Gaia philosophy

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Gaia philosophy (named after Gaia, Greek goddess of the Earth) is a broadly inclusive term for related concepts that living organisms on a planet will affect the nature of their environment in order to make the environment more suitable for life. This set of theories holds that all organisms on an extraterrestrial life-giving planet regulate the biosphere to the benefit of the whole. Gaia concept draws a connection between the survivability of a species (hence its evolutionary course) and its usefulness to the survival of other species.

While there were a number of precursors to Gaia theory, the first scientific form of this idea was proposed as the Gaia hypothesis by James Lovelock, a UK chemist, in 1970. The Gaia hypothesis deals with the concept of homeostasis, and claims the resident life forms of a host planet coupled with their environment have acted and act as a single, self-regulating system. This system includes the near-surface rocks, the soil, and the atmosphere. While controversial at first, various forms of this idea have become accepted to some degree by many within the scientific community (See Amsterdam declaration on Global Change). These theories are also significant in green politics.


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Predecessors to the Gaia theory

There are some mystical, scientific and religious predecessors to the Gaia philosophy, which had a Gaia-like conceptual basis. Many religious mythologies had a view of Earth as being a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts (e.g. some Native American religions and various forms of shamanism).

Lewis Thomas believed that Earth should be viewed as a single cell; he derived this view from Johannes Kepler's view of Earth as a single round organism.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist and geologist, believed that evolution unfolded from cell to organism to planet to solar system and ultimately the whole universe, as we humans see it from our limited perspective. Teilhard later influenced Thomas Berry and many Catholic humanist thinkers of the 20th century.

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