Crackpot philosophy on flowers

14Jun07

Just a few thoughts on flowers. About a month ago I was watching Nova – I am a real nerdy PBS junkie. The show was titled, “The First Flower.” If I’m not hiking, fishing or just aimlessly wandering around I’m probably watching PBS.

Dr. Yin says a lot about flowers that I tend to agree with – when discussing the breeding of plants in a garden vs. your most basic wildflowers he states;

“…many of the garden plants have become botanical versions of Pamela Anderson.”

The other day my hubby and I ate a wild strawberry down by the creek. The size of it was no bigger than a pinky finger nail however; it tasted as if I had just ate a whole “genetically-enhanced” strawberry. It had just about that much flavor.

So, Yin brings up a fabulous point, that today’s garden plants have been bred to look huge, expansive, and larger than life. What happened? Well in a roundabout way we did with flowers what Hitler intended to do with humans back during WWII – selective breeding.  Recently when watching a show on dog breeding (once again PBS) they had stated that the cross breeding of dogs were more concerned with the “look” of the dog then the health of the pup. Thus, they’ve created many breeds that are indeed “sickly.” I wonder a bit how different our world would look had we left these things to nature to figure out? But that’s a simple curiosity because I love garden flowers too but my adoration goes primarily to the wildflower. Like Dr. Yin (as he stated in the show) I love the simplicity.

My intent here was however to consider a bit “why” these flowers exist at all. Mosses, firs and pines dominated the landscape of the world for more than 300 million years. We are not completely positive when the first flower showed up we are only left with the obvious evidence that it did indeed happen. This flower appeared and managed to, over quite a bit of time, completely cover the worlds landscape. What was produced was amazing really, for example, in the state of Washington there are a little less than 3000 species that flower annually in the higher elevations. (In other areas they have many more flowers for example in China where they think perhaps the first one originated.) Flowering plants now make up for about 95% of all plant life on the planet.

Then as if this simple beauty was not enough the flowering plant did another amazing thing. They began to produce fruit. Because of the existence of fruit – the flower became essential to the survival of humans as well as many animals. The results are simple; with these plants we gained corn, wheat, and rice as well as medication in order to heal.

To summarize my thoughts here, had the flower and thus fruit not come into existence it is arguable that we would have little reason to ever leave our caves. Or perhaps we would still be following the herds in order to eat – and then what would the herds eat? With the farmer not existing at all we would have had to fight other carnivores in order to survive and then I wonder how violent the world would be under those conditions? Then I ponder would the herbivore exist? If they did would their numbers be so low that they could not possibly support human beings consistent need for food?

Okay, okay I admit; I’ve always had many more questions than I’ve had answers.

However this path of thought, how flowering plants impact humanity, makes me appreciate these little plants so much more. These tiny buds seem so much larger to me.

It would be the highest form of egotism to assume that they exist for us. I’m sure they exist so that they can send their pollen onto the next flower in the hopes of survival (just like us.) However, without flowering plants it would be difficult, if not impossible, to consider our existence. Especially for a crazy lady like me with so little background in science. I am in awe however when I consider these ideas.

O’ well, these kind of nutty thoughts are probably why Richard Feynmen never believed that science and philosophy made for good bed fellows and I’m not so sure that I completely disagree with the old chap.

ps. You can find info on the program the first flower at this site:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/flower/

Other ps. This is the wild strawberry plant we ate from.

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9 Responses to “Crackpot philosophy on flowers”

  1. 1 montucky

    This is a very thought provoking post, and I like it. I’ve had many similar thoughts. The natural world is indeed awesome, and nowhere more so than in the flowering plants. Every time I see a new one, I wonder how it came to be and what its purpose is.

    It’s also frightening to think about mankind’s attempts to engineer life forms, both plants and animals, since we know so very little about what we’re doing. It seems to be an clumsy intrusion into something that nature does so very well. I think that when we arrive at the point where we depend on the life forms that we have engineered and finally destroy the last vestiges of the wild, natural world, we will also cease to exist, destroyed by our own arrogance.

  2. I started to respond and then it got windy… and I’ll sum my reponse up with this;

    I gotta tell you; the “nature of nature” is simple for me to understand – it’s the “nature of mankind” that confuses me.

    My lenghty response tells me I probably just need to write on a few more of these topics later down the road. (Winter Thought’s perhaps?) Including a few more thoughts on engineering of life forms.

  3. ps. O’ I forgot to add I do agree with you. We need to step back and re-think our relationship with nature in order to save it and like you I agree it has to be saved.

  4. Great post – I’ll have to keep an eye on our PBS reruns to see if I can catch that Nova, it sounds right up my alley!

    I just read a very interesting book on similar subjects, “The Botany of Desire” (see my recent blog post about it if you’re interested).

  5. Hi Adam, I read through your post and decided okay when winter months make an entrance that book is a must read. I’m linking you post here in case anyone else finds this kind of reading interesting too.

    http://adampaul.wordpress.com/2007/06/07/the-botany-of-desire-by-michael-pollan/

    You gave it such a glowing recommendation I knew it has to be read!

  6. Fantastic!
    Absolutely Fantabulous post there…I truly loved it.

    I completely agree here…both the analogies of garden plants being botanical version of Pamela Anderson; and the selective breeding analogous to Hitler’s nature…

    I totally advocate the due course of nature. Leaving things to happen naturally. But actually, it is a very ambiguous topic, because I tend to fall on to the other side of the line too, sometimes.
    That, because I am not a fatalist. I do not believe that every single minute thing that happens was typically meant (and metaphorically written somewhere) to happen.
    I do believe in the utmost free will, however. What with us being as much as a creator as God, I sometimes also tend to think that we are also a part of nature.
    So even if somebody does something like selective breeding, and on the outlook is fiddling around with nature; actually he is just exhibiting his free will. And a part of nature too.

    OK…I think I must be confusing right now. I am not sure if my point is at all clear.

    But anyway, fantastic post.

    P.S. I shifted away from Vanilla smoke to my new address 🙂

  7. Hi Narziss,

    Actually you are making sense but you can tell you’ve had a bit of a philosophical background… I understand your conflict myself because I’m in the same darn boat.

    Personally, I’d like to let it all go. (It is after all what I do with the land I live on.) No mowers here… and no it does not look like a park it looks like whatever nature intended. And I get to wander happily in beds of wild flowers.. who’s complaining?

    I’ll shoot up a post on selective breeding because I am concerned with it a bit. Maybe it isn’t about not ever doing it – it isn’t about “could we?” But “should we?” And maybe we’ve got enough intelligent as human beings to have figured out the should from the could. (now who’s sounding funky?)

    I’ve wandered on your new site (and all my favorites.) While painting I’ve been lurking.. As soon as I get this painting done I’ll get to comment more! :o)

  8. oh! Good luck with your painting! 🙂

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