Gaia Hypothesis and a Side Thought on Evolution

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ashvinp's picture
ashvinp
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Gaia Hypothesis and a Side Thought on Evolution

This is a video of Dr. Stephan Harding explaining the Gaia Hypothesis and the fundamental shift in thinking about the world that we need to achieve, or more likely will be forced to accept:

 

On a side note, here is a somewhat related thought I had when watching the video - The theory of Darwinian evolution has posited that life has evolved on Earth (or Gaia) by being selected for based on its ability to survive in a particular environment. It seems that most people think that this means those life forms that are most adept at manipulating and exploiting the surrounding environment will be selected to survive. To me this seems like a very selective understanding of the theory that allows us to justify the destructive expansion of our species.

Instead, the survival of life forms on this planet may be selected for by the being's ability to maintain and nurture the environment into which it has been placed. In this way all life and resources within an ecosystem are interconnected precisely because they have been selected for, and the destruction of one part of that system will eventually undermine the survival of another part. This means that species that do not adequately protect the environment they are embedded in will not be selected for survival and will die off. Of course this does not bode well for the human species.

But it does bode well for the global ecosystem that has developed over billions of years. Many scientists, including "Gaians" like Dr. Harding, believe that humans are causing the climate to reach a tipping point of warming after which the planet may become inhabitable for almost all life forms. But what if a majority of humans are deselected from survival before that tipping point is reached? This may soon happen through the effects and fallout of peak oil and economic collapse. We have to remember that our population has only really exploded after the discovery of fossil fuels, and it certainly does not indicate that we have been selected for survival. This type of over-extension by a species is always followed by a drastic collapse in order to restore some sense of balance within and among the systems of Gaia.

I know this is not an original thought by any means, and many people know this either explicitly or intuitively, but just though I'd share the thought anyway.

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pinecarr
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Re: Gaia Hypothesis and a Side Thought on Evolution

ashvinp, did you see the post on this site a month or 2 ago "are we smarter than yeast?", or something to that affect?  Similar thoughts, and similar conclusions.  Pretty humbling when you look at our species from that perspective! 

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deggleton
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Re: Gaia Hypothesis and a Side Thought on Evolution
ashvinp wrote:

It seems that most people think that this means those life forms that are most adept at manipulating and exploiting the surrounding environment will be selected to survive. To me this seems like a very selective understanding of the theory that allows us to justify the destructive expansion of our species.

I share your thinking, but believe most people merely go with the flow engendered by Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Bacon, et al, and neither think about nor understand the Darwinian theory of evolution.  If they do, I agree with you that they are very selective.

The beginning of Lewis Mumford's The Pentagon of Power is a good review of the changes that crew brought.

David

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pinecarr
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Re: Gaia Hypothesis and a Side Thought on Evolution

 

Hi ashvinp-

   I found that link I was talking about above; it was in a post by VanityFox.  Here it is: 

Are Humans Smarter Than Yeast?

 

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ashvinp
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Re: Gaia Hypothesis and a Side Thought on Evolution
pinecarr wrote:

 

Hi ashvinp-

   I found that link I was talking about above; it was in a post by VanityFox.  Here it is: 

Are Humans Smarter Than Yeast?

Thanks for the link, I checked it out and it's always good to get back to the basics with exponential growth. Another good qualitative example of how most modern humans are not fit to be selected for survival is this anecdote from Dr. Harding in the video I originally posted (it's in the last part and I had not gotten to this part when I posted):

He tells the story of a man who had been working with a team of hunters to exterminate wolves somewhere in the Southwest I believe. The group was eating lunch on the face of a mountain one day when they saw a pack of wolves roaming below. They shot at the wolves and killed a few, leaving one severely wounded but still alive. Once they got down the mountain to the dying wolf, the man said he saw "something new" in the eyes of the wolf. He had, up until that point, thought that humans had the right to exterminate wolves in the region so they could have more deer for the hunting season. However, the look in the wolf's eye at that point told him that "neither the wolf, nor the mountain agreed". 

Unfortunately, many humans (especially the ones I know) never come to this fundamental realization about the role of living beings on Gaia.

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Re: Gaia Hypothesis and a Side Thought on Evolution

Hi ashvinp,

The core of Darwin's theory was that all life forms evolved from earlier life forms. The evolutionary force that he proposed was selection. I agree that he has been mis-interpreted both socially and biologically by those using the simple slogan of "survival of the fittest".

I remember when Lovelock's theory was first put forward and the most incredible claim was that life itself maintained the Earth for the existence of life. This was part of his idea of a super-organism. Of course it was not accepted by the scientific community, since how could life maintain the Earth when it has no conciousness for doing so. He also called the planet/organism Gaia, which did not improve his credibility. Now after 40 years his ideas are gaining much greater acceptance in mainstream science, almost to the point of being conventional theory.

Whether the human species survives or not makes little difference to Gaia. Dinosaurs were the dominant lifeform for almost 200 million years until an extinction level event removed these stupid beasts and opened up the planet for new lifeforms to explode and evolve into the newly available niches in the ecosystem. Now we have a self aware, intelligent animal that has exploded over the planet within the last 10,000 years and has only been in existence for about 1-2 million years. This is an experimental lifeform that is now producing another great extinction event. Whether this particular line of the tree of life survives is uncertain but clearly it is due for a population crash, meanwhile life on Earth will survive quite nicely.

I've often wondered whether primates were the best "choice" for the evolution of intelligence and self awareness since they seem to be a quarreling organism with that feature likely embedded in DNA. Maybe an Ursus (bear) species would have been a better "choice" since they are more solitary and hibernate (which would limit warfare). Of course we're on the edge of teasing these insights out of DNA but like many things its maybe too little, too late.

Just daydreaming

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land2341
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Re: Gaia Hypothesis and a Side Thought on Evolution

Survival of the fittest was not even Darwin's term,  it was Herbert Spencer.  Darwin eventually used the term in his 5th edition but he said survival of the fit.  Fit is a temporary status,  it can easily be lost by failure to remain fit as a person and as a species and it can be lost to changing external circumstances that render one unfit.  Drought tolerant species do not do well if the weather becomes rainy for a few years.  I suspect that we are the first species to render our own habitat uninhabitable for ourselves.  

Perhaps once Gaia has shaken off this parasite we will leave a space n the food chain that will be inhabited by a sentient species.  It certainly has not been us.

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James Wandler
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Re: Gaia Hypothesis and a Side Thought on Evolution

ashvinp,

I watched it all and I enjoyed his clarity of thought. 

I liked his use of the word "Gai-ered" to describe the person's change in world view about "neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed". 

I studied science in university for the purpose of better understanding the world.  As with Dr. Harding I was left disillusioned and I now understand that it was because science missed out on the qualities that you quote.  These qualities being the feeling of nature going beyond just counting the forage the deer ate which left the scientist with the data to gain quantitative insights.  He appreciated the quantitiative insights but felt it should be matched to feelings that were evoked in picking up consciousness from working in nature.

I've now read "The Global Brain" by Peter Russell that you recommended in an earlier thread and I like the idea that Gaia is gaining consciousness through us - that we are a living and evolving network.  It offers us an opportunity to leap through an open window to a greater civilization as we fall in an apparent predicament.  For anyone interested in reading Peter Russell's books I'd suggest they start with "from Science to God" which is a short read but an elegant "proof" that science is missing a huge elephant in the room (the love of life) that children can see until they are taught it isn't there.

Oh, and here is link to the artic sea ice.  It shows that the sea ice in May 2010 has dropped below 2007 when there last was a sharp drop - it is two standard deviations from the average.

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

Cheers,

James 

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