knowledge of microscopic entities and properties which would explain the transformation. Similary, there's no background theory for explaining how the nothingness of what matter or the world normally is to itself can be punctured by phenomenal manifestations correlated to brain states. (Unless one is a panpsychist, matter or the cosmos at large normally lacks both empirical and intellectual evidence for its own existence -- it's actually not even a presentation of nothingness / silence -- that was purely figurative. Same as what follows death or a period of dreamless non-consciousness.)

    - - -
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
  14. someguy1 Registered Senior Member

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    If someone would explain clearly and unambiguously how to determine if their next door neighbor is conscious, we can begin to attack the harder questions like the consciousness of radishes, ants, and computer programs.
     
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  15. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    We can conclude that they are conscious based on observables, and what we understand consciousness to be. That does not mean we can assert for certain that they are indeed more than a figment of our imagination.
     
  16. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Well, my car is conscious, then. It is aware of its environment (cameras, sensors, GPS, temperature, rain) and tries to protect itself from harm (emergency braking.) It will even drive itself to a limited degree,
     
  17. Musika Registered Senior Member

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    Does it also cringe when the paint gets scratched, or is that just you?
     
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  18. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    It gets VERY upset when someone dings it and I'm not there. You can hear it yelling from half a mile away.
     
  19. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    True, probably less conscious than a plant though.
     
  20. Musika Registered Senior Member

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    A billiard ball has no sense of self and has no choice but to react in accordance to necessary laws of cause and effect. Consciousness represents an element of choice, however great or small, in accordance to the host. Consciousness introduces the study of "behaviour", or how (and if we are feeling ambitious, also studies of "why") an object "decides" to do something. In that sense, there are not many behavioural scientists in the field of bouncing billiard balls.

    Thats because its very nature is to sit outside of necessary laws. Just look at the rigours of falsification in physics compared to psychology for a comparison.

    What you are talking about here are the raw ingredients to step outside necessary laws (something not available in the toolbox of billiard balls)

    Attributing the ability to circumvent necessary laws to a particular organ may work as a shorthand measure, but I don't think it can climb out of begging the question under further scrutiny.
    Having a complex nervous system may make spotting consciousness more apparent, or enable a host to be more effective at circumventing necessary laws (and thus make it more obvious to us).
    But that seems to say more about our limited powers to investigate the problem rather than ceiling limits of the problem itself.
    For a long time mammals (other than humans) were also thought to lack consciousness since they lacked the high end estimations of human culture (eg science, philosophy, art, etc), so they were relegated to the status of billiard balls (despite exhibiting some clearly non billiard ball type behaviours .... imagine playing a game of billiards involving 16 fox terriers)
     
  21. Musika Registered Senior Member

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    How do you treat it for the trauma? I mean if it has about a dozen incidents with scratches over a week, its stress levels must affect its performance. Have you noticed any subtle changes in behaviour, like a reluctance to being parked on the street, or an animosity or adversity towards kids who carelessly ride their bicycles nearby?
     
  22. Musika Registered Senior Member

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    Actually the car is a good example of consciousness being expanded to things outside of ourself (ie attachments). Because we are attached to our cars and feel grief when they get damaged (or, in the way of insurance bills, when they cause damage to other things) we make systems for them to react in a certain way .... first and foremost and only .... so we can receive that information. Unless you have evidence to the contrary, like a secret language of communication amongst automobiles, it makes zero difference to a car whether it is polished on display for a hundred years or totalled five minutes after leaving the dealers yard.
    All of the so-called ai jam packed into a car is evidence of the rules that govern our consciousness. Nothing else.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2018
  23. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    It's probably more aware than a sea anemone.

    I doubt it. Billvon's car is probably more aware of its surroundings and better able to respond appropriately to events around it than any plant. Even carnivorous plants like Venus Flytraps seemingly only have the awareness of a mouse trap, closing when triggered. Plants seem to me to be more like biological chemical factories.
     

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