"Just because someone is an expert in one field doesn't mean that he or she is an expert in another."
Clive Backster was a specialized agent for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who studied plants as a hobby and was featured in the book, The Secret Life of Plants. (1975)
He was a lie detector expert who decided one morning to hook-up one of his two philodendron plants that sat in the corner of his living room to the infamous machine and give it a polygraph test. He wanted to see if plants had the ability to display extrasensory perception (ESP) or had any sort of memory.
The study became known as "The Botanical Witness"
He put the two plants into an empty room with no stimuli. Using a few colleagues, one-by-one they entered the room and sat in front of the plants for five minutes. One person was to carry in a big butcher knife and show it to the two plants in threatening gestures. No one even Backster knew who the person would be that carried the knife. The polygraph test attached to the one plant went through the roof, when that person entered the room brandishing the knife.
Then, they did it again but this time, the person with the knife was to enter the room and start hacking up one of the plants while the other sat helplessly watching. Again the polygraph went through the roof.
For a final test, all the participants entered the room one-by-one, but with no knife. The first person came in, the polygraph was normal, then the second, nothing happened. Then the hacker. The polygraph again went through the roof, as if it knew who killed his plant-mate.
Afterwards, whenever that person came near the surviving plant the polygraph recorded a reaction, clearly indicating the plant knew who that person was by using by using some sort of plant ESP.
Other tests came to the same conclusions when the plant was burnt with hot rods, or when it listened to classical music, or even when it was verbally threatened.
All attempts to replicate Backster's findings have failed, and have not been accepted by the scientific community. His studies proved nothing because they were not performed scientifically with adequate controlled conditions as a real scientist would do.
Conclusions: This Backster guy may have been an expert interrogation specialist, we all assume what they are like; one sided. He believed; as if his findings were absolute proof, a machine cannot lie and that plants experienced emotion. But, that did not make him an expert in the scientific method or plant physiology. More studies are needed—I suppose experiments are being conducted today, somewhere in some government building, down in the basement, where torture and unnecessary crimes are committed against innocent plants,—to come to any kind of conclusion in this field.
"An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them."—Werner Hessenberg
Ref: How to Think About Weird Things - Critical Thinking for a New Age