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Modern Myths

Modern Attempts to Explain Existence

What is the Gaia Hypothesis?

The Gaia Hypothesis is another theory—a thought model—developed in part by a British scientist named James Lovelock (1919–) It refers back to the old Greek myth of the origins of creation through the Great Earth Goddess Gaia and applies that myth to new “scientific” reality. It is a model that has as its scientific background the laws of thermodynamics: that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, the total amount of energy in the universe being constant, but in any exchange of energy in a closed system such as earth, there will always be less useable energy after the exchange. In other words, everything that is, everything being made up of energy, will be subject to decay, or entropy, as it is used. Energy used dissipates as heat. The Gaia Hypothesis expresses the possibility of ultimate tragedy. It emphasizes that the world is an ecological unity of which each part—including the human—can be considered something like a cell. Gaia—Earth—in this view, is a living organism that makes adjustments, analogous to conscious adjustments, to its needs for survival. The human race, which is perhaps the consciousness organ of Gaia, is not actually necessary for Gaia’s survival, and if humans do more harm to Gaia in terms of energy dissipation, Gaia will dispense with humans. We naturally think here of realities such as the greenhouse effect and global warming. The Gaia Hypothesis, whether we believe it or not, does remind us that there is more to life than us and our “needs.”



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