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On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth
     

On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth

by Toby Tyrrell
 

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One of the enduring questions about our planet is how it has remained continuously habitable over vast stretches of geological time despite the fact that its atmosphere and climate are potentially unstable. James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis posits that life itself has intervened in the regulation of the planetary environment in order to keep it stable and favorable

Overview

One of the enduring questions about our planet is how it has remained continuously habitable over vast stretches of geological time despite the fact that its atmosphere and climate are potentially unstable. James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis posits that life itself has intervened in the regulation of the planetary environment in order to keep it stable and favorable for life. First proposed in the 1970s, Lovelock's hypothesis remains highly controversial and continues to provoke fierce debate. On Gaia undertakes the first in-depth investigation of the arguments put forward by Lovelock and others—and concludes that the evidence doesn't stack up in support of Gaia.

Toby Tyrrell draws on the latest findings in fields as diverse as climate science, oceanography, atmospheric science, geology, ecology, and evolutionary biology. He takes readers to obscure corners of the natural world, from southern Africa where ancient rocks reveal that icebergs were once present near the equator, to mimics of cleaner fish on Indonesian reefs, to blind fish deep in Mexican caves. Tyrrell weaves these and many other intriguing observations into a comprehensive analysis of the major assertions and lines of argument underpinning Gaia, and finds that it is not a credible picture of how life and Earth interact.

On Gaia reflects on the scientific evidence indicating that life and environment mutually affect each other, and proposes that feedbacks on Earth do not provide robust protection against the environment becoming uninhabitable—or against poor stewardship by us.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Tyrrell's story is very informative and the reader will learn many fascinating stories of an organism's adaptation to an environment (rather than an environment conforming to an organism's need)."—Jonathan DuHamel, Arizona Daily Independent

"A systematic, dispassionate, retrospective examination of Gaia. . . . Tyrrell makes it very clear where he stands on Gaia, but the path of his journey is well reasoned—not a diatribe."—William Schlesinger, Nature Climate Change

"It is timely to present a systematic review of how Gaia theory looks in the light of . . . new information. Not too well is Toby Tyrrell's conclusion in this clear summary of the evidence to date. . . . Persuasive."—Jon Turney, Times Higher Education

"In On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth, Dr. Toby Tyrrell, for the first time, conducts a lengthy analysis of the scientific data for and against the Gaia Hypothesis. He concludes that the Gaia Hypothesis does not have enough scientific data to support it. He write eloquently, clearly, and succinctly describing how the Gaia Hypothesis lacks sufficient scientific evidence. . . . A fair and reflective analysis."—Gabriel Thoumi, MongaBay.com

"Tyrrell examines alternative arguments about the long-term characteristics of the Earth, considering geological and coevolutionary effects. He provides a detailed examination of how and why the environment cannot be affected by natural selection and how diverse physical factors affect living things. . . . Overall, a useful examination of the changing nature of Earth and the biologic/physical factors that affect the planet's organisms."Choice

"His theory is not as grandiose as Gaia, but it is far more compelling. The conclusion is worth reading by itself if you are pushed for time, but for those who really want a good insight into Gaia in the context of natural systems, I would recommend reading the whole book."—Gillian Gibson, Environmentalist

"If you've had your curiosity piqued by the Gaia Hypothesis before, you'll appreciate this well-organized and comprehensive assessment of it. Tyrrell doesn't have an axe to grind, and his discussion is fair and focused on the evidence. If you want to grapple with Gaia, this book is a good way to do it."—Scott K. Johnson, ArsTechnica

"One third of this well argued book consists of end notes, many of which are as readable as the main text. By questioning the arguments for and against the Gaia hypothesis, Tyrrell has done a great service to enriching the ongoing discourse on making our planet hospitable for all life forms, now and in the future."—Sudhirendar Sharma, Cover Drive

"On Gaia is a rewarding read for the knowledgeable reader. The book is an easy read and accessible to a broad audience. Unlike some science books intended for popular audiences, the book is sophisticated enough to keep the interest of graduate students."GeoQ

"It is . . . Valuable for a variety of reasons: as a good natural history brief; as a good introduction to modern ecology (the one that considers the biota as a whole); and as a cautious reflection on what makes a theory gain or lose respectability. Therefore, it will be useful at different academic levels, from teaching at secondary school (it is an excellent starting point for serious debate) to highly specialized climate scientists."Chemical Engineer

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691121581
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/21/2013
Edition description:
Critical
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Toby Tyrrell is professor of Earth system science at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (University of Southampton).

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