The Gaia hypothesis, first advanced by James Lovelock in the 1970's, is a controversial vision of the way the Earth and the life on it act upon each other. Lovelock, who has defended his idea for decades now and has continually adapted and refined it in the face of criticism by the overwhelming majority of the scientific community (those who bother to take him seriously at all) paired up with fellow scientist Lynn Margulis in 1972 to promote the theory. "In the three decades since Gaia' was first posited," Marcia Bjornerud of the geology Dept of Lawrence University explains, "the idea has evoked polarized reactions from mainstream scientists. Attacked with polemical opposition by the majority, it is acclaimed as a new geological paradigm by a growing minority" (89).
Originally spoken of in a poetic and transcendental language, Gaia was from the beginning classified as rubbishpseudoscience at best. Taken broadly, very few scientists have a problem with the concept. The Earth and the ecosphere have an obvious relation. But it is the extent of the claim that draws their fire. "The Gaia hypothesis, Lovelock replied, holds that the nonliving and living represent a self-regulating system that keeps itself in a constant state,' or at least within a limited range of conditions" (Kerr 393). Those limits are the sticking point.
The hypothesis is controversial for several specific reasons. The first is a descriptional one. The term that was coined to name it seems to create problems. One critic, speaking about the hypothesis and its ramifications, said: "Such notions depend on a slew of ambiguous words that, however carefully defined, either ready readers for an earth hug or raise their hackles" (Huggett 429). The term raises ideas in an observer's mind that are unscientific, at the very least: it is the name of the Greek goddess of the earth, with all of the connotations of religion, belief, myth, and superstition... [continues]
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