CorkscrewTelepathic Plants

   

Do you believe your garden is reading your mind & keeping tabs on you? Do you think that if you stub your toe, your garden feels bad for you? Well then, if you plan to get rid of some invasive plant or even just the weeds, aren't you afraid they might be planning to get you first?? There's a reason you can't keep those tendrils out of the basement.

Many years ago occult crackpot Peter Thompkins assisted by a gardener named Christopher Bird wrote a wacky book called The Secret Life of Plants which became a best seller & made Believers out of many people. The book offered preposterous but allegedly "scientific" evidence that plants are telepathic. For instance, if you boil brine shrimp alive, a response can be detected in any nearby plant, sufficient to measure electrical changes. Furthermore, though plants eventually become immune to the agonies of brine shrimp & cease to respond if they "witness" the murder of the shrimps often enough, they never can get used to human pain, because those plants care about us so darned much.

How sweet if it were only true. But the "science" in this book is just about exclusively on the order of the Irreproducible Results.

The basis of Secret Life was some non-scientific garage-style experimentation done by a chap named Cleve Backster. In the 1960s "Dr" Backster boasted a teaching position & pretended to have a doctorate as if that were all it takes to be credible. Unfortunately, his fudged "doctorate" was from some unaccredited unheard-of alternative-medicine organization, & calling himself Doctor is something like claiming to be a Priest on the basis of a certificate from the Church of the Subgenius. His "teaching" position at the time of his comical research was with an institute that existed for the purpose of studying "Tridimensionalism." Presently, however, he runs a school that teaches the use of the polygraph; because this so-called "doctor" is a polygraph technician, not a scientist. And did I mention that "Dr" Backster published his "science" in, ta da, The Journal of Parapsychology.

Thompkins & Bird left out all such little particulars in promoting Backsters' comical research as "science," & structured their pop-overview of the Backster Effect with insinuations that lots of scientists had proven plant perception & telepathy exists. "Hey, Willy Willow," Jimmy Jimson was thinking out loud. "How 'bout you & me turn our leaves away from the sun today, just for a change of pace, all right?" Willy thought right back at his pal, "That's a great idea, Jimmy, I'm with you!"

Many people who read this junky old book believe to this day that lots of scientists have provided evidence of this nonsense, when essentially all we have is "Dr." Backster's parapsychological studies that were so laughably orchestrated that "readings" of plant telepathy resulted from evaporation, temperature change, & plant cell expansion, since he had to water his plants immediately before getting any measurable results. Virtually all of Backster's "supporters" are into metaphysics or theosophy. And when actual scienctists scoff, the same paranoia flying saucer & alternative medicine buffs experience kicks in — the mysterious evil "they" don't want the truth to get out.

Thompkin's & Bird's popularization of The Backster Effect led to loony television specials, a barely related movie adaptation, several other metaphysical books building on the Backsterian "science" to prove all sorts of nonsense from out-of-body lucid dreaming to alternative healing principles, besides the general public suspicion that there is something to it — after all, don't our plants do better when we talk to them (&, incidentally, water them & such)? Sure they do! So of course they also do better if you play Beethoven for them, & they obviously will suffer if you kill anything in their presence or yell "I'm gonna pluck your leaves off you crummy plant!" & scare the bejabbers out of the poor thing.

This nonsense was so taken so for granted by such large segments of the uneducated public that a couple researchers went ahead & tried to reduplicate the Backster Effect — for the first time following actual scientific protocols & with a control group for comparison. And all Backster's "evidence" was found to be either intentionally fraudulant or flawed by lack of controls (see Horowitz, Lewis, & Gasteiger, Science 189: 478-480, 1975).

Alas for education, the "recheck" that debunked all of Backster's wacky conclusions was never a bestselling book like Thompkins & Bird's Secret Life of Plants. So the debunking barely dented the "belief" of superstious rubes who read Secret Life & have ever since made sure they focus good thoughts at their beloved houseplants & provide them telepathically with lessons on how to grow.

And I admit it, I was about half convinced when I read it, so I qualified as one of the superstitious rubes. But then, I was a little kid at the time, & Charles Fort was one of my heros.

Backster himself continues lecturing on the sentience of plantlife, though had there never been a Thompkins & Bird, Backster could never have gotten anywhere with this tommyrot on his own, because he is patently goofy & sounds goofy whenever he opens his yap on this his favorite topic. Though Backster is certainly a bit of a flimflam man or he wouldn't pretend to be a doctor, nevertheless he does seemingly believe in his own "findings" through self-deception.

There are suficient loonies in the world who believe in this "Doctor" that he was able to establish through private funding a San Diego "institute" for the further study of plant consciousness. One hears only a little about him anymore unless you're involved in circles enamored of occult cranks generally. The whole communion-with-nature through actual telepathy with trees is just too 'sixties & 'seventies & no longer quite the pop topic it was for hippies. But with decreasing notice, at his Institute, the faux doctor has been furthering his "proofs" that plants get happy with a human-like consciousness so that, when treated well, plants will even obey your mental commands.

When public gullibility languished, Backster relied more on his "School of Lie Detection" income, offering to sell you a career as a Polygraph Investigator which (giving his school the benefit of the doubt) is slightly higher on the law enforcement ladder than filling out a form on the inside of a matchbook to become a mail order student in the National School of Nightwatchmen & Prison Guards.

So remember, the plants who love you are talking to you in your dreams, but the ones you've pissed off will inevitably drive you to insanity by their angry mental energy.

   



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