The old Gaia asserts that
living organisms and their inorganic surroundings have evolved together as a single living system that greatly affects the chemistry and conditions of Earth’s surface. Some scientists believe that this “Gaian system” self-regulates global temperature, atmospheric content, ocean salinity, and other factors in an “automatic” manner. Earth’s living system appears to keep conditions on our planet just right for life to persist! The Gaia Theory has already inspired ideas and practical applications for economic systems, policy, scientific inquiry, and other valuable work. The future holds more of the same. More.
The new Gaia is leaner, greener, and meaner. She has discovered the “selfish gene”:
Doolittle has recently proposed that Gaia could have arisen through ‘selection by survival alone’ in which persistence of the biosphere increased its likelihood of acquiring further persistence-enhancing traits.
Several recent models demonstrate ‘sequential selection’ for global environmental regulation, in which systems that destabilize their environment are short-lived and result in extinctions and reorganizations until a stable state is found.
Evidence of microbial community coalescence provides a mechanism for heritability of ecosystems and their properties, making models of ecosystem-level selection for environmental regulation empirically plausible.
The Black Queen hypothesis – that production of ‘leaky’ ecological public goods is lost until there is negative frequency-dependent selection on the remaining producers – can help to explain regulation, for example, of the marine nitrogen cycle.
Recently postulated mechanisms and models can help explain the enduring ‘Gaia’ puzzle of environmental regulation mediated by life. Natural selection can produce nutrient recycling at local scales and regulation of heterogeneous environmental variables at ecosystem scales. However, global-scale environmental regulation involves a temporal and spatial decoupling of effects from actors that makes conventional evolutionary explanations problematic. Instead, global regulation can emerge by a process of ‘sequential selection’ in which systems that destabilize their environment are short-lived and result in extinctions and reorganizations until a stable attractor is found. Such persistence-enhancing properties can in turn increase the likelihood of acquiring further persistence-enhancing properties through ‘selection by survival alone’. Thus, Earth system feedbacks provide a filter for persistent combinations of macroevolutionary innovations. – – Timothy M. Lenton, Stuart J. Daines, James G. Dyke, Arwen E. Nicholson, David M. Wilkinson, Hywel T.P. Williams, Selection for Gaia across Multiple Scales: Trends in Ecology & Evolution: Volume 33, ISSUE 8, P633-645, August 01, 2018 Published:J uly 02, 2018 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2018.05.006 More.
We don’t predict a lasting relationship. The selfish gene will eat Gaia.
Seriously, this is another attempt to make information work as if it were magic: Such persistence-enhancing properties can, in turn, increase the likelihood of acquiring further persistence-enhancing properties through ‘selection by survival alone’. If that were true, rocks would slowly evolve into living beings. But they don’t.
See also: (for what is really changing) At the New York Times: Darwin skeptic Carl Woese “effectively founded a new branch of science”
Natural selection: Could it be the single greatest idea ever invented?