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Scientists Debate GaiaThe Next Century$
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Stephen H. Schneider, James R. Miller, Eileen Crist, and Penelope J. Boston

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780262194983

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262194983.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

Homeostatic Gaia

Homeostatic Gaia

An Ecologist’s Perspective on the Possibility of Regulation

(p.71) 6 Homeostatic Gaia
Scientists Debate Gaia

David M. Wilkinson

The MIT Press

This chapter discusses a major question raised by Gaia theory: Is the long-term persistence of the biosphere entirely due to luck, or does it possess feedback loops that increase the possibility of long-term persistence? Such feedbacks are central to the idea of homeostatic Gaia. A common criticism of this idea is that these feedbacks could not evolve because they would require higher-level selection, and such group selection is too weak to overcome gene/individual level selection for self-interest. It is argued here that this is not necessarily the case. It is also pointed out in this chapter that mutualisms are common in ecology and that Gaian-type interactions are likely to be “by-product” mutualisms. Such mutualisms do not pose a problem for evolutionary theory because they are not susceptible to “cheats.” This still leaves the question: How could regulation develop without active selection for its presence? This question is addressed by drawing analogies between population dynamics and Gaia.

Keywords:   long-term persistence, biosphere, feedback loops, homeostatic Gaia, higher-level selection, mutualisms, Gaian-type interactions, by-product mutualisms, population dynamics

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