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.
About the Editors
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).
James R. Miller is Professor of Earth System Science in the Department of Marine and Coastal Studies at Rutgers University.
Eileen Crist is Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies in the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at Virginia Tech, the author of Images of Animals: Anthropomorphism and the Animal Mind, and the coeditor of Scientists Debate Gaia (MIT Press, 2004).
Dr. Penelope J. Boston is Director of the Cave and Karst Studies Program at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Studies.
"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
"This is a stimulating, up-to-date account of one of the most stimulating modern ideas connecting biology and geology."
—Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography, University of California, Los Angeles, author of Guns, Germs and Steel
"A superb collection covering what has become a major scientific field. It marks the evolution of the Gaia hypothesis, from a warm and fuzzy, flowers-in-the-hair concept with vaguely religious connotations, to a well-defined and increasingly quantitative theory. The papers in this book show that the theory is becoming applicable to problems of the real earth, such as deforestation, global warming, and desertification."
—Paul D. Lowman, Jr., Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics, Goddard Space Flight Center, author of Exploring Space, Exploring Earth