Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2002 12:59:35 -0400
From: Bob Wulkowicz
To: Ralph Kenyon
Subject: Trees

Trees: A New Perspective

Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2002 15:14:02 -0500
To: Bob Wulkowicz
From: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.
Subject: Trees


The article itself reads like an abstract; it has no real substance.

I clicked through to quickly peruse your other pages. I found the following simply too abstract - bordering on being completely uninformative:

The explanation is both fascinating and provocative: Cambial cells ignore Errera's law to operate under other laws that better serve the broader biological designs of the cambium rather than a singular issue of cellular efficiency. (Why Trees Defy Errera's Law)

Survival, in an evolutionary perspective, is simply a matter of "what works" in the immediate environment, recalling that both the environment and the organism are changing in time.

My question about cells in the cambial layer is, are they generally flattened with respect to the dead surface on which they lay? If so, then a transverse division would naturally be perpendicular to the surface simply because that would present the smallest area. However, the presence of a tile pattern of cells filling the area would "push" replicating cells to slide over one another - creating the appearance of division parallel to the surface - and hence appear to violate the law. Your article did not present enough information or detail to illustrate the situation, so it again reads like an abstract - a speculative claim.

The general perspective on the evolution of science "laws" has to do with continued modification as more and more details must be accounted for. A "general law" may operate differently in the face of many details. What are the data that differentiates the apparent violation from the norm? How does that effect the energy equation?

. . .

Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.

Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2002 13:12:02 -0400
From: Bob Wulkowicz
To: Ralph Kenyon
Subject: Read Message #4203 in 4) Bob Wulkowicz - Essays (Read Only)


Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2002 15:49:44 -0500
To: Bob Wulkowicz
From: Ralph Kenyon
Subject: Re: Read Message #4203 in 4) Bob Wulkowicz - Essays (Read Only)


. . . To my knowledge, there is no accepted operational definition for 'sentience'. 'Awareness' can be operationally defined in terms of respond to stimuli. I view the term 'sentience' as intending a higher level than "simple awareness". "Aware of being aware" or "aware of self" might both be approaches. Chimps that can recognize, as inferred by their behavior, that what they see in a mirror is not another chimp, approach what I think we mean by "self-aware".

The trick it to provide a context specific operational definition, and then stick to that definition in the context. - response

Trees clearly possess a "rudimentary awareness" of their environment as exhibited by geotropism and phototropism. However, I would, in no way, attribute complex cognitive operations to these effects. - response

Please cite your reference for the following statement: "Occam's Razor is a continuation of the Aristotelian principle that entities must not be multiplied beyond what is necessary" (*) Tell me where in Aristotle this principle is stated.- response 

In general, it is unclear what your article is about. The title suggests that you might want to argue for "sentience" in trees, but the paper rapidly digresses into religion and the relation between people and animals. - response

Define your terms for your context - operationally, so that others could repeat your processes. comment If you do not do this, then you are clearly writing in an area I would call "non-science", in which case your claims are no different than everyone else's claim regarding anything at all. - comment

If your claim is essentially that trees are able to respond to their environment, albeit slowly, in some limited fashion, I would have to agree. If your claim is that trees are somehow "aware" that they are doing so, I would have to ask you to explain your claim in great detail, as, on the surface, it conflicts with my understanding of the terms in question. - comment


Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.

Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2002 00:37:04 -0400
From: Bob Wulkowicz
To: Ralph Kenyon
Subject: Re: Read Message #4203 in 4) Bob Wulkowicz - Essays (Read Only)

Sentience--Part 1 is more a instructional parody than anything else. Think of Ed Norton sitting down to play the piano and endlessly cracking his knuckles until he gets stopped. That's what Part 1 turned into spontaneously.

But I really do believe that we need to elbow religion out of the way for a while to discuss sentience. And I'm surprised that you feel there might by an accepted operational definition expectation for a word more stuffed than a Christmas turkey with ambiguities.

Perhaps, "context specific operational definition" is a refinement in the vocabulary of semantics since I got started. That's not a complaint. I go back to the Korz. and Hayakawa on my mother's bookshelves when I was in grammar school in the 50's. (She collected books more for their space-filling qualities than their content--as many Majorie Morningstars as philosophers.)

Those were difficult books for me to read; I had no one to talk to about them and what I got out of my brief encounter with that beginning world of semantics was an opening caveat to treat words with respect, but also with a dose of practical skepticism. I envy your continuing work in it...

I think, in looking back, that Part 1 is meant to be some serious nose tweaking. But more importantly, Part 2 has much of the meat of your own essays I've started to read. And predictably, I have a rather different perspective...we'll get to that soon. - regarding

Trees have remarkable signaling and response mechanisms well beyond the simplicities of tropisms. A tree wounded in a forest elicits responses in distant trees as if they were wounded themselves. I never have made any claims about complex cognitive operations, but for creatures that can't move, they have evolved some remarkable accommodations. Would we have been as smart if our feet were always glued in place? - regarding

Am I allowed no lyrical license? Or even a bit of sloppy prose? I didn't say Aristotle said it; it is a continuation of his principles as reiterated at your URL in the Principle of Parsimony: "If two explanations equally explain the facts, the one with the fewer postulates shall be chosen." That seems to me to be--if two values, select the smaller--either or--1 or 2--black or white--very Aristotelian to a guy sitting on a violently windswept bank in NS right now. - regarding

At the risk of losing your participation, must "sentience" be replaced with some series of multisyllabic clinical verbiage to preserve the category for our residency--that we are clearly and exclusively sentient in contrast to the lower forms of life?

I started down that road because I honestly felt anthropomorphism-phobia was so firmly entrenched that that no one could hear the underlying message. So, I tried to gently spoof a bit of that mind-set and prepare the reader for stage 2-- that trees might actually "feel" things. My audiences are kids and older folk with fine-tuned knee jerk reactions from classes (a kind of edutropism) that insist I can't even use the two words, tree and feel, in the same sentence.

Not only is that unfair, it cripples the opportunities to explore our own language as maps for yet unknown territories. - regarding

We have only a certain number of words available in this language, and I'm sure you agree military acronyms are not solutions for expansion and enrichment. There's always a risk of overlapping subtleties, and i try to be a careful wordsmith, but language and its words are not distributive and repeatable in between the parentheses as if they had the purity of equations. - regarding 

I'm sorry, but I can't agree. Much of the "science" I've reviewed as the literature in my pursuit of facts is non-science in that it had the proper form, but reached the wrong conclusions. Arboriculture is rather distant from the clarity of physics and chemistry. Another problem has been, once repeated a few times, every tree factoid and claim assumes the mantle of truth, whether or not it it fits that elusive category.

If I write something out of step with contemporary beliefs, it is by their definition non-science already. All that's necessary to to find the flaws.

As I've learned in my projects, if the flaws aren't there, the critics will invent them. It's a strange game to watch.

When I made an in-house presentation at NEIU on Errera's Law (1888), a young prof said afterwards, "But that's an old law, surely we must have some new ones by now." She was about 6 light years away from my statements that vascular trees were topological in operation. Generally, a surface is an artifact of its geometric shape; with a tree, the shape is an artifact of the surface--a brilliant biological finesse. regarding


You are correct in your criticism of my abstracts. What I was attempting to talk about back then were concepts, not traditional supposedly repeatable examinations of some microfactoid. That was my mistake, I've never had instructions on how to write scientifically.


The only claim in Part 1 is that sentience ought not to be so selfishly personalized for us. What do we loose if it extends to other creatures?

Let me recast Part 1 as a general semantics essay. It opens with 3 web-obtained definitions showing a range of the term. I'm not responsible for their existence as definitions, but they are a reasonable outline of the particulars.

After a little whimsical wandering, which I will argue still has an educational value, I suggest our blind spot about sharing the spotlight of sentience is rooted in our general selfishness and religious codifications. Having both the purse strings and the power of Inquisitions, those religious insistences become the look-over-your-shoulder prudence of early science.

As I said, I can't even put trees and sentience near each other in a discussion without setting someone's hair on fire. I find it interesting that the threatened slippage of celestial position gets us so animated and I need to ask why publicly.

Yes, the acceptance would admittedly plunk us in the world of inescapable greys, but science is supposed to explore the territory, not protect the map. regarding

Bob Wulkowicz

As a kid raised Catholic, I found a more gentle comfort looking past "I think, therefore I am" to Severn Dardin's "I think I think, therefore I think I am." -- A Second City vinyl record from my youth.

PS: Here's a URL you might enjoy that speaks more clearly and expansively to whether time belongs in the 0 or the 4 slot of dimensionality. If you look down the response back and forth, Stephan King appears--could that really be him?


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