In my book Solving Reality, (which I promise will be available to buy soon), I explain that there is a lot of compelling evidence to show that plants are conscious. They are aware of their environment and respond to it in a sentient way. This astonishing phenomenon was noticed by Cleve Backster, inventor of the polygraph test. Backster, for fun, wired his office plant up to a polygraph to see if it would respond like a person. To his amazement, the plant did respond. In one test, Backster lit a match near the plant, while it was connected to the polygraph and discovered that the plant reacted just like a stressed person when the lit match came near it.
To my knowledge, there haven’t been a lot of experiments that have explored the possibility that plants are conscious. This is understandable, as the orthodox view from the scientific establishment is that it’s simply not possible. Officially, everything is just a physical mechanism, including us, and therefore plants can’t be conscious. Weirdly, the official view logically implies that we’re not conscious either, but that fact is usually carefully avoided.
Fortunately, some bold scientists are, nevertheless, exploring this field. For example, in Guardian newspaper (8th Jan 2020), there was a very interesting report entitled, Food for thought? French bean plants show signs of intent, say scientists. The main scientist concerned, Paco Calvo at the University of Murcia, has been studying the behaviour of French bean plants. Calvo was fascinated by the plants’ behaviour in the wild. To quote from the article:
Intrigued by the ability of climbing beans to sense structures such as garden canes and grow up them, he devised an experiment to investigate whether they deliberately aim for the cane, or simply bump into such structures as they grow, and then turn them to their advantage. “The question is, are they showing goal-directed behaviours consistent with anticipation and fine-scaled tweaking of their movements, as they approach?” Calvo said.
Calvo and his colleagues took time-lapse photos of French bean plants in the vicinity of a support pole and plants who weren’t close to a pole. To quote again from the article:
Using this footage, they analysed the dynamics of the shoots’ growth, finding that their approach was more controlled and predictable when a pole was present. The difference was analogous to sending a blindfolded person into a room containing an obstacle, and either telling them about it or letting them stumble into it.
This is an fascinating result. Calvo seems to be stating that the plants knew that a pole was present, even though they weren’t physically touching it. This would indicate that the plants were aware of things near them. This is exactly what Backster found with his studies.
The view that plants are sentient, conscious and aware is not new. The Jain religion of India regards all living things as conscious and sentient. This is why devout Jains are vegan. They are also respectful of plants, and will only harvest their upper parts, as these can grow back again. Quetzacoatl, the ancient Mayan god, also preached such respect to all living things. This included recommending that only wood from fallen trees be used for firewood and building. Personally, I would be very happy if we all followed such a plan. Unfortunately, it is an extremely distant goal. We would need to reduce our population drastically and utterly transform our way of life and our priorities. Perhaps in the distant future, we will.