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It’s Time to Take the Gaia Hypothesis Seriously

Can a planet be alive? That’s the question the author of the below article is asking. The answer is no. If it were alive then it wouldn’t be a planet. It would be an organism rather than a planet which simply hosts organisms. The below linked article talks about a hypothesis, known as Gaia, which basically does posit that the earth is an organism. This hypothesis has been around for a while now and is generally thought of as just bunk. A bit of pseudoscience. In the sense that the scientists who came up with the hypothesis meant it certainly it is hokum. However, it is based on one of the most remarkable things about our planet. It tends toward equilibrium, or perhaps better said, homeostasis.

“Studying Earth’s global biosphere together, Margulis and Lovelock realized that it has some of the properties of a life form. It seems to display “homeostasis,” or self‐regulation. Many of Earth’s life‐sustaining qualities exhibit remarkable stability. The temperature range of the climate; the oxygen content of the atmosphere; the pH, chemistry, and salinity of the ocean—all these are biologically mediated. All have, for hundreds of millions of years, stayed within a range where life can thrive. Lovelock and Margulis surmised that the totality of life is interacting with its environments in ways that regulate these global qualities. They recognized that Earth is, in a sense, a living organism. Lovelock named this creature Gaia.”

The part about how it all seems to work so well is true. The earth has managed to sustain the same kind of life for millions and millions of years. That life has altered the planet in incredible ways beyond just oxygen creation. There are minerals on earth that don’t exist elsewhere because they require the interactions with life to form.

I don’t believe in mother earth or Gaia. The scientists who came up with it were philosophers and poets maybe more than they were scientists.  There is wonder in how life exists on earth and how the earth manages to sustain that life. It is amazing. Marquilis and Lovelock were into the poetry of that idea more than they were trying to prove it. But they had stumbled upon something fabulous. It’s impossible really for humans to comprehend the full complexity of our planet and all the various interactions that take place.

It is my belief that life exists elsewhere in the universe. Intelligent life. I suspect it’s actually very much like the life we have here on Earth. Given the cosmic distances we have to deal with, we may never know. While I think Gaia does not exist as an entity, I comprehend the complexity of interactions that it represents. It makes sense to me that life will exist wherever life can exist. I realize that this belief is just faith. Call it a hunch if you will.  It’s one of my favorite lines from the film Jurassic Park when Ian Malcolm explains that “life finds a way”.

 

Can a planet be alive? Lynn Margulis, a giant of late 20th-century biology, who had an incandescent intellect that veered toward the…

Source: It’s Time to Take the Gaia Hypothesis Seriously

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