Is it science or is it religion? Not even the promoters of Gaia agree completely. Gaia is the New Age darling of spiritual feminists, neo-pagans, political environmentalists, and animal-rights activists. Yet in the past three years, more than 100 scientific and technical articles have been Written on Gaia theory. Gaia, the Greek earth goddess, has scientists hotly debating the reality of her existence.

The Gaia hypothesis is the scientific expression of the pre-Christian belief that the Earth is a living creature. As Environment magazine describes it, the idea is “that the earth’s lower atmosphere is an internal, regulated, and necessary part of life itself, and that, for hundreds of millions of years, life has controlled the temperature, chemical composition, oxidizing ability, and acidity of the earth’s atmosphere.”

The basic concept of Gaia theory was advanced more than 20 years ago by James Lovelock, an atmospheric scientist and inventor. No charlatan, he is a respected member of Britain’s elite Royal Society. Lovelock initially thought of calling the scientific concept of a living Earth the Biocybernetic Universal System Tendency/Homeostasis. During a quiet walk in the English countryside, his neighbor, William Golding (author of Lord of the Flies), suggested “Gaia” instead. Science will never be the same.

Lovelock’s U.S. collaborator is Lynn Margulis. They began working and writing together more than 15 years ago. She is an internationally known professor of microbiology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her most recent published work is Microcosmos, cowritten with her son, Dorion Sagan (from her first marriage to Carl Sagan). The book traces the evolution of life from its original bacterial ooze. She is ...

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