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Patricia Ononiwu Kaishian
Over the past years, the scientific community has engaged in an increasingly contentious debate about the wood wide web. Hypothesized to be a network of mycorrhizal fungi that allow trees to communicate with each other, the wood wide web is wildly popular in non-scientific communities as indicated by the critical acclaim of Suzanne Simard’s book on the subject, Finding the Mother Tree. However, some scientists believe that the science supporting the wood wide web is limited. In this project, I review the scientific literature on both sides of this debate and find that while there is merit to the criticism that the wood wide web is overhyped, the opposition to the wood wide web ultimately goes beyond the realms of just scientific disagreement. I argue that the wood wide web and the fungi that compose it force us to eschew Western scientific ontology. That ontology is based in a history of anthropocentrism that has led us to view the non-human world as passive, lacking in agency, and fundamentally separate from humans. Fungi, with their weird, mystical, and enigmatic behavior, have especially suffered under this framework. Therefore, we must look to alternative ways of knowing the world to understand fungi as subjects. Drawing on the works of mycologists and scholars, I propose we move towards a “multispecies biology,” holding that a livelier view of the world that recognizes the transformative nature of multispecies entanglements is better able to capture the magic of fungi specifically, and non-humans broadly.
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Fleetwood Bradshaw, Sarita Nell, "Decomposing Science: How Fungi Reimagine Biological Ontologies" (2023). Senior Projects Spring 2023. 17.
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