The Gaia Hypothesis Essay

2665 words - 11 pages

The Gaia Hypothesis

The Gaia Hypothesis is a hypothesis that was developed by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the late 1970's. James Lovelock is a British scientist, an atmospheric chemist, and also an inventor with an education in human physiology. Lynn Margulis was a microbiologist during the 1970's at Boston University. She also originated the theory of the eukaryotic cell arising as a result of endosymbiotic cell capture. This theory is the one that gave her the credibility to advance the Gaia Hypothesis.
Since every hypothesis takes the form of an if/then statement, the Gaia Hypothesis namely is an if/then statement. Summarized the Gaia Hypothesis is "If life regulates the physical and chemical environment of the planet so as to maintain suitable planetary conditions for the good of life itself, then the planet can be thought of as a single integrated, living entity with self-regulating abilities." (University, p.2). The hypothesis interweaves various explanations of the Earth's functions as they relate to various philosophical evaluations and scientific rationale.
The hypothesis can be defined through metaphors, religious beliefs, and scientific rationale. The most common metaphor is "The Earth is a single living entity." (Oceans, p. 1). Lovelock recognizes that this metaphor is a convenient way to organize and explain the facts of the Earth. Plato, a famous philosopher, rationalizes this metaphor by saying " ' We shall affirm that the cosmos, more than anything else, resembles most closely that living creature of which all other living creatures, severally or genetically, are portion; a living creature which is fairest of all and in ways most perfect.' " (Charlton, p.3). There are many metaphors that relate to this metaphor. Specifically, one metaphor is that instead of the Earth acting as an entire organism it acts as a single cell. This specific metaphor was originated by Lewis Thomas, a medical doctor. (Oceans, p.2). James W. Kirchner, a scientist, believes that this hypothesis can be compared to the writing of Shakespeare. Shakespeare stated that, " All the world's a stage," and the Gaia Hypothesis states that, "All the world is a living organism." (Oceans, p.2). Kirchner believes that metaphors inspire fruitful speculation, but that metaphors themselves are untestable.
Lovelock has a separate metaphor for Gaia. Lovelock states that he sees Gaia as being like a tree. 'A tree that quietly exists, never moving except to sway in the wind, yet endlessly conversing with the sunlight and the soil. Using sunlight and water and nutrient minerals to grow and change.' (Charlton, p.2). Another metaphor for Gaia is that it has been seen to be like a California Redwood. The redwood's tissue is 97% dead. The trunk has a thin layer of living organisms spread across its surface, and this is similar to the earth's lithosphere. The bark is seen to be like the Earth's atmosphere. The atmosphere is the...

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