April 30, 2009

The Future of Gaia

How to Think About Science
The Future of Gaia

Forty-years ago British scientist James Lovelock put forward the first elements of what he would come to call the Gaia theory. Named for the ancient Greek goddess of the earth, it held that the earth as a whole functions as a self-regulating system. At first many biologists scoffed. But Lovelock never meant his theory to imply that the Earth is a conscious individual entity - but rather a system (social holon) composed of other systems and individuals (individual holons). Unfortunately much of his work has been distorted by the pre-rational discourses of 'newage' popularizers.

Today, Lovelock’s ideas are more widely accepted, even in circles where he was initially scorned. But even as he has been winning scientific honours, James Lovelock has been growing more pessimistic about the prospects for contemporary civilization.

In this episode of How To Think About Science David Cayley presents a profile of James Lovelock. It tells the story of a career in science that began a long time ago.

LISTEN HERE: Episode 6

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