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However, the composition of sea water is far from equilibrium, and it is difficult to explain this fact without the influence of organic processes. The only significant natural source of atmospheric carbon dioxide CO 2 is volcanic activity, while the only significant removal is through the precipitation of carbonate rocks. Both precipitation and solution are influenced by the bacteria and plant roots in soils, where they improve gaseous circulation, or in coral reefs, where calcium carbonate is deposited as a solid on the sea floor. Calcium carbonate can also be washed from continents to the sea where it is used by living organisms to manufacture carbonaceous tests and shells.

Once dead, the living organisms' shells fall to the bottom of the oceans where they generate deposits of chalk and limestone. Part of the organisms with carbonaceous shells are the coccolithophores algae , which also have a role in the formation of clouds. When they die, they release dimethyl sulfide gas DMS , CH 3 2 S, which is converted by atmospheric processes to sulfate particles on which water vapor condenses to make clouds.

Lovelock sees this as one of the complex processes that maintain conditions suitable for life. The volcanoes produce CO 2 in the atmosphere, CO 2 participates in rock weathering as carbonic acid, itself accelerated by temperature and soil life, the dissolved CO 2 is then used by the algae and released on the ocean floor. CO 2 excess can be compensated by an increase of coccolithophoride life, increasing the amount of CO 2 locked in the ocean floor.

Coccolithophorides increase the cloud cover, hence control the surface temperature, help cool the whole planet and favor precipitations which are necessary for terrestrial plants. For Lovelock and other Gaia scientists like Stephan Harding, coccolithophorides are one stage in a regulatory feedback loop. Lately the atmospheric CO 2 concentration has increased and there is some evidence that concentrations of ocean algal blooms are also increasing.

Lovelock, especially in his older texts, used language that has later caused fiery debate. For instance, many of his biological critics such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins attacked his statement in the first paragraph of his first Gaia book , that "the quest for Gaia is an attempt to find the largest living creature on Earth. Lynn Margulis, the coauthor of Gaia hypotheses, is more careful to avoid controversial figures of speech than is Lovelock. In she wrote, in particular, that only homeorhetic and not homeostatic balances are involved: that is, the composition of Earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere are regulated around "set points" as in homeostasis, but those set points change with time.

Also she wrote that there is no special tendency of biospheres to preserve their current inhabitants, and certainly not to make them comfortable. Accordingly, the Earth is a kind of community of trust which can exist at many discrete levels of integration. This is true for all multicellular organisms which do not live or die all at once: not all cells in the body die instantaneously, nor are homeostatic "set points" constant through the life of an organism. This theory is based on the idea that the biomass self-regulates the conditions on the planet to make its physical environment in particular temperature and chemistry of the atmosphere on the planet more hospitable to the species which constitute its "life".

The Gaia Hypothesis properly defined this "hospitality" as a full homeostasis. A model that is often used to illustrate the original Gaia Hypothesis is the so-called Daisyworld simulation. Whether this sort of system is present on Earth is still open to debate. Some relatively simple homeostatic mechanisms are generally accepted.

For example, when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, the biomass of photosynthetic organisms increases and thus removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but the extent to which these mechanisms stabilize and modify the Earth's overall climate are not yet known. Less clear is the reason why such traits should evolve in a system in order to produce such effects. Lovelock accepts a process of systemic Darwinian evolution for such mechanisms, creatures that evolve that improve their environment for their survival will do better than those which damage their environment.

But many scientists do not believe such mechanisms exist. After initially being largely ignored by most scientists, from until , thereafter for a period, the initial Gaia hypothesis was ridiculed by a number of scientists, like Ford Doolittle, Dawkins and Gould. Lovelock has said that by naming his theory after a Greek goddess, championed by many non scientists [1] , the Gaia hypothesis was derided as some kind of neo-Pagan New Age religion.

Many scientists in particular also criticised the approach taken in his popular book "Gaia, a New look at Life on Earth" for being teleological; a belief that all things have a predetermined purpose.

The Quest for Gaia

Lovelock seems to have accepted this criticism of some of his statements, and has worked hard to remove the taint of teleological thinking from his theories, stating "Nowhere in our writings do we express the idea that planetary self-regulation is purposeful, or involves foresight or planning by the biota. In , W. Ford Doolittle, in the CoEvolution Quarterly article "Is Nature Motherly" argued that there was nothing in the genome of individual organisms which could provide the feedback mechanisms Gaia theory proposed, and that therefore the Gaia hypothesis was an unscientific theory of a maternal type without any explanatory mechanism.

In Richard Dawkins' book, The Extended Phenotype , he argued that organisms could not act in concert as this would require foresight and planning from them. Like Doolittle he rejected the possibility that feedback loops could stabilize the system. Dawkins claimed "there was no way for evolution by natural selection to lead to altruism on a Global scale".

Stephen Jay Gould criticised Gaia as merely a metaphorical description of Earth processes [21]. He wanted to know the actual mechanisms by which self-regulating homeostasis was regulated. Lovelock argues that no one mechanism is responsible, that the connections between the various known mechanisms may never be known, that this is accepted in other fields of biology and ecology as a matter of course, and that specific hostility is reserved for his own theory for political reasons.

Aside from clarifying his language and understanding of what is meant by a life form, Lovelock himself ascribes most of the criticism to a lack of understanding of non-linear mathematics by his critics, and a linearizing form of greedy reductionism in which all events have to be immediately ascribed to specific causes before the fact. He notes also that his theory suggests experiments in many different fields, but few of them in biology which most of his critics are trained in. He points out that Richard Feynman not only shared this opinion coining the term cargo cult science but also accepted a lack of general cause and effect explanation as an inevitable phase in a theory's development, and believed that some self-regulating phenomena may not be explainable at all mathematically.

One of the criteria of the empirical definition of life is its ability to replicate and pass on their genetic information to succeeding generations. Consequently, an argument against the idea that Gaia is a "living" organism is the fact that the planet is unable to reproduce.

James Lovelock CCLS2019

Lovelock, however, defines life as a self-preserving, self-similar system of feedback loops like Humberto Maturana's autopoiesis; as a self-similar system, life could be a cell as well as an organ embedded into a larger organism as well as an individual in a larger inter-dependent social context. The biggest context of interacting inter-dependent living entities is the Earth. The problematic empirical definition is getting "fuzzy on the edges": Why are highly specialized bacteria like E. Maturana and Lovelock changed this with the autopoiesis deductive definition which to them explains the phenomenon of life better; some aspects of the empirical definition, however, no longer apply.


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Reproduction becomes optional: bee swarms reproduce, while the biosphere has no need to. Lovelock himself states in the original Gaia book that even that is not true; given the possibilities, the biosphere may multiply in the future by colonizing other planets, as humankind may be the primer by which Gaia will reproduce.

Humanity's exploration of space, its interest in colonizing and even terraforming other planets, lends some plausibility to the idea that Gaia might in effect be able to reproduce. The astronomer Carl Sagan also remarked that from a cosmic viewpoint, the space probes since have the character of a planet preparing to go to seed [22]. This might warrant interpretation as a rhetorical point, however, as it equivocates two differing meanings of "reproduction" otherwise.

Lovelock responded to criticisms by developing the mathematical model Daisyworld with Andrew Watson to demonstrate that feedback mechanisms could evolve from the actions or activities of self-interested organisms, rather than through classic group selection mechanisms. Daisyworld examines the energy budget of a planet populated by two different types of plants, black daisies and white daisies.

The colour of the daisies influences the albedo of the planet such that black daisies absorb light and warm the planet, while white daisies reflect light and cool the planet. Competition between the daisies based on temperature-effects on growth rates leads to a balance of populations that tends to favour a planetary temperature close to that which is optimum for the daisy growth. Lovelock and Watson demonstrated the stability of Daisyworld by forcing the sun that it orbits to evolve along the main sequence, taking it from low to high solar constant.

This perturbation of Daisyworld's receipt of solar radiation caused the balance of daisies to gradually shift from black to white but the planetary temperature was always regulated back to this optimum except at the extreme ends of solar evolution. This situation is very different from the corresponding abiotic world, where temperature is unregulated and rises linearly with solar output. Later versions of Daisyworld introduced a range of grey daisies and populations of grazers and predators, and found that these further increased the stability of the homeostasis.


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  • The quest for Gaia: A book of changes.
  • More recently other research, modelling the real biochemical cycles of Earth, and using various "guilds" of life eg. This enables nutrient recycling within a regulatory framework derived by natural selection amongst species, where one being's harmful waste becomes low energy food for members of another guild. In , to draw attention to the Gaia hypothesis, the climatologist Stephen Schneider organised a conference of the American Geophysical Union's first Chapman Conference on Gaia, held at San Diego in , solely to discuss Gaia. At the conference James Kirchner criticised the Gaia hypothesis for its imprecision.

    He claimed that Lovelock and Margulis had not presented one Gaia hypothesis, but four -. Of Homeostatic Gaia, Kirchner recognised two alternatives. Strong Gaia, Kirchner claimed, was untestable and therefore not scientific.

    Gaia Hypothesis

    Lawrence Joseph in his book "Gaia: the birth of an idea" argued that Kirchner's attack was principally against Lovelock's integrity as a scientist. Lovelock did not attack Kirchner's views for ten years, until his autobiography "Homage to Gaia", where he calls Kirchner's position sophistry. Lovelock and other Gaia-supporting scientists, however, did attempt to disprove the claim that the theory is not scientific because it is impossible to test it by controlled experiment. For example, against the charge that Gaia was teleological Lovelock and Andrew Watson offered the Daisyworld model and its modifications, above as evidence against most of these criticisms.

    Lovelock was careful to present a version of the Gaia Hypothesis which had no claim that Gaia intentionally or consciously maintained the complex balance in her environment that life needed to survive. It would appear that the claim that Gaia acts "intentionally" was a metaphoric statement in his popular initial book and was not meant to be taken literally. This new statement of the Gaia hypothesis was more acceptable to the scientific community.

    The accusations of teleologism were largely dropped after this conference. Some have found James Kirchner's suggested spectrum, proposed at the First Gaia Chapman Conference, useful in suggesting that the original Gaia hypothesis could be split into a spectrum of hypotheses, ranging from the undeniable Weak Gaia to the radical Strong Gaia. At one end of this spectrum is the undeniable statement that the organisms on the Earth have altered its composition. A stronger position is that the Earth's biosphere effectively acts as if it is a self-organizing system, which works in such a way as to keep its systems in some kind of "meta-equilibrium" that is broadly conducive to life.

    The history of evolution, ecology and climate show that the exact characteristics of this equilibrium intermittently have undergone rapid changes, which are believed to have caused extinctions and felled civilizations see climate change. Weak Gaian hypotheses suggest that Gaia is co-evolutive. Co-evolution in this context has been thus defined: "Biota influence their abiotic environment, and that environment in turn influences the biota by Darwinian process.

    The weakest form of the theory has been called "influential Gaia". It states that biota minimally influence certain aspects of the abiotic world, e. The weak versions are more acceptable from an orthodox science perspective, as they assume non-homeostasis. By now a planet-sized entity, albeit hypothetical, had been born, with properties which could not be predicted from the sum of its parts. It needed a name. Fortunately the author William Golding was a fellow-villager. Without hesitation he Recommended that this creature be called Gaia, after the Greek Earth goddess also known as Ge, from which root the sciences of geography and geology derive their names.

    In spite of my ignorance of the classics, the suitability of this choice was obvious. I felt also that in the days of Ancient Greece the concept itself was probably a familiar aspect of life, even if not formally expressed. Scientists are usually condemned to lead urban lives, but I find that country people still living close to the earth often seem puzzled that anyone should need to make a formal proposition of anything as obvious as the Gaia hypothesis.

    For them it is true and always has been. I first put forward the Gaia hypothesis at a scientific meeting about the origins of life on Earth which took place in Princeton, New Jersey, in Perhaps it was poorly presented. It certainly did not appeal to anyone except Lars Gunnar Sillen, the Swedish chemist now sadly dead, and Lynn Margulis, of Boston University, who had the task of editing our various contributions. A year later in Boston Lynn and I met again and began a most rewarding collaboration which, with her deep knowledge and insight as a life scientist, was to go far in adding substance to the wraith of Gaia, and which still happily continues.

    We have since defined Gaia as a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet. The maintenance of relatively constant conditions by active control may be conveniently described by the term 'homoeostasis'.

    Gaia has remained a hypothesis but, like other useful hypotheses, she has already proved her theoretical value, if not her existence, by giving rise to experimental questions and answers which were profitable exercises in themselves. If, for example, the atmosphere is, among other things, a device for conveying raw materials to and from the biosphere, it would be reasonable to assume the presence of carrier compounds for elements essential in all biological systems, for example, iodine and sulphur.

    It was rewarding to find evidence that both were conveyed from the oceans, where they are abundant, through the air to the land surface, where they are in short supply. The carrier compounds, methyl iodide and dimethyl sulphide respectively, are directly produced by marine life. Scientific curiosity being unquenchable, the presence of these interesting compounds in the atmosphere would no doubt have been discovered in the end and their importance discussed without the stimulus of the Gaia hypothesis.

    But they were actively sought as a result of the hypothesis and their presence was consistent with it.


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    • If Gaia exists, the relationship between her and man, a dominant animal species in the complex living system, and the possibly shifting balance of power between them, are questions of obvious importance. I have discussed them in later chapters, but this book is written primarily to stimulate and entertain. The Gaia hypothesis is for those who like to walk or simply stand and stare, to wonder about the Earth and the life it bears, and to speculate about the consequences of our own presence here. It is an alternative to that pessimistic view which sees nature as a primitive force to be subdued and conquered.

      It is also an alternative to that equally depressing picture of our planet as a demented spaceship, forever travelling, driverless and purposeless, around an inner circle of the sun. My father was born in and raised on the Berkshire Downs just south of Wantage. He was an excellent and enthusiastic gardener and also a very gentle man. I remember him rescuing wasps from drowning after they had blundered into the water butt.

      He would say, 'They are there for a purpose, you know, and then explain to me how they controlled the aphids on his plum trees and how they were surely due some of the crops as a reward. He had no formal religious beliefs and did not attend church or chapel. I think his moral system came from that unstructured mixture of Christianity and magic which is common enough among country people, and in which May Day as well as Easter Day is an occasion for ritual and rejoicing.

      He felt instinctively his kinship with all living things and I remember how greatly it distressed him to see a tree cut down. I owe much of my own feeling for natural things to walks with him down country lanes and along ancient drives which had, or appeared in those days to have, a sweet seemliness and tranquillity. This chapter begins autobiographically so that I may bring us the more easily to consider the most speculative and intangible aspects of the Gaia hypothesis: those which concern thought and emotion in the interrelationship of man and Gaia.

      Let us start by considering our sense of beauty. By this, I mean those complex feelings of pleasure, recognition, and fulfilment, of wonder, excitement, and yearning, which fill us when we see, feel, smell, or hear whatever heightens our self-awareness and at the same time deepens our perception of the true nature of things. It has often been said-and for some, ad nauseam-that these pleasurable sensations are inextricably bound up with that strange hyperaesthesia of romantic love.

      Even so, there seems no need inevitably to attribute the pleasure we feel on a country walk, as our gaze wanders over the downs, to our instinctive comparison of the smooth rounded hills with the contours of a woman's breasts. The thought may indeed occur to us, but we could also explain our pleasure in Gaian terms.

      Part of our reward for fulfilling our biological role of creating a home and raising a family is the underlying sense of satisfaction. However hard and disappointing at times the task may have been, we are still pleasurably aware at a deeper level of having played our proper part and stayed in the mainstream of life. We are equally and painfully aware of a sense of failure and loss if for some reason or other we have missed our way or made a mess of things.

      It may be that we are also programmed to recognise instinctively our optimal role in relation to other forms of life around us. When we act according to this instinct in our dealings with our partners in Gaia, we are rewarded by finding that what seems right also looks good and arouses those pleasurable feelings which comprise our sense of beauty. When this relationship with our environment is spoilt or mishandled, we suffer from a sense of emptiness and deprivation. Many of us know the shock of finding that some peaceful rural haunt of our youth where once the wild thyme blew and where the hedges were thick with eglantine and may, has become a featureless expanse of pure weed-free barley.

      It does not seem inconsistent with the Darwinian forces of evolutionary selection for a sense of pleasure to reward us by encouraging us to achieve a balanced relationship between ourselves and other forms of life. The thousand-year-old New Forest in southern England, once the private hunting reserve of William the Conqueror and his Norman barons, is still an area of great scenic beauty, where badgers roam at night - and ponies have right of way over humans and the internal combustion engine.

      Although this historic, square-mile region of ancient woodland and heath is protected by special Acts of Parliament, the true price of its survival is our unceasing vigilance. For it is now the pleasure-ground of thousands of holiday picnickers, campers, and tourists, who drop tons of litter annually and sometimes, with a careless match or cigarette, start fires which may destroy in a few hours over many acres the product of centuries-old balanced husbandry between the forester and his environment. Another of our instincts which probably favours survival is that which associates fitness and due proportion with beauty in individuals.

      Our bodies are formed of cell co-operatives. Each nucleus-containing body cell is an association of lesser entities in symbiosis. If the product of all this co-operative effort, a human being, seems beautiful when correctly and expertly assembled, is it too much to suggest that we may recognise by the same instinct the beauty and fittingness of an environment created by an assembly of creatures, including man, and by other forms of life?

      Where every prospect pleases, and man, accepting his role as a partner in Gaia, need not be vile. It would be dauntingly difficult to test experimentally the notion that the instinct to associate fitness with beauty favours survival, but it might be worth a try. I wonder if a positive answer would enable us to rate beauty objectively, rather than through the eye of the beholder.

      We have seen that the capacity greatly to reduce entropy or, to put it in the terms of information theory, greatly to reduce the uncertainty of the answers to the questions about life, is itself a measure of life. Let us set beauty as equal to such a measure of life.

      Then it could follow that beauty also is associated with lowered entropy, reduced uncertainty, and less vagueness. Perhaps we hare always known this, since it is after all part of our internal life recognition programme. Because of it we, through the eye of Blake, even saw our predator as beautiful:. In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire? It might even be that the Platonic absolute of beauty does mean something and can be measured against that unattainable state of certainty about the nature of life itself.

      My father never told me why he believed that everything in this world was there for a purpose, but his thoughts and feelings about the countryside must have been based on a mixture of instinct, observation, and tribal wisdom. These persist in diluted form in many of us today and are still strong enough to power environmental movements which have come to be accepted as forces to be reckoned with by other powerful pressure groups in our society.

      As a result, the churches of the monotheistic religions, and the recent heresies of humanism and Marxism, are faced with the unwelcome truth that some part of their old enemy, Wordsworth's Pagan, "suckled in a creed outworn", is still alive within us. In earlier times, when plague and famine regulated our numbers, it seemed fair and fitting to try by every means to heal the sick and preserve human life.

      This attitude later crystallised into the rigidly uncompromising belief that the Earth was made for man and his needs and desires were paramount. In authoritarian societies and institutions, it seemed absurd to doubt the wisdom or propriety of razing a forest, damming a river, or building an urban complex.

      If it was for the material good of human beings, then it must be right. No moral question was involved, other than the need to prevent bribery and corruption and to ensure fair shares among the beneficiaries. The pangs that many people now feel at the sight of dunes, salt-marshes, woodlands, and even villages brutally destroyed and erased from the face of the Earth by bulldozers are very real. It is no comfort to be told that this attitude is reactionary and that the new urban development will provide jobs and opportunities for young people. The fact that this answer is partly true increases the sense of pain and outrage by denying a right to express it.

      In such circumstances it is hardly surprising that the environmental movement, although powerful, has no clear-cut objective. It tends to attack quite viciously such inappropriate targets as the fluorocarbon industry and fox-hunting, while turning a blind eye to the potentially more serious problems posed by most methods of agriculture.

      Spirituality, Change & Patience

      The strong but confused emotions aroused by the worst excesses of public works and private enterprise provide ripe material for exploitation by unscrupulous manipulators. Environmental politics is a lush new pasture for demagogues and therefore an increasing source of anxiety to responsible governments and industries alike.

      Attaching that overworked adjective 'environmental' to the names of departments and agencies dealing with various aspects of the problem seems unlikely to stem the rising tide of anger and protest. Biological arguments which appear to have a sound scientific basis are often used to support environmental causes, but usually they carry very little weight with scientists.

      Ecologists know that so far there is no evidence that any of man's activities have diminished the total productivity of the biosphere. Whatever an ecologist may feel as an individual about an imminent problem, his hands are tied by a lack of hard scientific evidence.

      The result is an environmental movement which is thwarted, bewildered, and angry. The churches and the humanist movements have sensed the powerful emotional charge generated by the environmental campaign and have re-examined their tenets and beliefs so as to take account of it. There is, for example, a fresh awareness of the concept of Christian stewardship whereby man, while still allowed dominion over the fish and the fowl and every living thing, is accountable to God for the good management of the Earth.

      From a Gaian viewpoint, all attempts to rationalise a subjugated biosphere with man in charge are as doomed to failure as the similar concept of benevolent colonialism. They all assume that man is the possessor of this planet; if not the owner, then the tenant. The allegory of Orwell's Animal Farm takes on a deeper significance when we realise that all human societies in one way or another regard the world as their farm.

      The Gaia hypothesis implies that the stable state of our planet includes man as a part of, or partner in, a very democratic entity. Among several difficult concepts embodied in the Gaia hypothesis is that of intelligence. Like life itself, we can at present only categorise and cannot completely define it.

      Lovelock Daisyworld revisited: quantifying biological effects on planetary self-regulation. Lovelock, J. Gaia: a new look at life on Earth. The Ages of Gaia; A biography of our living Earth. Hands up for the Gaia hypothesis. Nature : p— 2. Gaia: The practical science of planetary medicine.

      London, Gaia Books Ltd. Geophysiological aspects of biodiversity. Paris, International Union of Biological Sciences, p Homage to Gaia: the Life of an Independent Scientist. Oxford University Press. London, Penguin. Conjectures of an independent scientist. Talk at the Geological Society of London. Atmospheric homeostasis by and for the biosphere: the Gaia hypothesis. Planet Space and Science Journal.

      Biological homeostasis of the global environment: the parable of Daisyworld. Tellus B. Blackwell Publishing. Penguin Classics. H, Meadows. New York: New American Library. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Robine, J. Death toll exceeded 70, in Europe during the summer of Comptes Rendus Biologies 2 : — Taylor, R. The Biological Diversity Crisis. BioScience Vol. Anselm Feuerbach 2. Keeling Curve.

      Keeling , www. The Long Term Carbon Cycle. Daisyworld Graph. Newbury By-pass. Antonio Olmos. Timeline References: 1. R, Russell,R. Latin American Bureau. Lulea Teknisa University. Environmental protests, local campaigns and the environmental movement in England. European consortium for political research joint sessions.

      Stern, N. Executive Summary. HM Treasury, London. Related Papers. Gaia hypothesis. By Misa henintsu. Global warming description using Daisyworld model with greenhouse gases. By Flavio Viola and Susana Paiva. The basis of the Gaia Theory as formulated in and the extent to which modifications of this theory have enabled it to retain its significance with the passage of time. By Michael Kirk-Smith. By James Dyke. Download file. Remember me on this computer. Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link. Need an account? Click here to sign up.