Scientists Debate Gaia: The Next Century

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Stephen Henry Schneider
MIT Press, 2004 - Nature - 377 pages
2 Reviews

Scientists Debate Gaia is a multidisciplinary reexamination of the Gaia hypothesis, which was introduced by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the early 1970s. The Gaia hypothesis holds that Earth's physical and biological processes are linked to form a complex, self-regulating system and that life has affected this system over time. Until a few decades ago, most of the earth sciences viewed the planet through disciplinary lenses: biology, chemistry, geology, atmospheric and ocean studies. The Gaia hypothesis, on the other hand, takes a very broad interdisciplinary approach. Its most controversial aspect suggests that life actively participates in shaping the physical and chemical environment on which it depends in a way that optimizes the conditions for life. Despite intial dismissal of the Gaian approach as New Age philosophy, it has today been incorporated into mainstream interdisciplinary scientific theory, as seen in its strong influence on the field of Earth System Science. Scientists Debate Gaia provides a fascinating, multi-faceted examination of Gaia as science and addresses significant criticism of, and changes in, the hypothesis since its introduction.In the book, 53 contributors explore the scientific, philosophical, and theoretical foundations of Gaia. They address such topics as the compatibility of natural selection and Gaian processes, Gaia and the "thermodynamics of life," the role of computer models in Gaian science (from James Lovelock's famous but controversial "Daisyworld" to more sophisticated models that use the techniques of artificial life), pre-Socratic precedents for the idea of a "Living Earth," and the climate of the Amazon Basin as a Gaian system.

  

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The earth is alive, however, our usual definition of life must change to accommodate what we find, rather than what we are familiar with. The work of Schneider shows how each bit of science views the problems from a different perspective. Our connection to Mother Earth is incontestable. How far does it go? Does she care? Are we in tune or working against her?
I think the most interesting question is not whether the planet is alive but whether we will realize the importance of Lovelock's Gaia theory. Schneider did a good job in putting this together. It is worth a read--and a lot of contemplation.
 

Contents

Clarifying Gaia Regulation with or without Natural Selection
15
Gaia Is Life in a Wasteworld of Byproducts
27
Models and Geophysiological Hypotheses
37
Gaia Toward a Thermodynamics of Life
45
Gaia Extended Organisms and Emergent Homeostasis
57
Homeostatic Gaia An Ecologists Perspective on the Possibility of Regulation
71
Phosphorus a Servant Faithful to Gaia? Biosphere Remediation Rather Than Regulation
79
SelfRegulation of Ocean Composition by the Biosphere
93
Gaia and the Human Species
223
Daisyworld Homeostasis and the Earth System
231
Salvaging the Daisyworld Parable under the Dynamic Area Fraction Framework
241
Food Web Complexity Enhances Ecological and Climatic Stability in a Gaian Ecosystem Model
255
Gaia in the Machine The Artificial Life Approach
267
On Causality and Ice Age Deglaciations
281
Amazonian Biogeography as a Test for Gaia
291
Modeling Feedbacks Between Water and Vegetation in the North African Climate System
297

A New Biogeochemical Earth System Model for the Phanerozoic Eon
101
Gaia and Glaciation Lipalian Vendian Environmental Crisis
115
Does Life Drive Disequilibrium in the Biosphere?
129
Biotic Plunder Control of the Environment by Biological Exhaustion of Resources
137
Gaia The Living Earth2500 Years of Precedents in Natural Science and Philosophy
151
Concerned with Trifles? A Geophysiological Reading of Charles Darwins Last Book
161
Gradient Reduction Theory Thermodynamics and the Purpose of Life
173
Gaia and Complexity
187
Gaia and Observer Selfselection
201
Taming Gaia The History of the Dutch Lowlands as an Analogy to Global Change
211
Extraterrestrial Galas
309
The Tinto River an Extreme Gaian Environment
321
Climate and the Amazona Gaian System?
335
On the Coevolution of Life and Its Environment
343
Stability and Instability in Ecological Systems Gaia Theory and Evolutionary Biology
353
Studying Gaia The NASA Planetary Biology Internship FBI Program
363
List of Contributors
365
Index
369
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

Stephen H. Schneider was Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and Professor of Biology at Stanford University. He was also Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC's working group on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from 1997 to 2001, and, with his IPCC colleagues, was awarded a joint Nobel Prize in 2007. He was the author or editor of many books, including Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth's Climate and Scientists Debate Gaia: The Next Century (MIT Press, 2004).

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