Symbiogenetic Views and the Gaia Hypothesis
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AAAS meeting, 2013 ...

AAAS meeting, 2013
http://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2013/webprogram/Session5780.html
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Room 308 (Hynes Convention Center)

Emanuele Serrelli , University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
The talk addresses the Gaia hypothesis with a HPS (history and philosophy of science) approach, with particular attention to its relationships with symbiosis-oriented views of life and evolution. It looks at recent scientific literature which, although rarely explicitly, could be relevant to probe it empirically. However, if we accept the challenge of according Gaia with the strictest models of what is to be considered a scientific hypothesis, we find a family of different hypotheses, more or less demanding. Alternatively, Gaia can be considered an inspirational, pedagogical metaphor. With the complexity between these two extremes, the answer to the question - is the Gaia hypothesis science? - does not have a straightforward answer.

http://www.epistemologia.eu

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Symbiogenetic Views and the Gaia Hypothesis Symbiogenetic Views and the Gaia Hypothesis Presentation Transcript

  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesisEmanuele Serrelli• “Riccardo Massa” Department of Human Sciences University of Milano Bicocca, ITALY• Lisbon Applied Evolutionary Epistemology Lab Universidade de Lisboaemanuele.serrelli@unimib.ithttp://www.epistemologia.eu 1
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis 2
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia 2
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia James Lovelock (1972, 1979) 2
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia James Lovelock (1972, 1979) 2
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia James Lovelock (1972, 1979) 2
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia James Lovelock (1972, 1979) 2
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia James Lovelock (1972, 1979) 2
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia James Lovelock (1972, 1979) 2
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia James Lovelock (1972, 1979) 2
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia James Lovelock (1972, 1979) Many regard Gaia as an unscientific attempt to deify the bioshphere (Charles Mann, 1991, Science) 2 http://www.ascensionearth2012.org/2013/01/all-gaia-intention-lines-converge-to.html
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia 3
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success 3
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success 3
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success 4
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community 4
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community 4
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community 5
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community• Symbio-studies 5
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis http://www.bioteams.com• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community• Symbio-studies Symbiosis Symbiogenesis www.bio-pro.de 5
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community• Symbio-studies 6
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community• Symbio-studies• The historical association between symbio-studies and Gaia 6
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success Lynn Margulis (Lovelock & Margulis 1974)• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community• Symbio-studies• The historical association between symbio-studies and Gaia 6
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success Lynn Margulis (Lovelock & Margulis 1974)• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community• Symbio-studies• The historical association between symbio-studies and Gaia 6
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community• Symbio-studies• The historical association between symbio-studies and Gaia 7
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community• Symbio-studies• The historical association between symbio-studies and Gaia• No logical necessity of such association 7
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community• Symbio-studies• The historical association between symbio-studies and Gaia• No logical necessity of such association• Why, then, this unnecessary link? 7
  • Symbiogenetic views and the Gaia hypothesis• The multiplicity of Gaia• Gaia’s “epidemiological” success• Popular with the public, not with the scientific community• Symbio-studies• The historical association between symbio-studies and Gaia• No logical necessity of such association• Why, then, this unnecessary link?• What is Gaia in a metatheoretical sense? How should we deal with this reference point? 7
  • The unspecific affinitybetween symbio-studies and Gaia• “Gaia is a tough bitch”, in The Third Culture (1995) "I claim that the most significant inherited variation comes from mergers […]. I contend that symbiogenesis is the result of long-term living together - staying together, especially involving microbes - and that its the major evolutionary innovator in all lineages of larger nonbacterial organisms" 8
  • The unspecific affinitybetween symbio-studies and Gaia• “Gaia is a tough bitch”, in The Third Culture (1995) "I claim that the most significant inherited variation comes from mergers […]. I contend that symbiogenesis is the result of long-term living together - staying together, especially involving microbes - and that its the major evolutionary innovator in all lineages of larger nonbacterial organisms" My primary work has always been in cell evolution, yet for a long time Ive been associated with James Lovelock and his Gaia hypothesis 8
  • The unspecific affinitybetween symbio-studies and Gaia• “Gaia is a tough bitch”, in The Third Culture (1995) "I claim that the most significant inherited variation comes from mergers […]. I contend that symbiogenesis is the result of long-term living together - staying together, especially involving microbes - and that its the major evolutionary innovator in all lineages of larger nonbacterial organisms" My primary work has always been in cell evolution, yet for a long time Ive been associated with James Lovelock and his Gaia hypothesis 8
  • The unspecific affinity between symbio-studies and Gaia • “Gaia is a tough bitch”, in The Third Culture (1995) "I claim that the most significant inherited variation comes from mergers […]. I contend that symbiogenesis is the result of long-term living together - staying together, especially involving microbes - and that its the major evolutionary innovator in all lineages of larger Lynn Margulis is very much nonbacterial organisms" afflicted with a kind of God-is-goodsyndrome […]. She likes to look there and see cooperation and things being nice to each other. This culminates in this Gaia idea. My primary work has always been in cell evolution, yet for a long time Ive been associated with James Lovelock and his Gaia hypothesis 8
  • The unspecific affinitybetween symbio-studies and Gaia• “Gaia is a tough bitch”, in The Third Culture (1995) In the early seventies, I was trying to align bacteria by their metabolic pathways. I noticed that all kinds of bacteria produced gases. Oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, ammonia - more than thirty different gases are given off by the bacteria whose evolutionary history I was keen to reconstruct […]. "Go talk to Lovelock", at least four scientists suggested. Lovelock believed that the gases in the atmosphere were biological. He had, by this time, a very good idea of which live organisms were probably "breathing out" the gases in question were far too abundant in the atmosphere to be formed by chemical and physical processes alone. He argued that the atmosphere was a physiological and not just a chemical system. 9
  • The unspecific affinitybetween symbio-studies and Gaia• “Gaia is a tough bitch”, in The Third Culture (1995) In the early seventies, I was trying to align bacteria by their metabolic pathways. I noticed that all kinds of bacteria produced gases. Oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, ammonia - more than thirty different gases are given off by the bacteria whose evolutionary history I was keen to reconstruct […]. "Go talk to Lovelock", at least four scientists suggested. Lovelock believed that the gases in the atmosphere were biological. He had, by this time, a very good idea of which live organisms were probably "breathing out" the gases in question were far too abundant in the atmosphere to be formed by chemical and physical processes alone. He argued that the atmosphere was a physiological and not just a chemical system. 9
  • The unspecific affinitybetween symbio-studies and Gaia• Tyler Volk (2002). Toward a future for Gaia theory. Climatic Change. If anything, Gaia theory is going to be a theory about Earths chemistry, because the chemical constituents of the air, water, and soil are what the organisms primarily affect […]. What we need are models that look at chemical flows with and without life in a generalized manner and that examine the consequences of life on the resistance and resilience of their environments. 10
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• James Kirchner (1989) The Gaia hypothesis: can it be tested? Review of Geophysics; (2003). The Gaia hypothesis: conjectures and refutations. Climatic Change. Testable Untestable in practice Untestable in principle Useful HOMEOSTATIC GAIA GEOPHYSIOLOGICAL GAIA COEVOLUTIONARY Unuseful GAIA OPTIMIZING GAIA 11
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• James Kirchner (1989) The Gaia hypothesis: can it be tested? Review of Geophysics; (2003). The Gaia hypothesis: conjectures and refutations. Climatic Change. Testable Untestable in practice Untestable in principle Useful HOMEOSTATIC GAIA GEOPHYSIOLOGICAL GAIA COEVOLUTIONARY Unuseful GAIA OPTIMIZING GAIA 11
  • the composition of the atmosphere is modulation of the rates of tightly regulated by biological processes carbon uptake ✗A metatheory regulation of atmospheric CO2 by CO2 sensitivity of uptake to CO2 the to make sense of Gaia uptake should be more terrestrial than oceanic levels ✗• James Kirchner (1989) The Gaia hypothesis: can it be tested? Review of feedbacks should lower Earths observed by classifying the known feedbacks as negative Geophysics; (2003). The Gaia hypothesis: conjectures and refutations. sensitiveness to perturbation and positive ✗ Climatic Change. physico-chemical properties biological by-products should act as planetary climate regulators and effects of known biochemical compounds ✗ biological feedback should perform long- term regulation of Earths climate paleo-CO2 records ✗ Testable Untestable in practice Untestable in principle organisms alter their environment to their case studies in ecology and own benefit natural history ✗ Useful HOMEOSTATIC GAIA GEOPHYSIOLOGICAL GAIA COEVOLUTIONARY Unuseful GAIA OPTIMIZING GAIA 11
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• James Kirchner (1989) The Gaia hypothesis: can it be tested? Review of Geophysics; (2003). The Gaia hypothesis: conjectures and refutations. Climatic Change. Testable Untestable in practice Untestable in principle Useful HOMEOSTATIC GAIA GEOPHYSIOLOGICAL GAIA COEVOLUTIONARY Unuseful GAIA OPTIMIZING GAIA 11
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• James Kirchner (1989) The Gaia hypothesis: can it be tested? Review of Geophysics; (2003). The Gaia hypothesis: conjectures and refutations. Climatic Change. GAIA AS A METAPHOR Testable Untestable in practice Untestable in principle Useful HOMEOSTATIC GAIA GEOPHYSIOLOGICAL GAIA COEVOLUTIONARY Unuseful GAIA OPTIMIZING GAIA 11
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Tyler Volk (2002). Toward a future for Gaia theory. Climatic Change. What initially made Lovelock’s ideas so exciting, in the early books, was the potential of a common explanatory principle behind many aspects of biosphere chemistry. [His] initial conclusions, in my judgement, did not pan out. But many of us continued forth, at least inspired by Lovelock’s emphasis on feedback loops and his knack for asking big questions. I was inspired […] to move into issues about the effects of life on a global scale that led to technical work I would not otherwise have accomplished. But for me at that point Gaia became more of a name for a scientific program. Gaia became a way of thinking, a mantra to be mindful of the biggest scale. But then what do we have if Gaia theory is a way of generating hypotheses and not a specific hypothesis about the way the biosphere works? (p. 428). 12
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• James Kirchner (1989) The Gaia hypothesis: can it be tested? Review of Geophysics; (2003). The Gaia hypothesis: conjectures and refutations. Climatic Change. Metaphor = ...not in all senses. 13
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• James Kirchner (1989) The Gaia hypothesis: can it be tested? Review of Geophysics; (2003). The Gaia hypothesis: conjectures and refutations. Climatic Change. Metaphor = ...not in all senses. 13
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• James Kirchner (1989) The Gaia hypothesis: can it be tested? Review of Geophysics; (2003). The Gaia hypothesis: conjectures and refutations. Climatic Change. Metaphor = ...not in all senses. 13
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• James Kirchner (1989) The Gaia hypothesis: can it be tested? Review of Geophysics; (2003). The Gaia hypothesis: conjectures and refutations. Climatic Change. Metaphor = ...not in all senses. 13 http://science.kennesaw.edu
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia 14
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: 14
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) 14
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort 14
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator 14
  • Gaia and the Selfish GeneA metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator 14
  • Gaia and the Selfish GeneA metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator 14
  • Gaia and the Selfish GeneA metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator 14
  • Gaia and the Selfish GeneA metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator 14
  • Gaia and the Selfish GeneA metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator 15
  • Gaia and the Selfish GeneA metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator • Attractive to different disciplines 15
  • Gaia and the Selfish GeneA metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator • Attractive to different disciplines • too attractive? tunnel vision? 15
  • Gaia and the Selfish GeneA metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator • Attractive to different disciplines • too attractive? tunnel vision? 16
  • Gaia and the Selfish GeneA metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator • Attractive to different disciplines • too attractive? tunnel vision? • aid to interdisciplinarity? 16
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• Gaia is a scientific narrative: • Gaia provides a semiotic constraint (Ricoeur 1984) http://emergingvisions.blogspot.pt/ • Open to collaborative effort • Available as a hypotheses-generator • Attractive to different disciplines • too attractive? tunnel vision? • aid to interdisciplinarity? http://alexgrey.com/art/paintings/soul/gaia/ 17
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• “Gaia is a tough bitch”, in The Third Culture (1995) STRUGGLE: The Gaia hypothesis is a biological idea, but it’s not human-centered. Those who want Gaia to be an Earth goddess for a cuddly, furry human environment find no solace in it. They tend to be critical or to misunderstand. They can buy into the theory only by misinterpreting it. Some critics are worried that the Gaia hypothesis says the environment will respond to any insults done to it and the natural systems will take care of the problems. This, they maintain, gives industries a license to pollute. 18
  • A metatheory to make sense of Gaia• “Gaia is a tough bitch”, in The Third Culture (1995) STRUGGLE: The Gaia hypothesis is a biological idea, but it’s not human-centered. Those who want Gaia to be an Earth goddess for a cuddly, furry human environment find no solace in it. They tend to be critical or to misunderstand. They can buy into the theory only by misinterpreting it. Some critics are worried that the Gaia hypothesis says the environment will respond to any insults done to it and the natural systems will take care of the problems. This, they maintain, gives industries a license to pollute. OUTREACH: Lovelock’s position is to let the people believe that Earth is an organism, because if they think it is just a pile of rocks they kick it, ignore it, and mistreat it. If they think Earth is an organism they’ll tend to treat it with respect. To me, this is a helpful cop-out, not science. Yet I do agree with Lovelock when he claims that most of the things scientists do are not science either. And I realize that by taking the stance he does he is more effective than I am in communicating Gaian ideas. 18
  • 19
  • Conclusions 20
  • Conclusions• Affinity with Gaia doesnt derive from an exasperated attention to cooperation, but from a sensitivity to global-scale chemistry, then this affinity is not a specific to symbio-studies, nor of microbiology. Many different fields can come to get it. 20
  • Conclusions• Affinity with Gaia doesnt derive from an exasperated attention to cooperation, but from a sensitivity to global-scale chemistry, then this affinity is not a specific to symbio-studies, nor of microbiology. Many different fields can come to get it.• If this is a problem, it will not be specific either, but shared. 20
  • Conclusions• Affinity with Gaia doesnt derive from an exasperated attention to cooperation, but from a sensitivity to global-scale chemistry, then this affinity is not a specific to symbio-studies, nor of microbiology. Many different fields can come to get it.• If this is a problem, it will not be specific either, but shared.• Gaia is a scientific narrative: open to collaborative effort, used as a hypotheses-generator. It is part of science. 20
  • Conclusions• Affinity with Gaia doesnt derive from an exasperated attention to cooperation, but from a sensitivity to global-scale chemistry, then this affinity is not a specific to symbio-studies, nor of microbiology. Many different fields can come to get it.• If this is a problem, it will not be specific either, but shared.• Gaia is a scientific narrative: open to collaborative effort, used as a hypotheses-generator. It is part of science.• Its attractiveness and openness produces a dilemma between outreach and defense for the scientific community. 20
  • http://theawakenedstate.tumblr.com y o u !T h a nk ...Gaia, Will’s guiding spirit, bestows magical powers and advice along his journey. With the help of his friends Will must battle relentless enemies and solve the puzzles of the ancient ruins. Patience and knowledge are essential to reunite this father and son. 21
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