Notices
Results 1 to 27 of 27

Thread: Gaia Theory

  1. #1 Gaia Theory 
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    2
    Hey, I'm new here.

    I tried searching for information on here, but I only found only one thread which happen to be trash.

    I'm curious about the theory, because a friend of mine believes it from his rationality. Although, I differ from him, so him and I would have these debates about Earth being an organism or not.

    From what I know, Earth isn't an organism. To sum it up, without getting technical, Earth is a rock that has the right conditions for life to grow. And I believe that the Gaia Theory is mostly philosophical and semantic. Stuff just happens.

    His argument is that, Earth self-regulates by changing the environment to its needs. And that it self-reproduces by creating life on its surface - which he claims is analogous to (example) blood cells being created in our bodies. Stuff doesn't just happen, Earth adapts to its living conditions to survive.


    Reply With Quote  
     

  2.  
     

  3. #2  
    Reptile Dysfunction drowsy turtle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    2,255
    The point to the theory, really, is that the presence of life on the surface of the Earth continues to change the atmosphere, temperature, etc. so that life can still be supported; basically life acts as a huge negative feedback system to prevent conditions becoming too hostile towards it.

    NewScientist recently had an article arguing whether or not the Gaia Theory really applied, based on the number of mass-extinctions caused by life itself.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/...ngered-species


    "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair." ~ Douglas Adams
    Reply With Quote  
     

  4. #3  
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    2
    Hmm wow. Great insight

    Thanks for the information. (Haven't read the article yet) Clears up a lot of mess about my knowledge of the theory.

    I don't really have any questions right now.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  5. #4  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Cardiff, Wales
    Posts
    5,810
    i've always understood the gaia theory as an allegory which indicates that the earth is a buffered system where life plays a part in being part of the buffer

    however, it is well-known that even buffered systems can become unstable when stepping outside the range within which the buffering agent can operate
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
    Reply With Quote  
     

  6. #5 Notes on James Lovelock's Gaia Theory 
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Crete, Greece
    Posts
    5
    Simply put, the core of James Lovelock's Gaia theory is that "The earth is more than just a home, it's a living system and we are part of it."

    If not true in a literal sense, (one could have endless semantic discussions on the word "living") I have long believed that this is the way in which we should envisualise the planet on which we live. So where, as human beings do we fit in? The Earth is 4,500 million years old, it has sustained life for the past 3,500 million years (despite five mass extinction events that have radically altered the biota of the planet) and Australopithecus, from whom we are descended, started walking a little over 5 million years ago. Looked at in that perspective we are not as important as we would like to think we are. That is, we are not important as far as Gaia is concerned, our interest in "Saving The Planet" is purely one of self interest. Like every other species on Earth our ultimate mission is one of self preservation and to hell with everything else.

    That said we have the possibly unique ability to envisualise abstract concepts and extrapolate from them (some cetatians may not agree that this ability is unique but inter-species communication skills have not yet evolved sufficiently to discuss this matter) and this has led to our somewhat belated realisation that our continued survival as a species is inextricably linked to keeping conditions on the planet pretty much the same as they are now. Maintaining this status quo requires that all species across all the Kingdoms of living organisms remain substantially unchanged. This is not possible. Whether we regard Gaia as a living system or not it is irrefutably a dynamic system. Things change, we live on a dynamic planet within a dynamic universe. This has to be so; the alternative to change is stagnation and stagnation is death.

    Our problem is not that conditions on Earth are changing, we are a highly adaptable species, but the key question is: are we adaptable enough to cope with the rate of change? There is a lot of current political and scientific discussion (quibbling) about just how quickly the climate is changing and whether mankind is responsible for this. An interesting debate and I subscribe to the view that the rate of change is at the higher end of the various current estimates and that it is substantially human generated. But that is all it is: an interesting debate. The climate is changing, quickly; and as we're heading towards a brick wall it is academic whether we are doing a hundred miles an hour or a hundred and fifty and now is not the time to blame the navigator.

    I concur with James Lovelock that, in all probability, the human race will undergo a drastic cull, if not this century then next. So who will be the survivors? I believe that the cull will come in two waves. As food, energy and water resources become tighter the old adage "charity begins at home" will be the mantra and foreign aid programmes will dry up. This will spark higher mortality in the developing world and an increase in refugees to the developed (and incidentally cooler) countries. This is already happening. This will lead to increased population density in certain regions of the world - Northern Europe will be particularly badly affected - which will lead to separatism, a clan culture if you like, and their will be civil strife such as the world has never known. You can only put so many rats in a cage before they start killling one another and humans, being aggressive animals, will react in much the same way. This will be the second and most devestating wave resulting in the collapse-of-civilisation-as-we-know-it. The survivors will be the most mobile, intelligent and above all adaptable of us.

    For now, those of us lucky enough to live in the developed world are living in a Golden Age. I suggest that we enjoy it while we can but we shouldn't take it for granted. Time spent learning about the natural world and practical survival skills will probably pay dividends in the not too distant future.

    Steve Daniels, Lassithi, Crete, Greece, 19th August 2009
    Reply With Quote  
     

  7. #6 Re: Gaia Theory 
    Suspended
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    481
    It is a cult religion, not a scientific theory. The difference is: a scientific theory can be tested and falsified if the test fails. There is no test that I know of that proponents of the theory have ever done.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  8. #7 Cult religion? 
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Crete, Greece
    Posts
    5
    I think it a bit unfair to call it a cult religion. That implies that someone or something is being worshipped and I see no evidence of that. A theory on the other hand (from the greek theoria meaning contemplation or speculation) is merely a supposition intended to explain something.

    Whether one accepts the idea that Gaia is a living organism in its own right or not, it still makes sense to view the planet in a holistic manner if we want to keep living on it.

    Unless anyone has any better suggestions?

    Steve Daniels, Lassithi, Crete, Greece, 23rd August 2009
    Steve Daniels
    www.littlelemur.com
    Reply With Quote  
     

  9. #8  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,328
    Don't mind that, Steve. Williampinn's just kneejerking 'cause Gaia theory sounds like treehugging empathy and care for mother Earth. If it were called Industructable Earth theory or Opposition to Global Warming theory, he'd love it.

    It's one good lens to see through, and a reminder to assume negative feedbacks in a system that has stood the test of time.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

  10. #9  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,702
    Gaea is an ancient god. I'm sure, somewhere, there is a cult following, and they are using this scientific theory(is it scientific or is it conjecture?) to support their religious(they would probably call them "spiritual) beliefs.


    Does the earth reproduce?
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  11. #10 Re: Gaia Theory 
    Moderator Moderator
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Washington State
    Posts
    8,416
    Quote Originally Posted by williampinn
    It is a cult religion, not a scientific theory.
    Ya, they have churches so hidden no one can find them. LOL

    The difference is: a scientific theory can be tested and falsified if the test fails. There is no test that I know of that proponents of the theory have ever done.
    Or that you've ever looked for.

    The gaia hypothesis is nothing more than a useful metaphor (akin to selfish genes and orbital structures) to describe earth's ability to buffer and modify it's vast number of environments to maintain further life. Of course it has limitations, earth's own history shows the enormous transition from a planet where Oxygen was lethal to most life, to a planet who's surface life is well adapted and even dependent on Oxygen.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  12. #11 Re: Gaia Theory 
    Suspended
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    8,795
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    The gaia hypothesis is nothing more than a useful metaphor
    Why call it a hypothesis then? I think William Pinn is correct.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  13. #12 Re: Gaia Theory 
    Moderator Moderator
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Washington State
    Posts
    8,416
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    The gaia hypothesis is nothing more than a useful metaphor
    Why call it a hypothesis then? I think William Pinn is correct.
    Hypothesis might be too strong a word for it, I agree, but it's certainly a useful model to understand the earth's ability to buffer change towards sustaining current life nevertheless.Furthermore the numerous mechanisms that buffer and keep the earth's systems within well defined bands preferable to current life are pretty well understood, and in many cases have have been successfully modeled. Pinn's claim that there's 1) no science behind the earth's system feedbacks and 2)it's some kind of religion are little more than ignorant firebombing of an interesting discussion.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  14. #13  
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Crete, Greece
    Posts
    5
    "Gaea is an ancient god. I'm sure, somewhere, there is a cult following, and they are using this scientific theory(is it scientific or is it conjecture?) to support their religious(they would probably call them "spiritual) beliefs."


    Hi Marcus: Gaia - originally Ge (hence Ge-ology, Ge-ography etc.) comes from the Greek Mycenean period (16th - 12th century BC) and was the great Earth godess.

    Going back to Lovelock's prediction about a massive cull of humanity this century and bearing in mind the plethora of post-apocalyptic films about to be released, how do other viewers of this forum see the rest of this century? I've already put my views forward - I think a drastic reduction in human numbers is probable either in this century or the next - but what does everybody else think?

    Here are a couple of chilling predictions for the 21st century:

    A major war will break out in the Northern hemisphere over Arctic exploration rights for oil, gas and more importsntly fresh water.

    Bacteria, kept in suspended animation for aeons, will be released from beneath the melting permafrost and create a pandemic that will make the great plague look like a touch of the sniffles.

    And a ray of hope:

    Huge oceanic algae farms will provide enough to feed our ever growing population, suitably processed to cater for regional tastes of course.

    Anyone else got any specific predictions?
    Steve Daniels
    www.littlelemur.com
    Reply With Quote  
     

  15. #14  
    Reptile Dysfunction drowsy turtle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    2,255
    Leakage from algae farms will increase krill populations, and blue whales will make a comeback and become the dominant species on Earth, when we are all killed by contamination of algae farms by toxic species.

    Specific enough?
    "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair." ~ Douglas Adams
    Reply With Quote  
     

  16. #15  
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Crete, Greece
    Posts
    5
    many a true word spoken in jest?
    Steve Daniels
    www.littlelemur.com
    Reply With Quote  
     

  17. #16  
    Reptile Dysfunction drowsy turtle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    2,255
    Quote Originally Posted by steve daniels
    many a true word spoken in jest?
    Let's wait and find out...


    .....This is boring......




    ......OK maybe we can do other things in the meantime
    "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair." ~ Douglas Adams
    Reply With Quote  
     

  18. #17  
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    25
    Hi, I'm new to this forum.

    This is a very interesting thread.

    Personally speaking, I think the Daisyworld Model is a good reason to take the gaia hypothesis seriously, but as with most models it's a vast oversimplification, and other factors can overwhelm it. The New Scientist article does not persuade me that the gaia hypothesis is fundamentally wrong - just maybe not permanent.

    However, the idea that life causes mass extinctions is not new. Have any of you heard of Professor Michael Boulter et al and the idea that self organised criticality may have caused the so called big five mass extinctions?
    Reply With Quote  
     

  19. #18 daisyworld/boulter 
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Crete, Greece
    Posts
    5
    Hello zzpluralz

    Ok, daisyworld: yes I agree, it is an oversimplification but that, I believe, was intentional on the part of Messrs. Lovelock and Watson. To give an unwritten law of scientific publishing: the simpler the model the greater the debate generated (to the best of my knowledge no-one has quantified this). If nothing else then Daisyworld brought focus to the need for biodiversity. Many studies have since followed and biodiversity conservation is now in the public domain which can only be a good thing.

    As to Professor Boulter I think that he is being over pessimistic. Yes, I believe that a catastrophic decline in human population will soon be inevitable but I do believe that there will be survivors and his prophecies of the human race being wiped out are a little premature. Our night will come but not yet (if I'm wrong at least there'll be no-one here to say "I told you so!") As for his idea that "self organised criticality may have caused the so called big five mass extinctions" I confess that I have not yet read this and would be grateful if you could elucidate.
    Here's to a Brave New World (with or without us)

    Steve Daniels

    P S What does the z stand for in zzpluralz?
    Steve Daniels
    www.littlelemur.com
    Reply With Quote  
     

  20. #19 Re: Gaia Theory 
    Forum Sophomore
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    131
    Quote Originally Posted by williampinn
    It is a cult religion, not a scientific theory. The difference is: a scientific theory can be tested and falsified if the test fails. There is no test that I know of that proponents of the theory have ever done.
    Agreed.

    Gaia attracts those who are lacking in the experience of scientific methodology.

    The positive is that the whole 'cult' or whatever word is used is for the most part benign and irrelevent. It's not such a bad thing if the crystal gazers and ghost seekers are kept occupied by one more non-scientific detour as they sip their herbal tea.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  21. #20  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,840
    The problem with the Gaea hypothesis is that it is not one single idea. Like religions that undergo schizms, this idea has evolved into a whole raft of interpretations. These range from a more scientific view of the Earth as one big ecosystem, interacting with the non biotic components of the Earth, right through to a very way out idea of the Earth as a single living organism, of which we are just one part. There are even people who regard the Earth (Gaea) as a divinity.

    When you ask about the Gaea hypothesis, you have to specify which one.

    What will happen to humankind in the near future?
    We cannot know this, but I am an optimist. I base that on recent history, in which humanity has met and overcome numerous challenges. Rachel Carson in her 1963 book 'Silent Spring' suggested global catastrophe due to pesticide poisoning. Humanity changed the pesticides to those that are more pest specific, and biodegradable.

    Dr. Paul Ehrlich wrote about overpopulation catastrophe in his 1968 book 'The Population Bomb' None of his predictions came true due to human intervention, mainly due to improved agricultural productivity as a result of the Green Revolution.

    By the way, do you guys realise that Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, just died at 95? A great scientist and humanitarian.

    I could give more examples of how humanity exercises ingenuity and determination to overcome problems. Here is one from antiquity. The ancient Hittites were a bronze age culture about 3000 years ago. Their tin mines were running out, making it impossible to make bronze. A common disaster in today's pessimism. Resource depletion. The Hittites responded by inventing a way to smelt iron, beginning the iron age.

    I predict that human ingenuity will be sufficient to overcome the disasters of the next few hundred years, and humanity will be even stronger in centuries to come.

    Incidentally, we already have the technology to feed a much larger population. If we were to implement hydroponics over a land area equivalent to one third of the United States, it could produce enough to feed twice the world's current population.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  22. #21  
    Forum Sophomore
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    131
    Skeptic:

    Your posting is one of the better ones I have read on any forum on the web. It is refreshing to have 'meat on the bones'.

    In younger days I read both the books that you mention.

    'The Population Bomb' was more relevent at the time and although predictions didn't come to fruition, it got a lot of minds thinking. The often stated (in various phrasing) 'finish your supper, think of all the starving kids in India' was not based on any exaggeration. In some years millions did indeed starve in India, Pakistan and elsewhere. Many more millions died of malaria, dysentry and so on. It also was unsettling to know that one's body might be vapourized from what seemed a state of an imminent nuclear exchange.

    Rachel Carson's book 'Silent Spring' probably had more impact after her death than when it was published. Environmentalism became something other than the study and preservation of Nature. It also became about the place of people in that Nature.

    Doom and gloom has been the mainstay of attention-grabing for a couple millenia. 'Dire consequences' await those who don't drink the Kool-Aid, whatever flavour it may be. In reality humans are quite versatile and have weathered all types apocalyptic predictions. Best beware of those who warn 'case closed, believe or else'.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  23. #22  
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    37
    Think of it like the earth being an oak tree

    The earth is covered in life and is one giant eco system

    The oak tree is covered in all kinds of moss and fern. squirells and birds nest in its branches, and all kinds of insects live in side of its wood.

    the earth has about as much control over the things living on it as the tree does.

    It can effect them but it is not aware of what it is doing

    the earth is not a conscious being but it is alive
    Reply With Quote  
     

  24. #23  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,702
    The earth is more like a dead tree, in the sense that it is not alive.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  25. #24  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Cardiff, Wales
    Posts
    5,810
    think of life as the paint on the Eifel tower
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
    Reply With Quote  
     

  26. #25  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,328
    I like geology so I think the Earth is quivering and restless. So we're mist on slag floating on a ball of convecting magma. Look down and you'll feel seasick.

    Anyway doesn't Gaia just refer to the ecosphere?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

  27. #26  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,702
    I'm pretty sure Gaia refers to an ancient greek goddess of earth. and earth means dirt, most dirt is not part of the ecosphere, only the top most layer.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  28. #27  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,328
    Common usage of "Gaia" suggests Gaia hypothesis not some little known Greek goddess.

    I'm asking if the Gaia hypothesis is confined to the ecosphere.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

Bookmarks
Bookmarks
Posting Permissions
  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •