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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Backster, Cleve Mr. Backster is a polygraph (lie detector) expert who hooked up a houseplant to his instruments and discovered that even thinking about fire caused the graph to “nearly jump off the page.” He even claimed that electrically connecting two containers of yogurt resulted in rudimentary “communication” between the yogurts, but only if the two were from the same original culture.
      Backster's basic claim is that plants can communicate with one another, can read the minds of humans, and can experience emotions like fear, joy, and sorrow. This was described in his 1973 book The Secret Life of Plants. Since plants do not have a central nervous system, this seems unlikely to be true.
      Inspired by Backster's book, Eldon Byrd, an employee of the U.S. Department of the Navy actually petitioned Congress for funds to conduct experiments with seaweed aimed at training the plant to react to danger, thus warning naval divers.
      To date, no one——not even the U.S. Navy——has taken Backster's claims seriously enough to establish a Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Plants, nor has there been any effort to legislate humane methods of chopping broccoli or making applesauce.

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Copyright (C) 1995-2007 James Randi.

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