The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that contributes to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet. Topics of interest include how the biosphere and the evolution of life forms affect the stability of global temperature, ocean salinity, oxygen in the atmosphere and other environmental variables that affect the habitability of Earth.
The hypothesis was formulated by the chemist James Lovelock and co-developed by the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s. The hypothesis was initially criticized for being teleological and contradicting principles of natural selection, but later refinements resulted in ideas framed by the Gaia hypothesis being used in fields such as Earth system science, biogeochemistry, systems ecology, and the emerging subject of geophysiology. Nevertheless, the Gaia hypothesis continues to attract criticism, and today many scientists consider it to be only weakly supported by, or at odds with, the available evidence. In 2006, the Geological Society of London awarded Lovelock the Wollaston Medal largely for his work on the Gaia hypothesis.
Self-regulating feedback mechanisms…
Flexibility, resilience, adaptation
Emergent collective behaviors
Holistic view of earth/life/biosphere
26 – earth as complex cooperative network – evolved systems converge via collaborative processes necessary to maintain environment necessary for life
28 – stromatolites!
38 – where profound disequilibria are global in extent…we see something global in size that’s able to sustain and keep constant a highly improbable distribution of molecules
48 – cybernetics: branch of study concerned with self-regulating systems of communication and control in living organisms and machines…error correction; regulatory mechanisms & feedback
52 – logic is circular, not linear; multipart operating systems, not simple cause and effect
56 – homeostasis: complex processes that maintain steady states in living organisms…what are the regulatory functions, the “information processing organs”, of Gaia?
58 – black box method: general approach used in cybernetics for the recognition of control systems
61 – open loop, or closed loop controled by positive / negative feedback?
67 – terrestrial atmosphere as biological ensemble rather than mere catalog of gases
73 – purpose of methane: regulating oxygen balance…constancy of which suggests an active control system; nitrogen = pressure & oxygen dilution, etc.
85 – oceanography: multidisciplinary, then became fragmented, now more multidisciplinary again…
86 – source of salt in the sea = surprisingly tricky problem…or really, why isn’t the sea *more* salt?
94 – diatoms & radiolarians!
98 – coral reefs as cooperatively engineered barrier structures for forming evaporation lagoons?
108 – could it be that pollution is natural? The very concept is anthropocentric; possibly even irrelevant in gaia context…our uncertainties about the consequences of pollution stem largely from our ignorance of planetary control systems
121 – main dangers may be not from industrialized/urban area pollution, but disruption of natural processes in tropical areas and oceans over continental shelves
123 – gaia in light of human ecology…two approaches: man as steward of life (René Dubos), or as destructive force (Garrett Hardin and “pejorism”)
126 – in science, simultaneous microscopic and macroscopic exploration is quite customary…
131 – gaia as cybernetic system with many regulatory pathways w/ different time constants and functional capacities…the more we alter it the greater chance we’ll weaken the stability
134 – increasing rate of change of humanity’s “collective association”; technological advances as mutations
136 – rise of futurology…by much information gathering lacks personal experience with natural world
145 – gaia hypothesis implies man not as possessor/tenant of earth, but part of and partner in a very democratic entity
147 – interesting question: to what extent is out collective intelligence also a part of gaia?
From NYRB article “How You Consist of Trillions of Tiny Machines”:
“Microbes control the Earth, Falkowski tells us. They created it in its present form, and maintain it in its current state by creating a global electron marketplace that we call the biosphere. Falkowski argues that we can conceive of our world as a great, unitary electrical device, driven by the myriad tiny electric motors and the other electrochemical nanomachinery of cells. Viewing the world this way reveals hitherto unappreciated dangers in some modern science.”