Plants May Not Malinger, But They Do Prevaricate

mirrororchidThis is the charming (though rather misleading) title of a post by law prof Peter Tillers in playful mood, musing on David Livingstone Smith’s article Natural-Born Liars that appeared two years ago in Scientific American Mind. Tillers quotes from Livingstone Smith’s article, which discusses how some plants, such as the stunning mirror orchid, use ‘deception’ as an evolutionary strategy, and comments:

This account of the pervasiveness of lying — or, in any event, of deception — in the organic order is strong enough to warm the cockles of the hearts (and fan the anxieties) of people who believe in Original Sin. Indeed, this scientific account goes beyond the Bible — since this account sees darkness (in the form of deception) in the very fiber (so to speak) of plant life as well as in the hearts (or in the genes, in any event) of human beings and non-human animals.

Later, he adds:

[…] is it better to have lied and lost then never to have lied at all? This is a deep philosophical and moral question that I will address on some other occasion.

We’ll look forward to that discussion Prof Tillers!

Photo credit: Mirror Orchid by Alastair Rae, Creative Commons License

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