Life as a stabiliser: the Gaia hypothesis revisited

statsman

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The Gaia hypothesis, brainchild of scientist and inventor James Lovelock, and microbiologist Lynn Margulis, has often been dismissed as a bit of 1960s hippie-dippy nonsense. What they proposed was 'all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life on the planet.'

Now two scientists, James Dyke and Tim Lenton, together with a group of colleagues have published research that they belive points to the hypothesis being valid:

https://theconversation.com/scientists-finally-have-an-explanation-for-the-gaia-puzzle-99153
We think we finally have an explanation for the Gaia hypothesis. The mechanism is “sequential selection”. In principle it’s very simple. As life emerges on a planet it begins to affect environmental conditions, and this can organise into stabilising states which act like a thermostat and tend to persist, or destabilising runaway states such as the snowball Earth events that nearly extinguished the beginnings of complex life more than 600m years ago.
Interestingly, they dismiss the 'statistical improbability' argument:

The chances of life and environment spontaneously organising into self-regulating states may be much higher than you would expect. If fact, given sufficient biodiversity, it may be extremely likely. But there is a limit to this stability. Push the system too far and it may go beyond a tipping point and rapidly collapse to a new and potentially very different state.
They also warn against human exceptionalism:

Gaian self-regulation may be very effective. But there is no evidence that it prefers one form of life over another. Countless species have emerged and then disappeared from the Earth over the past 3.7 billion years. We have no reason to think that Homo sapiens are any different in that respect.
As a long-time admired of Lovelock and Margulis, I'm delighted to see this work published.
 
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Spanner Island

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If Gaia is valid then it can't be too long before humanity will face a cataclysmic event in order to preserve the planet...
 

Trainwreck

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Let's parse to the salient conclusions that can supported by data and facts:

The Gaia hypothesis, brainchild of scientist and inventor James Lovelock, and microbiologist Lynn Margulis, has often been dismissed as a bit of 1960s hippie-dippy nonsense.



Indeed. Couldn't agree more.
 

Trainwreck

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Lovelock was completely crackers in his early days. It was an insult to scientists to call him one.

He had some late stage clarity though, for example:


Gaia' scientist James Lovelock: I was 'alarmist' about climate change | Daily Mail Online


Five years ago, he had claimed: 'Before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.'

But in an interview with msnbc.com, he admitted: 'I made a mistake.'


He said: 'The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing,' he told 'We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear cut, but it hasn’t happened.


'The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world.
 

Trainwreck

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Interestingly, they dismiss the 'statistical improbability' argument:

.


Any half decent statistician would be able to tell you how utterly stupid the entire "improbability" argument is, whether deployed by creationists, or those incestuous cousins to creationists, the Gaianutters.

I can tell you, with complete confidence, that the probability that intelligent human life would evolve on Earth is 1. This would be a classic trick question for introductory statistics courses.
 

roc_

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Fantastic.

I always had a sense Lovelock was right on the button and ought to be listened to far more.

But his independence from institutions worked against him in this.

Lovelock will be properly recognised as an inspired genius one day in the future imho.
 

Cellachán Chaisil

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If Gaia is valid then it can't be too long before humanity will face a cataclysmic event in order to preserve the planet...
Donald Trump enters stage left.
 

roc_

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soubresauts

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Is the thread title in faulty English or in some weird scientific code? How can we have a proper discussion when we don't have a title for it?
 

Mitsui2

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As a long-time admired of Lovelock and Margulis, I'm delighted to see this work published.
Given Prof. Lovelock's own recent conclusions, in things like The Revenge of Gaia, I'm not at all sure that the word "delighted" quite covers my own reaction!
 

GDPR

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Given Prof. Lovelock's own recent conclusions, in things like The Revenge of Gaia, I'm not at all sure that the word "delighted" quite covers my own reaction!
It is an extremely interesting and I think well argued book. Humans were meant to function as God's Vice Regents on earth and so channel Grace to the rest of Nature, however in turning against God we have become destroyers of our Sister the Earth and her other creatures. That our Sister would take revenge on us for this is not beyond the realms of possibility at all.
 

Socratus O' Pericles

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Once I wondered what DHR thought of the gala thesis, then my brain hurts
 

Socratus O' Pericles

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Is the thread title in faulty English or in some weird scientific code? How can we have a proper discussion when we don't have a title for it?
Have a stab at it....he's based in Limerick I believe.
 

silverharp

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so the planet couldn't use its Jedi mind powers to deflect a minor asteroid which killed off the dinosaurs , the planet is as smart as a bag of rocks
 

statsman

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Is the thread title in faulty English or in some weird scientific code? How can we have a proper discussion when we don't have a title for it?
I've asked a mod to fix.
 

The OD

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so the planet couldn't use its Jedi mind powers to deflect a minor asteroid which killed off the dinosaurs , the planet is as smart as a bag of rocks
The planet has survived multiple extinction level events and the lifeforms adapted completely to their new reality relatively quickly.

The planet is the only known place where life exists and does so in an incredibly varied manner, with some lifeforms resistant to radiation, extreme heat and cold and even vacuum (for weeks in some cases).

The planet hosts organisms that can generate temperatures as hot as the surface of the sun or eat rocks or survive pressures that would crush a human body to a pulp.

It may not have a Phd but the Earth seems to be getting on just fine all the same.
 


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