Kaharz wrote:You are aware that you are readily presenting your own bias as well as pissing people off with personal insults and evasiveness instead of 'logic and facts?' You're also over-reacting to an obvious joke. Chill.
My own bias is to avoid getting into debates with people that dismiss evidence before they even see it. Sure. Makes sense.
No, the bias you exhibited was to dismiss people who did not agree with you.
Actually, ethical vegetarians make their decision based on ignorance of that research, much like you made that post based on ignorance of that research.
Not all vegetarians are ethical vegetarians. Some make their choice based on ignorance of nutritional research. Others based on ignorance about how farming affects the environment.
These statements all assume that vegetarians are ignorant of the 'truth.' You also seem to be assuming anyone who doesn't agree with your position must not have seen the research. I don't know if you are actually assuming that, but that is how it appears. While I'm sure many vegetarians are ignorant of the research into plant intelligence, nutrition, and the environmental effects of various forms of farming, I doubt all of them are. Your statements imply the assumption that the research you support is true and any contradictory research or hypotheses are are not true. This attitude implies that there is no room for skepticism or debate on these issues. This dismissiveness is what I meant above by you showing your bias.
Technically, all research and theories should be open to debate and skepticism. Although in practice, some are more debatable than others. There aren't many people with a basic physics education who are going to debate the three laws of thermodynamics, but a lot of other theories are more open to debate. So let's have a debate. I'd also like to say upfront, I'll probably be playing devil's advocate some and I may not actually agree with all my arguments. I'll also note that I have no moral, ethical, religious or other self-imposed diet restrictions. I eat anything that I find tasty.
Big fucking wall of text follows.
I wasn't able to access everything you linked, but I am already familiar with some of it. Although probably not as familiar as you. I also looked up another source in the case of the kudu-acacia article since I wasn't paying for a subscription to the site you linked. My sources were a bit more recent, but appeared to only reference the article you linked.
So the big problem, which we will probably have to more or less ignore, is the definition of intelligence. If you just use the idea of the ability of an individual or group of organisms to adapt to changing environmental stimulus, then you can define almost any living thing as intelligent. Slime molds have been demonstrated to be able to use an external spatial 'memory' to track where they have been before as well as to anticipate impending unfavorable enviormental conditions. At least that is the interpretation of the researchers. If you set a more complex standard for intelligence, less and less organisms exhibit 'intelligence' until you make the definition so restrictive or complex that only humans could be considered intelligent. You could even make the definition exclude humans if you wanted to. Not having a consensus definition intelligence of course drastically limits the debate since it is the core issue. If I had to agree on one, I'd probably say the ability of an individual to successfully adapt to wholly new conditions in real time, not by evolution. In other words, the ability to innovate. It might not be particularly good definition, but I think innovation requires the ability to learn from past experience and apply that knowledge to develop solutions to new conditions. This implies an ability to remember the past and more importantly, anticipate the future. It is a fairly restrictive definition. I would also add the condition that the lack of individual success excludes this as nothing is omniscient and so nothing can successfully innovate every time.
So first the kudu-acacia research. It turns out, that poisoning large grazers actually harms the tree in the long run. The acacia tree has a cooperative relationship with ant populations. The ants feed on the plant nectar and nest in the thorns. In return the ants defend the tree by swarming grazers and other insects. But when the trees are not grazed on, they reduce the resources that go towards the ants. This leads to a decrease in the ant population on the trees which makes the tree more vulnerable to boring beetles which damage the plant. The ants incidentally will also use the abandoned beetle tunnels as homes. So while the plants act collectively to disrupt grazing by warning each other and producing high levels of a toxin, they also inadvertently open themselves to harm. This makes it fairly easy to argue that is a non-intelligent evolutionary adaptation dependent on chance and genetic selection.
On to the video lecture. While I think he does a good job about debunking over generalizations about plants, it could be argued he also falls short or over-anthropomorphizes in some cases. Describing the sunflower shoots as 'playing' could be seen as a particular large stretch, especially if the plants are already 'pre-programmed' to respond to light stimulus. There is no need for them to play to train. Hibernating animals don't need to train at hibernating, unless you consider sleeping to be play hibernation. The circadian rhythm in humans is affected by changes in light levels, duration and timing. It can also be argued that a lot of what he attributes to intelligence is just the result of selective evolution. You wouldn't present the opposable thumbs or upright bipedal motion as evidence of intelligence in humans. In the same manner, the various ways plants manipulate insects to facilitate fertilization could be argued as a selective evolution. Intelligence implies the plants to decided on that behavior or development unless you use a very low-threshold of intelligence.
His statements about root growth can also be explained by other mechanisms other than intelligence. He even says that they 'evolved to survive predation.' Just because something appears to be purposeful, does not mean it is. Just because there is more oxygen consumption and signalling in the root tip, does make it a tiny brain of any sort. The roots could simply be responding to external stimulus. I didn't seem him present any evidence of root growth adapting to unexpected conditions or newly encountered conditions.
Obviously, the argument basically boils down to how to define intelligence. The same issue is present in almost aspects of the research. Is it proper to say a plant that corrects for a variable environment or non-optimum growth is "learning?" Or is it just responding in the way it is "programmed" to? I personally don't really see any way to resolve the argument. The definition of intelligence (and consciousness) has changed repeatedly throughout history and will continue to. The debate of whether plants, animals, and even humans are intelligent or not has always been a social and cultural debate. That is the big problem with any theory that claims organism X is intelligent or not. Those arguments are attempting to apply a rigorous scientific definition to a non-scientific, changeable, and value-based social construct. That is also my one huge problem with a lot of the research presented. By trying to decide whether plants are "intelligent" or not, they are basically making a value judgement. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is not scientific. At that point you are drifting into the realm of philosophy. Instead they should just present their observations and evidence. When you start to try to define whether a behavior meets the criteria for a social construct, you open the door to bias fairly wide. Bias might not get in the door, but it is unnecessary risk.