Gaga on Gaia - or not.
I've been a bit conflicted this week. I read an article online about the proponent of the Gaia theory, James Lovelock, who has recently done two remarkable things. Firstly he surpassed the age of 100, and secondly, in a video interview, he expressed the opinion that we shouldn't bother trying to save the planet.
This led me to do a bit more research on the Gaia theory, although technically speaking it's more of a hypothesis than a theory, but even for me that's a bit pedantic.
At first glance, or rather 'quick net search', The Gaia theory appears to be based on perfectly sound common sense and I do appreciate common sense so I was taken aback to read that the 'theory' had been ridiculed by one Richard Dawkins. Now, as far as I am concerned, Dawkins walks on water. Well of course he doesn't actually walk on water, no one ever has. But if perambulating on H2O
was up for a bet, my money would be on Dawkins, Hitchens, Gould, or Fry to name but a few.
So now I'm looking at something which appears to make sense but I know to have been derided by people whom I admire. I keep looking and come eventually to gaiatheory.org where I find this : "The Gaia Theory posits that the organic and inorganic components of Planet Earth have evolved together as a single living, self-regulating system". Bang! - there it is: What sounded like a sensible notion has suddenly made itself ridiculous.
The Gaia theory is held in high regard by many, including Jim Lovelock himself, although he appears not to be as ardent in his defence of it as he once was, and he accepts and rebutts criticism of his thoughts with all the grace and deference of a true scientist. Doesn't make him right though. The Gaia theory attempts to explain Planet Earth and all life on it in a holistic and, dare I say it, simplistic way, which endears it to those who might like to perceive meaning where there is simply beauty, or design where there is simply evolution. Moreover, the notion that the rocks and rivers are working in concert with the butterflies and bison to right the wrongs of the industrial revolution can only be taken seriously by those willing to attribute a spiritual element to the cosmos - which I am not.
I guess the lesson to be learned from my conflict and its subsequent resolution is not to grab the wrong end of the stick from the first internet article you read and then run off with the stick thinking you know all about it. Comprehensive and unbiased research is more important now than ever before. With so much information so readily available, the onus is on the reader to get the whole picture.
For my money, the reductionist views of the more established scientists will always carry more weight than the musings of those who can publish anything they like on the internet.