So one of my life goals, something I never much set before, but have, as a senior, what the heck, it’s really the most practical of times to set life goals, the time when there’s not all that much of it left, is to get some of my former colleagues in the world of science to look at some of the ideas that are out there, in the world, but not in there, in their world, that world of science.
And I’ve been successful a time or two, mostly through recommending books, those that were recommended to me, books that made me rethink a lot of biology, and evolution, and science, and spirituality, and all sorts of “paranormal” phenomena that I’d experienced but written off to, well, whatever it is we write things off to when we can’t explain them.
Stephen Buhner’s work, or at least that of his which I’ve read, is one bit that blew my mind, completely, and assuming I can trust the review I got from one friend who read it, it blew his, too. When I first read a question presented by someone who’d read it, specifically why botanists don’t recognize the neural networks that plants have, my typical response of “oh pulease” came to mind, and probably fingertips, not lips, it was online, but I likely said something to to effect that it’s because plants don’t have nerves, nor have they been engineered the way man made “neural networks” have, and even if one wanted to consider mycorrhizal networks, which I knew were used in communication, still, they weren’t nerves.
Not very bright, that response, particularly not after reading Buhner.
Truth be told, once I finished my mycorrhizal research, like, almost twenty years ago now, I never read another paper on mycorrhizae. I was busy learning about plant water use efficiency and environmental stress physiology, learning climatology, how to program high tech equipment to do what I wanted it to do, learning about urban ecosystems. Once I finished my dissertation work, I won’t say I never read another paper on those things, but I only read what I had to read to help students with what they might be doing.
Once I started teaching general biology and botany and ecology full time, I learned those things to a depth I’d never learned them before. It was what I needed to know at the time. I read countless papers, but they were papers picked by students, papers associated with reading and writing assignments I’d given students. I learned a lot about diverse topics, mostly animal biology and ecology, some medical, although those papers are often such a chore to read, the students rejected them quite quickly.
So I like to get feedback from other biologists about Buhner’s work. Ren, my friend who taught human physiology and microbiology to nursing students for years, loved it. Of course he did is master’s degree in theology, so his mind is open to much more than just biology. Those who’ve earned terminal degrees in the sciences often “learn” to close their minds to anything not “hard science”.
Thing is, the response I got from another friend, a Ph.D. biologist who teaches comparative mammalian physiology, and human physiology, before she even read Buhner, totally thrilled me. We were “discussing” that idea of below ground “neural networks”, not in plants, no, but in forests, in plant communities, and really, to call them plant communities is silly, because they are communities of plants, and fungi, and bacteria, and yes, even animals adding input, to a system of communication and feedback just as complex and integrated an functional as an animal brain.
What she said is that she’d read some of the work, and that “it makes perfect mechanistic sense”.
In science, really, there is no other kind of sense to make. And indeed, Buhner’s work makes perfect mechanistic sense. What it disturbs is not the mechanistic sensibilities of science, no. I think what it disturbs is science’s dogmatic, almost religious beliefs. My friend told me she’s not quite sure what to make of Buhner.
I wish all biologists would read his stuff.