‘UMD Finding May Hold Key to Gaia Theory of Earth as Living Organism’

‘Discovery ultimately could lead to better climate understanding and prediction’

Is Earth really a sort of giant living organism as the Gaia hypothesis predicts? A new discovery made at the University of Maryland may provide a key to answering this question. This key of sulfur could allow scientists to unlock heretofore hidden interactions between ocean organisms, atmosphere, and land — interactions that might provide evidence supporting this famous theory.

The Gaia hypothesis — first articulated by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s — holds that Earth’s physical and biological processes are inextricably connected to form a self-regulating, essentially sentient, system.

One of the early predictions of this hypothesis was that there should be a sulfur compound made by organisms in the oceans that was stable enough against oxidation in water to allow its transfer to the air. Either the sulfur compound itself, or its atmospheric oxidation product, would have to return sulfur from the sea to the land surfaces. The most likely candidate for this role was deemed to be dimethylsulfide.

Newly published work done at the University of Maryland by first author Harry Oduro, together with UMD geochemist James Farquhar and marine biologist Kathryn Van Alstyne of Western Washington University, provides a tool for tracing and measuring the movement of sulfur through ocean organisms, the atmosphere and the land in ways that may help prove or disprove the controversial Gaia theory. Their study appears in this week’s Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


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28 responses to “‘UMD Finding May Hold Key to Gaia Theory of Earth as Living Organism’

  1. Silberstein, Jek

    This is complete crap! Does Gaia “run” its own destruction via expected pole-shifts/ice-ages? I don’t think so. The ONLY thing that’s “Man-manipulated” are the Eco-Fascists attaching convenient “stories” for which they can tell us when to breathe and how much, plus how much of our incomes they’ll leave us after confiscatory-taxes. If “sentient”, are they ALSO going to propose an “ID”,–”Ego”,–”STUPID-SUPER-Ego”? Watch-out for “Earth-Phrenologists!”, after probing for Freudian-states, from Jungles to Mountain-tops!

    • Indeed it is complete crap, because the actual research study doesn’t even mention the word ‘Gaia’. That association was made by the Junk Science writer. It has nothing to do with the research paper which is titled Sulfur isotope variability of oceanic DMSP generation and its contributions to marine biogenic sulfur emissions.
      The only junk here is the “journalism” designed to make propaganda fed scientific illiterates froth at the mouth

  2. Seems like a better topic for comparative religion rather than science.

  3. Eric Baumholer

    Hmmm…. we’re told that the early prediction was that Gaia’s internal workings as a “self-regulating, essentially sentient, system” would be mediated by a sulfur compound.

    But if you read the article closely, the only ‘finding’ is that scientists can find sulfur compounds in lots of places. The most robust conclusion possible based on the evidence is that Gaia is using sulfur compounds to send cleverly coded signals to scientists.

    The really, really big news in the article? Gaia’s ‘magic compound’ is not, and never was, CO2.

  4. It is not by accident that the entire confabulation is named for an ancient Greek *Goddess*.
    This fiction is partly mythology, partly wishful thinking, and partly self-delusion by its New Age aadherents. Mostly it relies on the vanity of those who are barely coversant with a little ‘scientific’ terminology.
    To believe that the Earth is sentient is to believe that a rock may be smarter than you, which may in some cases be fairly accurate.

  5. This has nothing to do with environmentalism, global warming or a field of science. It is to instill a new religion and morality shaped to the way they want you to think,

  6. Perhaps I am clutching at straws here to find some sort of validity in the pursuit of this nonsense… So maybe there are groups that are funding the search for justifications that the Earth is a sentient and living creature to offer further evidence that the human species is nothing more than an unwanted parasite that needs to be eradicated? That would certainly fit in with many of the green-Malthusian themes.

    • Perhaps Gaia wanted plastic, but didn’t have a way to make it directly. So it created Man to make it some. That gives meaning to our lives.

  7. Ben of Houston

    Again, this is interesting work on sulfur migration through the ecosystem. However, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Gaia theory. Why do article writers insist on contaminating good science with this utter nonsense?

    • How do you track sulfur migration? Isotopic distribution from fuel versus natural abundance? I’m not even sure that is good science because the dilution effect would make it very difficult to separate.

    • Ben of Houston

      That’s why it’s so interesting, Bob.

  8. This rock on which we live is a living sentient organism because it is infested with life? Is my bath tub a sentient living organism because it, too, is infested with various molds, mildews, fungi, and occasional mammal?

  9. Eric Baumholer

    Consider this line of reasoning: Gaia is sentient and self-regulating. Humans are thriving better all the time, and their numbers are increasing. Therefore Gaia likes us, and has, for quite a while.

  10. Bollocks !

  11. For all those abruptly and derisively dismissing this, consider that a mammal is a collection of individual cells, each “alive” in their own right, each with a life support system, organs, and a life cycle. These cells interact with each other, depend on each other, multiply, respirate, consume, and excrete. If provided nutrients in a petri dish they can survive normally independent of a larger body. Yet collectively these cells are said to make up a larger organism such as you or me. So let’s not be naive or arrogant. A collection of small interdependent organisms CAN be regarded in some cases as a larger organism. The truth of this is everywhere. Complete denial of this suggests a very conservative, dogmatic, unimaginitive attitude, which is counter to the very spirit of scientific discovery. Philosophically speaking, it’s just as impossible to prove that you or I are alive as it is to prove the Earth is alive. After all, we’re just a collection of cells, right? What defines life? Animation? Sentience? A soul? Can you scientifically prove we have all these things? Can you prove cells do not? Can you prove the Earth does not? Don’t be so certain.

    • Cells don’t have organs. Organs are collections of a specific cell type.

      The example you are searching for would be jellyfish since they are colonies of cells behaving cooperatively.

      Oh, and I am arrogant enough to state that a rock is a rock is a rock, not a component of some Greek goddess-named organism.

      • Your point purely semantic, which if you wanna play “GOTCHA” is well done. Cells DO indeed have organs, referred to as organelles. My favorite one is the endoplasmic reticulum.

      • Nope, still calling no joy. While there are self-sustaining unicellular organisms a liver cell, for example, cannot self-sustain in the wild, much less replicate. The jellyfish example is the only one I can think of where colonies of potentially self-sustaining cells cooperatively form a larger organism.

        And a rock is still just a rock, not part of some superorganism.

    • The earth does not have the attributes of life.

      For example, the earth cannot reproduce.

    • Ben of Houston

      No, TM. It represents understanding of life from a scientific perspective, which includes a definition of life as a self-reproducing entity. If you do not have the ability to reproduce or maintain oneself, you do not have life.

      I can scientifically prove that I have life (I’ll even show progeny pictures on a tricycle). I can also prove that I have animation by knocking your block off. I can also prove sentience via Turing test or debate if required. These are all measurable things. A soul is a religious matter, and thus outside the realm of science.

      The Earth as a whole cannot reproduce, even on a minimal scale, so as a single entity, no, it is not alive by current definitions. Now, we do not necessarily need life in order to have intelligence (take that for out of the box thinking). However, you would have to show some evidence of intelligence on a planetary scale. How could this possibly be demonstrated? The weight is on you since you are doing the proposition. This sulfur dispersal test is far from adequate.

      The difference between us is that I am a man of science who has definitions and then compares to meet them. You are attempting to inject post-modern philosophy into a concrete debate and then deride your opposition for disagreeing with you. You’re out of your depth, little man.

  12. I checked out a link to the Proceedings and this looks like a hardcore chemistry study. I didn’t see anything about the Gaia hypothesis. I think the Gaia stuff is all media BS.

  13. The fact is science, religion, philosophy are just guesses to what really exists. We have barely scratched the surface of “knowledge” and “insight” to all that relates to our universe. String theory anyone? What element’s that makes up the soul? Science proof of what Godhead is? Our minds are not the library of truth just data on what we perceive to be “truth”.
    It is ok to have some opinion that conflicts with someone else’s own belief system. It is better to have an open mind to weigh out the information/facts/theories/conclusions etc… that is being offered. If you disagree then state your understanding and be kind then move on. Scientist can’t mathematically measure the feeling of love someone has for another. Just like religion cannot explain the creation of stars without a “God” or the depth of the soul for philosopher. I believe that the combination of these disciplines could bring us to a better understanding of it all. If not then the potential for miss out on the bigger picture could be costly. We all shouldn’t look at the world through a 1 dimension set of binoculars. Our perspective of something can all be proved and disproved one way or another. So instead of coming to cowardly verbal internet blows why can’t we all just agree to disagree and move on?
    One Love!

    • My I.Q. just went down 3 points.

    • Ben of Houston

      OL, I see much written, but nothing said. Meaningless, feel-good jibber-jabber is irrelevant to the topic at hand. You must turn to disciplines in turn to answer questions. I would not ask a pastor about astrophysics, and I would not ask a physicist about the hereafter. Though they might give interesting opinion on the other subject, they are experts in their fields.

      It isn’t myopia to know the bounds of your understanding and to compartmentalize these things for better observation; it is wisdom and reason, respectively. These are things that you think you have, but you have demonstrated that you are lacking.

      Sheesh. Normally I’m the moderate on this board. What is it with this thread.

  14. But the Earth continually reproduces/births, through a process of evolution. She’s given you blokes a chance to rule her for a while too. Now it’s time for the feminine to reign supreme again, before you ego filled parasites destroy her alltogether!

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