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Gaia vs. Medea

Discussion in 'The Material World' started by Rough_ER, Jun 19, 2009.

  1. Rough_ER

    Rough_ER Member

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    After reading an article in this week's New Scientist (which is better than Science Daily) I've been left with a feeling that can only be described as bleak futility. In essence, the article was a summary of the arguments against the still-popular "Gaia hypothesis".

    For those baffled by the terminology, or who simply need refreshing: the Gaia hypothesis postulates that a complex interaction exists between the biosphere and the physical components of the Earth. One of the most interesting aspects of the hypothesis is the idea that this interaction actively nurtures the Earth in such a way as to extend and even improve its habitability. You start to see why the name "Gaia" is used... it's rather tempting and delicious to think of the world as being nurtured by some voluptuous (just my preference) Goddess.

    Sadly, it seems it's all a bit silly in light of what we known about the Earth's long history of mass extinction and glaciation. The earth is in fact not, so it seems, nurtured in this way and will return to its initial sterile state within the next billion years or so. According to the article, the Goddess Medea, the murderous wife of Jason, is a more apt simulacrum for the interaction between biosphere and physical component.

    I wouldn't do the ideas justice if I tried to summarise the whole issue, so here's the article for you to enjoy. Once you've read it, please console me. Please tell me there's hope for the Gaia hypothesis! =(

    Gaia's evil twin: Is life its own worst enemy? - life - 17 June 2009 - New Scientist
     
  2. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    Ok.... just checking to make sure this didn't have anything to do with me... :p
     
  3. gnomon

    gnomon Well-Known Member

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    The Gaia hypothesis.

    The most popular attempt to create a scientific religion. Even more than the Cosmological Anthropic Principle. A hypothesis which is not falsifiable. Perhaps it should be taught along with creationism.
     
  4. painted wolf

    painted wolf Grey Muzzle

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    bleah... see that was your first mistake. :D
    I wouldn't worry about this pop-sci article.
    Life is annoyingly tenacious... look at extremophiles as an example. No matter what has been thrown at life, it has been impossible to wipe it out entirely.

    While I'm sympathetic to the Gaia theory... I see no evidence that life is as fragile as the theory tries to make it seem.

    Calling upon the Viking landers as proof that Mars is lifeless is deeply flawed, by the way. The landers were poorly designed and highly limited in just about every way needed to survey for life.

    Anyway... life will adapt and go on... it won't always be what we expect it to look like but it will be there none the less. 4 billion years and counting.

    wa:do
     
  5. Rough_ER

    Rough_ER Member

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    Perhaps you're right. However, even though I don't underestimate the adaptive abilities of the Archaea, I'm still struggling to see how they could adapt to survive the scorching temperatures predicted! =(

    And as for your snooty little "pop science" jibe... ;) Stop being such a snob, I read all the relevant journals to stay up to date in my field, this stuff still has its place (mainly as toilet paper but still!)
     
    #5 Rough_ER, Jun 21, 2009
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2009
  6. painted wolf

    painted wolf Grey Muzzle

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    It's not just Archaea that exist as extremophiles.... but beyond that...
    Eventually the sun will go supernova and it's all moot anyway.

    Even on a planet like Venus there are areas where life can eek out a living. The current hypothesis is that certain features of the atmosphere may be indicative of microbial life living within the clouds themselves.
    Mars cold and sterile as it may seem may still hold life as it seems it is no longer lacking water.
    Then there is Europa.... Heck life in the universe may not be all that rare, but the inevitable result of basic chemistry.

    I thought I was just keeping the apparently running joke going... but whatever.

    All the relevant journals? Really... You must have an amazing amount of time and a truly magnificent library at your disposal. There are hundreds of relevant journals in the biological sciences. I feel lucky if I can juggle four or five journals regularly and a couple of those are open access.
    That's why I love sites like Eurek!Alert.

    Tell you what... I'll try to stop being such a snob if you try to stop being so defensive.
    I'm really not trying to attack you or belittle you.

    I agree there is a good a place for science writing aimed at the general audience... I try to read it when I can myself. I'll also admit that I still have a bit of a grudge against New Science over the whole "Darwin was wrong" thing... I try to follow writers I like rather than particular publications. Like Carl Zimmer at the Loom.

    Anyway, this has nothing to do with the OP and if you want to talk about it further we may want to do so via PM... :cool:

    wa:do
     
  7. Terrible_Username

    Terrible_Username New Member

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    Our sun will NOT go supernova. When it runs out of hydrogen it will turn into a red giant and engulf the earth. I imagine both scenarios are equally as... crispy, though. =P
     
  8. darkendless

    darkendless Guardian of Asgaard

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    We won't know whether that will happen either. The sun will run out of hydrogen about the same time that the universe runs out of free energy to transform and we will all implode ;) Thermodynamics has never been so threatening :D
     
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  9. Terrible_Username

    Terrible_Username New Member

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    Eek...
     
  10. painted wolf

    painted wolf Grey Muzzle

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    One has to wonder... if life can survive in the dryness of the Atacama Desert and temperatures far above the boiling point, could it adapt to surviving without liquid water at all?
    Perhaps water vapor would be enough for future extremeophiles?

    wa:do
     
  11. Father Heathen

    Father Heathen Veteran Member

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    Humanity will either have colonized other parts of the galaxy or gone extinct long before Earth is consumed by the read giant sun.
     
  12. Functionless

    Functionless Nothing

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    The earth is ending- all your fault.

    I'm betting on extinction.
     
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