Scientists Debate Gaia: The Next Century

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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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As Lovelock neatly argues in his own essay, even in her finery Gaia was never any more fanciful than her archfoe, the selfish gene. This volume amply shows how she has earned her place in conventional science." Fred Pearce New Scientist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262693691
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen H. Schneider was Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary EnvironmentalStudies and Professor of Biology at Stanford University. He was also Coordinating Lead Author of theIPCC's working group on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from 1997 to 2001, and, with hisIPCC 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 Climateand Scientists Debate Gaia: The Next Century (MIT Press, 2004).

James R. Miller is Professor of Earth System Science in the Department of Marine and CoastalStudies at Rutgers University.

Eileen Crist is Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies in the Center forInterdisciplinary Studies at Virginia Tech, the author of Images of Animals: Anthropomorphism and the Animal Mind, and the coeditor of Scientists DebateGaia (MIT Press, 2004).

Dr. Penelope J. Boston is Director of the Cave and Karst Studies Program at New MexicoInstitute of Mining and Technology and Associate Professor of Earth and EnvironmentalStudies.

Lynn Margulis, Distinguished Professor of Botany at the University of Massachusetts atAmherst, is the modern originator of the symbiotic theory of cell evolution. Once considered heresy,her ideas are now part of the microbiological revolution.

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Table of Contents

Reflections on Gaia 1
Gaia by any other name 7
1 Clarifying Gaia : regulation with or without natural selection 15
2 Gaia is life in a wasteworld of byproducts 27
3 Models and geophysical hypotheses 37
4 Gaia : toward a thermodynamics of life 45
5 Gaia, extended organisms, and emergent homeostasis 57
6 Homeostatic Gaia : an ecologist's perspective on the possibility of regulation 71
7 Phosphorus, a servant faithful to Gaia? : biosphere remediation rather than regulation 79
8 Self-regulation of ocean composition by the biosphere 93
9 A new biogeochemical earth system model for the phanerozoic eon 101
10 Gaia and glaciation : lipalian (vendian) environmental crisis 115
11 Does life drive disequilibrium in the biosphere? 129
12 Biotic plunder : control of the environment by biological exhaustion of resources 137
13 Gaia : the living earth - 2,500 years of precedents in natural science and philosophy 151
14 Concerned with trifles? : a geophysiological reading of Charles Darwin's last book 161
15 Gradient reduction theory : thermodynamics and the purpose of life 173
16 Gaia and complexity 187
17 Gaia and observer self-selection 201
18 Taming Gaia : the history of the Dutch lowlands as an analogy to global change 211
19 Gaia and the human species 223
20 Daisyworld homeostasis and the earth system 231
21 Salvaging the Daisyworld parable under the dynamic area fraction framework 241
22 Food web complexity enhances ecological and climatic stability in a Gaian ecosystem model 255
23 Gaia in the machine : the artificial life approach 267
24 On causality and ice age deglaciations 281
25 Amazonian biogeography as a test for Gaia 291
26 Modeling feedbacks between water and vegetation in the North African climate system 297
27 Extraterrestrial Gaias 309
28 The Tinto River, an extreme Gaian environment 321
29 Climate and the Amazon - a Gaian system? 335
30 On the co-evolution of life and its environment 343
31 Stability and instability in ecological systems : Gaia theory and evolutionary biology 353
App Studying Gaia : the NASA Planetary Biology Internship (PBI) program 363
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