Sunday, November 20, 2005

Plants and Animals

Each of us knows plants and animals.

And each of us knows that there is an important difference between both.


Some say, that plants can feel, too and some say, they have souls, too.

I don’t say so.

Sure, plants can “sense” events, but not in that way, we understand “feelings”. They sense events like a machine does, like our eyes do – they can retrieve physical action of a special kind.

Once retrieved, that physical action induces some chain of also physical action through the body of the plant, so leading to a reaction. A mimosa is touched, it folds its leaves. Our eyes are hit by an electromagnetic wave and send the signal “green” to our brain.

Physical actions, sensors capable of accepting that special kind of physical action, therefore “selecting” that action to be important for the body, to be received and to be used – thats what plants and animals have in common.

But sensors are only part of feelings, the first part.

The second part of feelings is decision.

“Green, what’s green?” That’s what feelings do – and that’s what plants can’t do:


The journey of a retrieved signal is different between plants and animals.

In plants – and the physical part of animals – the journey is determined by the knowledge of the race, the structure of the body like water flows in a system of channels. When a watergate is opened is decided by the signal itself. If it is strong, watergate 1 opens, if it is smooth, watergate 2 opens – no questions, no decisions beyond the “knowledge” of the channel. Plants react “analog”, because the signals they are able to retrieve are “complete” related to the capability of the reactions. Do you know the childrens toy, the colorful box with different shaped holes? The child has to put the right shaped block through the correct hole, because only that works.

Feelings can’t be that sure. The signals fed to feelings are much more basic. Therefore feelings have to “reconstruct” the complete information which had hit the different sensors eyes, ears, skin, nose. The knowledge of the body of animals regarding feelings is just how to detect light, sound or odors, but what it “means”, the interpretation, isn’t fixed anymore.

So asking, questions, incertitude is introduced in the information processing. While plants knows exactly, what signals mean – or have to ignore them and to suffer the consequences (passive information processing) – animals have to decide about meanings.

While plants react passively regarding the true nature of the signalled event, animals have to react actively because they have to detect that true nature first. They have to connect the dots to “create the big picture” – and what that picture “means” they only know if and when they can find it in their memory. If there are green things stored in their memory they can compare it to the newly arrived green signals and then they may “know” what the signals announce.

If they fail to remember, they have to “learn” – have to store the colors and the odors and the sounds together with what happens. And if the result is useful, the feeling created by that memory is cushy, if the result is painful, the feeling stored with that memory is displeasant.

Sure, a race can learn “feelings”, too, can program its brains to know typical events of their world by birth, but even those typical events have to have started some times and at that time experience had to teach the individuals of the race. Therefore feelings may become part of the knowledge of the race, however, their origin based on individual learning can be seen by the characteristic uncertainty around the “meanings”. Even the reconstruction of light – pictures - can be misleading: optical illusions.

So what’s the advantage of feelings against the certainty of the body?

What’s the advantage of active information processing against passive?

It’s the ability for individual learning by individual experience.

And that’s the precondition for real-time-processing and real-time-processing is the precondition for survival in changing environments – and environments change rapidly in the world of animals which can...


So flexibility is the success of individual learning – and uncertainty is its price.

That’s the reason for souls.

But that’s another story and shall be told another time.


Post a Comment

<< Home