Famous theory of the living Earth upgraded to 'Gaia 2.0'

September 13, 2018, University of Exeter
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A time-honoured theory into why conditions on Earth have remained stable enough for life to evolve over billions of years has been given a new, innovative twist.

For around half a century, the 'Gaia' hypothesis has provided a unique way of understanding how life has persisted on Earth.

It champions the idea that living organisms and their inorganic surroundings evolved together as a single, self-regulating system that has kept the planet habitable for life—despite threats such as a brightening Sun, volcanoes and meteorite strikes.

However, Professor Tim Lenton from the University of Exeter and famed French sociologist of science Professor Bruno Latour are now arguing that humans have the potential to 'upgrade' this planetary operating system to create "Gaia 2.0".

They believe that the evolution of both humans and their technology could add a new level of "self-awareness" to Earth's self-regulation, which is at the heart of the original Gaia theory.

As humans become more aware of the global consequences of their actions, including climate change, a new kind of deliberate self-regulation becomes possible where we limit our impacts on the planet.

Professors Lenton and Latour suggest that this "conscience choice" to self-regulate introduces a "fundamental new state of Gaia—which could help us achieve greater global sustainability in the future.

However, such self-aware self-regulation relies on our ability to continually monitor and model the state of the planet and our effects upon it.

Professor Lenton, Director of Exeter's new Global Systems Institute, said: "If we are to create a better world for the growing human population this century then we need to regulate our impacts on our life support-system, and deliberately create a more circular economy that relies—like the biosphere—on the recycling of materials powered by sustainable energy."

The original Gaia Theory was developed in the late 1960's by James Lovelock, a British scientist and inventor. It suggested that both the organic and inorganic components of Earth evolved together as one single, self-regulating system which can control global temperature and atmospheric composition to maintain its own habitability.

The new perspective article is published in leading journal Science on September 14, 2018.

It follows recent research, led by Professor Lenton, which offered a fresh solution to how the Gaia hypothesis works in real terms: Stability comes from "sequential selection" in which situations where destabilises the environment tend to be short-lived and result in further change until a stable situation emerges, which then tends to persist.

Once this happens, the system has more time to acquire further properties that help to stabilise and maintain it—a process known as "selection by survival alone".

Creating transformative solutions to the global changes that humans are now causing is a key focus of the University of Exeter's new Global Systems Institute.

Explore further: Scientists propose solution to 'Gaia puzzle'

More information: T.M. Lenton el al., "Gaia 2.0," Science (2018). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.aau0427

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grandpa
3.6 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2018
Humans are smart, but we are not gods. Evolution has so many different inputs going into it, that no intelligence is going to improve upon it. If nature needed one group to make decisions, it would have happened. As it is, there are billions of species so that nothing can become all powerful, and so multiple many circumstances can be survived.
Anonym216579
1.9 / 5 (13) Sep 13, 2018
Its called Intelligent Design. Our DNA is a 3 out of 4 error correcting code. DNA is information. Just one of the thousands of examples proving there is an intelligence behind our universe.
snoosebaum
2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 13, 2018
all hail the communist parasdise !
Minas
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2018
No!! It's the other way around!!
All the events that happen on earth as well as the chemical reactions that compose life are all spontaneous chaotic events. Life's chemical reactions only gain importance because we are the results, and the observers of the phenomenon. If you exclude our perspective biases (forcing us to divide into individual organisms, systems, organs) then the sum of life's reactions is more about disorder than order, and about the prevailance and sustainance of the most stable sets of biochemical reactions (eg. DNA molecules and their packing with histones, etc).
I would suggest you read more about the survival and natural selection in complex biochemical reactions.
Researcher
3.2 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2018
Humans have the ability to be both Good and Evil.
To date, sadly, we as a collective have chosen evil :(
michael_frishberg
2.8 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2018
Way too late. We've already degraded the ability of the planet to support human (and most large mammals) past the end of this century.

No one knows enough to manage Gaia, that was the beauty of Gaia, it self regulated.

Want whatever they are smoking, technology is killing us, quicker rather than slower.
ddaye
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 13, 2018
"a new kind of deliberate self-regulation becomes possible" it's becoming less possible in the US for the past 2 generations. The forces making this happen want it to happen everywhere so there is a great deal more involved in responding to climate and ecological matters than simply knowing facts and trends.
Mark Thomas
3.2 / 5 (6) Sep 13, 2018
Over billions of years our planet has been impacted by asteroids causing serious extinction events, e.g., the dinosaurs. So the Earth evolves a species capable of protecting life here from such objects and further increasing our chances of survival by terraforming a nearby planet. Happy coincidence or consequence of evolution with or without Gaia?

Before you say "happy coincidence," consider that planets throughout the universe probably face a very similar choice, i.e., evolve a technological species to address space-based issues or perish. Evolution is all about responding to existential threats, but what about on such huge scales and timelines? Interesting to ponder.

If you conclude evolution makes technological species more likely, you change what we should expect to find out there. Even more interesting to ponder.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
1.8 / 5 (10) Sep 13, 2018
Of course, Evolution is a natural process. Life was not meant to become stagnant and unprogressive. And we are protected to some extent, just as we are expected to also protect those who are lesser amongst us - the animals and plants.

It is one of the reasons that mankind was created - to protect our home planet and the life forms that live within it. The planet had existed already when the first man was formed out of the clay that had the DNA that animals had dropped into it.
From that moment on, our ancestors were required to survive as best they could in a great learning process that never stopped. This is why we have scientists and Engineers, etc. so that, with their knowledge, mankind can improve themselves, as well as improve the conditions of Earth. The animals and plant life depend on man doing right by them. When we help our fellow life forms, we also help ourselves - and Gaia our home as well.
Some humans are uncaring, and that is a problem.
Whydening Gyre
4 / 5 (4) Sep 13, 2018
...
No one knows enough to manage Gaia, that was the beauty of Gaia, it self regulated.
...

It is still self regulating. :-)
And if it means extinction of the human species?
Well, that's part of the whole self regulation process...
howhot3
2 / 5 (4) Sep 13, 2018
I have a warm spot in my heart for the Gaia Theory of life on the planet Earth. It always has seemed to correctly model how and why we have survived on this planet for nearly4 billion years. And we do have aspirations of being explorers of space. So a Gaia Theory 2.0 seems to be like way cool I look forward to reading more of their papers.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 14, 2018
...
No one knows enough to manage Gaia, that was the beauty of Gaia, it self regulated.
...

It is still self regulating. :-)
And if it means extinction of the human species?
Well, that's part of the whole self regulation process...
says Whyde

There are many ways that man can become extinct. But when one specie/genus goes down, eventually another rises, so that Gaia will always have a full complement of her service providers. I was going to say "servants" but that is too harsh. We service her, and she provides for us (with certain caveats).
The planet itself is too valuable in so many ways for it to be destroyed.
Humans still don't understand that they are, indeed, expendable. And it is that lack of understanding that is one of the reasons why they do what they do...with impunity.
Old_C_Code
3 / 5 (6) Sep 14, 2018
"become more aware of the global consequences of their actions, including climate change,"

UGH...
Steelwolf
4 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2018
We already see the proofs in several lands where they overgrazed or used more water than was available or were hit by drought and disease. Humanity seems to have had several high peaks before, considering we are finding higher tech items in archeology than we Should be if we were the first tech populace on the planet.

It has become obvious that we are not. Even the extremely sophisticated Greek silverwork culture disappeared, whether by famine, flood or warfare.

Humans have a penchant for surviving, since we are spread out all over the globe, with most possible places to live being occupied so that in case of major destruction in one hemisphere wont kill off all mankind, but can certain throw us back into the stone or bronze ages easily enough.

We seem to have done this several times, and there appear to be distinctly different 'stone ages' separated by thousands of years.

Old_C_Code
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 14, 2018
Mankind has done an incredible job trying to survive in HELL (I'm an atheist). Hell might be beautiful, but it's brutal, and gives man no favors.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3 / 5 (4) Sep 15, 2018
Mankind has done an incredible job trying to survive in HELL (I'm an atheist). Hell might be beautiful, but it's brutal, and gives man no favors.


There are many kinds of hell that mankind is capable of producing for themselves and for others. But that is what you could call "hell on Earth" and is far different from the kind that you will not see until the trillions of cells of your body are laid in the ground. I have seen the eyes of those who had been dead for several days prior to burial, open up and then close again. And no, I don't drink or smoke or shoot up, so I've always been clean. And I understood early on that there is much more to this life than just living and then dying and that's the end. It doesn't end there.

I do not preach to those who believe that they know everything, because everyone has to make their choices as I have made mine. And besides, I have already died once when I was very young, and was given my life back.
Eikka
4 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2018
The Gaia hypothesis was pseudoscience to begin with, because the sort of self-regulation they proposed requires that the entire earth is on some level conscious and able to plan for the future.

self-regulating system which can control global temperature and atmospheric composition to maintain its own habitability.


A better description is a system that ping-pongs from catastrophe to catastrophe, remaining within the limits of its habitability chiefly by the death of all the organisms that caused the catastrophe before they manage to tip the system into unrecoverable states, with the eventual evolution of other forms with other types of built-in catastrophes.

The conditions for life to exist are much broader - the Earth's "Goldilocks zone" is bigger than we presently think. Even if the earth turns into a snowball, some bacteria will eat away at the organic matter under the ice and cause GHG burps which thaw the planet - a catastrophe in their context.
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2018
I have seen the eyes of those who had been dead for several days prior to burial, open up and then close again.


Cadavers tend to twitch and fart and make sighing noises and everything due to decomposition. Different tissue may remain alive for different amounts of time, so rigor mortis sets on and releases hours, maybe days later.

In the olden times people put on funeral pyres were seen pulling their hands to their chest and sitting up on top of the burning pile, as if rising to be accepted by God. The actual effect was due to their muscles contracting from the heat.
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2018
I have seen the eyes of those who had been dead for several days prior to burial, open up and then close again.


Looking into it further, the actual relaxed state of the eyelids is open, and it's rigor mortis that keeps them shut. When the muscle fibers begin to break down, the eyelids open up unless they're stuck to the eyeballs, then the eyeball dries up, shrinks and the eyelids close again.

Morticians sometimes employ a sort of spiked contact lens or a ball of cotton to prevent the deceased person's eyes from accidentally flying open during open casket cermonies.

https://mashable....Nt4anZqd

rrwillsj
3 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2018
Okay, I was intending to tirade but the level of stuporstitious idiocy in the article and especially the comments.

I'll just post a brief rant.

"Stochastic drunkards walk as the result of Stupid Design by drunken deities!"

granville583762
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 15, 2018
Nature is brilliant at what it creates
It is nature that is smart in it engineering at the quantum level, enabling us to feel the air molecules on our skin, our retinas sensing individual photons, our muscles operate at the chemical electrical level of the individual cellular level of atoms and electrons electrical charge, where nature can go no smaller because it is limited by the size of the protons and electrons - When nature created human beings, it's the stupidity of its creation that is messing up its creations as nature is not stupid it its pure genius
TorbjornLarsson
5 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2018
Reality and science does not conform to what we believe or specifically believe is beautiful (nature, for those who haven't studied the data of, say, predation and diseases) or destructive (humans, for those who haven't studied the data of, say, increased civilization and decreased poverty).

As far as Gaia theories goes, they have AFAIK little to no data support and little to no acceptance in the science community. This bullpucky perspective article likely exemplifies why.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2018
As far as Gaia theories goes, they have AFAIK little to no data suppor


I think they did some environmental studies in the 60's and 70's, and built the giant glasshouses to test closed ecosystems, but they all failed. At first glance, they "found" that e.g. predators and prey all live in a sort of game-theoretical harmony that is self-regulating - which is still the popular view - but on closer inspection the evidence for the case wasn't compelling and the "harmony" was simply instability and chaotic behaviour at a longer time scale than they were able to measure. I.e. things seem stable and self-regulating because the changes happen too slowly to notice.

When you take the Gaia hypothesis as your premise and look at the history of the earth, you run into the conclusion that this was due to "Gaia" regulating itself rather than just dumb luck - forgetting that those two cases are indistinguishable in retrospect because we wouldn't be here had we been unlucky.
Maccagnan Cosett
1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2018

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Mark Thomas
not rated yet Sep 16, 2018
One reason I keep an open mind about Gaia is that it is not clear which advantageous situations like Gaia that evolution is incapable of reaching. If you consider that science has generally failed to figure out something as common as altruism, especially altruism to other species, it seems clear we have a very long way to go to understanding everything evolution is capable of. On the scale of the universe, I am confident evolution has created living worlds out there that we would find completely mind-blowing and unexpected.
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2018
Oh Mark, altruism exists as a voluntary activity. Shame this economic system considers altruism an unforgivable sin and a crime punished with economic sanctions.

There is very little public charity for the most desperate. Thanks to the innate decency of the poor who contribute to assist the destitute.

To the rest of you? The destitute are prey, deserving of your predatory behavior.
Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2018
My hypothesis is altruism is a consequence of the evolution of groups. If I am right, that should give you some hope.
FredJose
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 17, 2018
@granville583762
Nature is brilliant at what it creates

Sorry to burst the bubble but"nature" designs and creates nothing, nada, zip.
"nature" is an abstract entity with absolutely no power to conceive of, plan for and create all the highly sophisticated lifeforms we see around us.
Nor can such lifeforms arise spontaneously from random chemical or physical processes with absolutely no outside interference whatsoever. In short - you cannot have life from non-living chemical all by itself. Life contains information and purpose - abstract entities that are not amendable to manipulation by solely material and physical processes.

Just consider the repair function-
Firstly it needs to know what the original was like or how to get back to it - this implies knowledge/information.
Secondly why would it be there in the first place - there's a reason why repair has to be there. Purpose.
How are you going to get such basic things from random processes?
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (1) Sep 18, 2018
So who/what/that so? invented/designed/created your proclaimed "designer's" of Earth Life?

Or did they just occurred spontaneously/miraculously/hallucinogenicly?

Without any scientific explanation, reason or rational explanation offered on your part?

Cool! Looking around at all the observable dead planets? More evidence supporting my Theory of Stupid Design.

Exemplifying the deities as incompetent buffoons!
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (3) Sep 18, 2018
FJ- you insist there is intent and purpose to life; something that you have to believe in to support your belief in a supernatural agency. You state these things with brazen assurance yet show nothing to substantiate your beliefs. Not sure why you would even visit a science forum given your complete disregard for science (as evidenced by your spoken desire for a religious answer to everything). It's hard not to conclude that you take some sort of perverse pleasure in being a religious provocateur. Which is just weird.
jonesdave
2 / 5 (4) Sep 18, 2018
Exemplifying the deities as incompetent buffoons!


And, in the case of H. sapiens, basing its/her/his ultimate design on more than 98% chimp DNA! Lazy bugger.
jonesdave
1 / 5 (3) Sep 18, 2018
I'm not sure about this 'Gaia' hypothesis. It always seemed a bit too..............twee, to me. Almost as if the planet had some sort of feeling of what was going on, and adjusted accordingly. A bit 1970s hippy-ish.
The planet is a bunch of uncaring rock and various other bits and bobs. Life adjusts to what the planet does, or whatever happens to the planet (such as impacts, flood basalts, etc), not the other way round.
Life usually finds a way. Which gives me some hope that it may have survived on Mars. Assuming it ever started.
granville583762
5 / 5 (5) Sep 19, 2018
There is no purpose except the original rules binding elemental particles
@granville583762Nature is brilliant at what it creates.

FredJose> Sorry to burst the bubble but"nature" designs and creates nothing, nada, zip.
"nature" is an abstract entity with absolutely no power to conceive of, plan for and create all the highly sophisticated lifeforms we see around us.
Nor can such lifeforms arise spontaneously from random chemical or physical processes with absolutely no outside interference whatsoever.

Which we call Nature
How are you going to get such basic things from random processes?

The rules which neutrons, protons and electrons bind to one another forming atoms, where by extensions of the same rules form molecules, where further extension of the same rules form elements, chemicals, cellular microbes then microbes that feed on microbes there is no purpose except the original rules binding neutrons, protons and electrons!

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