I'm really interested in biology and I love plants, but having very little scientific education to back me up, I'd like to ask you this question:
Do plants "feel"? (In a very very extreme view, do they think? But I don't think so...)
I mean what does real science says? I've read a peer reviewed article that says that plant neurobiolog is bullshit... But do plants respond to stimuli (it seems some do, like the ones that eat insects...) and how? Are they, in a degree, conscious? Or is consciousness, at least as far as science and common sense says, limited to animals?
Thank you so much.
- I doubt it. Plants respond to stimuli like gravity and sunlight as well, all without the benefit of a nervous system. You might call these responses 'feelings' in some sense. But, mostly, I don't care about the feelings of plants, and will continue to treat them with all the violence and indifference to which I am accustomed. (Hint: Animals too.) - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 20:40, 10 June 2014 (UTC)
- Plants aren't thinking and feeling in the sense that animals do. But they do possess sensory mechanisms, some quite sophisticated (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_perception_(physiology)). However, it's not neurobiology because they don't use nervous systems like those in animals, however, it is very clear that a mechanism to store, process, and respond to information collected from the environment does exist in plants. The criticism of "plant neurobiology" is that it's not accurate to compare the nervous systems of animals to the mechanisms that plants use for those purposes, and that no evidence of direct analogues to animal nervous system organs and cells are known to exist: it would appear that whatever plants are using for this purpose, it's a different type of structure entirely. It's also, not strictly speaking, impossible for a sophisticated enough plant to think, but because plants almost exclusively use chemical signaling any sentient brain that evolved this way would be so slow as to be useless (and thus almost certainly would not evolve). However, despite this, talking to your plant will not make it grow. Maxwell885 (talk) 17:43, 29 July 2014 (UTC)
What you want to establish: whether plants "feel" depends heavily on how, and how precisely, you define the term. Our traditional sense of the term, depends on a almost uniquely human sense of the term. Physical sensation, causes emotional response, causes conscious awareness. Plants absolutely lack any structure that could be alleged to be seriously conscious.
But the term can be applied more generally, having an underlying biological reaction to stimulus. Virtually every organism has some kind of adaptation of this sort. Just today I was reading on pnas that plants respond almost visually to the presence of other plants that might shade them.
- Honestly, I'd even remove the "virtually" from your comment. I would argue that every organism in existence today responds to external stimuli, although I'm always open to counterexamples. Maybe some phytoplankton don't, I'm not sure; but you'd think they'd have to at least be able to maintain their ion concentrations against external fluctuations... At any rate, that's not what I wanted to say. What I wanted to say is that I agree with the definition issue. The most common colloquial use of the word "feel" seems to be "experiences emotionally or subjectively." I believe that for most people, the concept of feeling involves some sort of a conscious self-awareness. It runs into the philosophical concept of qualia, which always makes me want to gag... Basically the idea of the subjective "redness" of the color red, or the "painfulness" of pain. Some philosophers argue that this sort of subjective experience proves that the world isn't strictly materialistic.
- So if that's what you're going for with "do plants feel?" then I would say no, they don't. Nor do the vast majority of animals, for that matter. We have relatively few examples (though the list keeps growing) of animals that seem capable of any kind of abstraction or self-identification. But then there's the other kind of feel, which is simply "to experience." For instance, feeling pain when you touch a hot stove, or feeling hunger, or feeling lust. These are all experiential states that don't require a conscious "self." All we need to demonstrate that an organism feels something is to observe some kind of a response. Now in this sense, you can say that pretty much every eukaryote experiences pain, especially if we define pain as "recognition of damage to the organism." Those organisms with neurons are particularly privileged here, since they have fast information conduction, but plants are capable of this too by means of chemical signals that spread throughout the plant and, say, increase the production of some noxious chemical. Or for cells to grow more rapidly on the shaded side of the stem so that the plant tilts towards the sun.
- Lastly, there are the obvious examples of much faster responses in plants: venus flytraps, triggered by the hairlike structures on the inside of the "traps"; some ferns that coil up when you touch them; and sundew plants that coil up when prey touches them. If I were to draw some kind of conclusion from all of this, it would be that virtually everything on this planet is capable of suffering to one degree or another, so if we're approaching morality from any kind of a preference utilitarianism, we should try to minimize harm to all organisms, perhaps commensurate with their level of neurological development. UnerringlyErrant (talk) 19:21, 20 November 2014 (UTC)