The Gravitationist

Like evolution, gravity is only a theory,
but I feel the truth of both in my bones.

02 October 2006

Oaks and acorns

Trees cannot think. Trees soak up daylight, soak up water, grow leaves, grow seeds, drop the ripe seeds, shed old leaves and rest for the next go-around.

But why were the huge oaks not scattering acorns this September? It was a puzzle.

Our first measurable rainfall in 10 weeks came September 17. The wave of thunderstorms spilled two inches of water on our patch — a good, soaking rain. The thirsty ground rejected nothing. Within a day, a bombardment of acorns began. Within a week, the huge oaks had loosed thousands of acorns. The squirrels went berserk. The drumming of acorns on the roof and deck played ’round the clock, a shower unlike any other.

Trees cannot think, we say. No brain, no synapses, no nerves. Oaks cannot reason that an acorn dropped on parched, rock-hard ground is useless as a propagator.

Yet these old oaks “sensed” that entering the 11th week of a drought was not the time to scatter seeds. They waited. Was it only a sequence of chemical and biological events and cellular changes, triggered by the presence of abundant moisture, interacting to produce the sudden loosening of all those acorns? Even if that purely mechanical process was solely responsible, does that not constitute a form of reasoning — call it “species reasoning”?

Quercus rubra has “learned” through thousands of generations how best to assure its future, its survival. Sounds reasonable to me.

One day, perhaps, homo sapiens will develop species reasoning.


Post a Comment

<< Home