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Thread: Gaia Theory

  1. #1 Gaia Theory 
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    So, just been reading James Lovelock's book on Gaia theory.

    Not sure how well known it is; very briefly its the theory that the planet Earth is a single living organism. This is based on observations that the Earth avoids the chemical equilibrium of dead planets from the activity of living organisms. He also likens the homeostatic mechanisms of the planet to that of complex living creatures.

    Inevitably, questions of how to define 'life' in general will arise, but i just wanted to know how well known or accepted this theory is among academics and professionals involved in the earth sciences.

    The book was 1st published in the 70s, just wonder if it's progressed.


    P.S. This has nothing to do with any mystical ideas of a conscious planet, or of a spirit of the planet, so none of that please.


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  3. #2  
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    Just remembered, wasn't it James Hutton who said "I consider the Earth to be a super-organism and that its proper study should be by physiology." ?


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  4. #3  
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    It is better to treat the Gaia hypothesis as a philosophical stance rather than a scientific theory.

    It has a certain value, in that it helps us to look at the Earth as a single, integrated whole. However, it has essentially failed the predictive test system in science. The concept of homeostasis on a planet wide scale is only partially true. The planetary environment can change.
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  5. #4  
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    It is widely known.

    I regard it as a useful metaphor that helps us think of the integration of life with not only it's specific ecosystem but at regional and even planetary scales and it's related feedbacks both negative and positive to change.
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  6. #5 Re: Gaia Theory 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    So, just been reading James Lovelock's book on Gaia theory.

    Not sure how well known it is; very briefly its the theory that the planet Earth is a single living organism. This is based on observations that the Earth avoids the chemical equilibrium of dead planets from the activity of living organisms. He also likens the homeostatic mechanisms of the planet to that of complex living creatures.

    Inevitably, questions of how to define 'life' in general will arise, but i just wanted to know how well known or accepted this theory is among academics and professionals involved in the earth sciences.

    The book was 1st published in the 70s, just wonder if it's progressed.


    P.S. This has nothing to do with any mystical ideas of a conscious planet, or of a spirit of the planet, so none of that please.
    To add to what others have said, the idea is often taught in first-year geology/environmental science courses to analogously convey that the Earth is a dynamic system.

    However, as science it fails. For example, 'dead' planets aren't at chemical equillibrium.
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  7. #6  
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    I've read this theory and found it very intresting.
    but honestly i find it more a poetic view of something that is just sicence or
    pysics at work.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    I almost see things from the opposite side of Gaia theory

    Maybe from one perspective, the sentient entities that we perceive to be and that are exchanging on this forum are not strictly biological per say but the interactions (or stream of interactions) between neurons (and chemical interactions) and now with electrons. The lifeforms we each identify to, our cells, are not aware they exists, or that we exist, and if they had a microscopic amount of sentience/intelligence would not be aware that we have an impact on them, hair cells oblivious to our cutting them away in a hair cut for the benefit of other "interaction entities". In fact, the ignorance has been two sided for thousands of years, cells sure as heck dont know what they are, but humans too had no clue what we were either, no clues we were composed of a colony of cells with a microscopic ecology riding along and no ability for thousands of years to imagine or even "perceive" the world from a microscopic perspective.

    I wonder if a meta-sentience could occur emerging from our human (internet, or computer) interaction, and if this occured the meta-sentience might no initially understand itself, nor perceive the universe from our perspective.

    By looking at a coniferous tree and its pattern of branches and living/dead spines sometime ago I really go the impression that this tree is more a colony or community than a single organism. Maybe multicellular organism and a colony of organisms is not as clear cut as is convenient to imagine (or a spectrum rather than black/white labels).
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  9. #8  
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    Yes, i would consider the book/hypothesis to be well known. However, since the 70's, the Gaia Hypothesis has been highly criticised. Several books by james lovelock have since been published and each aimed specifically at either the science community or the general public. In my opinion, the book is based on actual observations, but put into more 'colourful' language, so to the average scientist, it would seem very philosophical. So, one would expect this hypothesis to be unaccepted within the science community, even today.

    I believe the actual science in this comes from or links to, Earth system science, and/or Biogeochemistry.
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  10. #9  
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    The Gaia hypothesis is a zoom out view of life as a whole system while the scientific community studies the system within as is viewed as chaotic and messy when you zoom in and attempt to study it in its details.
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