František Baluška: Evolutionary Science ‘Stuck’ on Wrong Track, Situation ‘Out of Control’


University of Bonn cell biologist František Baluška says evolutionary science is dangerously “stuck” on the gene-centered track and that “[t]he situation is now out of control.”

Baluška, one of the world’s leading experts on plant roots says further that “we [humans, animals] are really secondary organisms in relation to plants.”

Plants arrive much later in evolutionary history than animals — hundreds of millions of years later. And Baluška thinks they arose as a result of the symbiosis of fungi and algae. He argues, contrary to the standard view, that rooted plants are not “advanced algae.”

František Baluška, a native of Slovakia, is founder and editor-in-chief of two scientific journals, Plant Signaling & Behavior and Communicative & Integrative Biology (Landes Bioscience, publisher) where more of his provocative thinking can be found. Freedom in science is crucial, he says, and we need “open-minded” journals.

A decade ago Baluška began organizing international conferences on plant neurobiology as well. His thinking about “plant intelligence” has been partly inspired by Lynn Margulis, specifically her paper “The Conscious Cell.”

The theme of plant intelligence was more recently explored in a magazine article by Michael Pollan in which Baluška is cited as well as Darwin’s 1880 observation that the plant root tip “acts like the brain of some of the lower animals.”

In our conversation that follows, Baluška touches on the role of viruses in plant evolution and in evolution in general. Baluška says “[s]ynapses in very early evolution may have been induced by repetitive viral infections” because viruses can manipulate cells to form cell-cell adhesions.

He describes the cell membrane and energy flow through the cell “as important, or even more important than the genetics.”

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