Now that the obits for chief mourners and the enraged bawls of the Darwin trolls are done, we come to serious assessments. Michael Flannery, editor of Darwin’s banished co-theorist Wallace’s World of Life observes, re a Telegraph obit,
As the obit. interestingly observes, “Though advancing such theories exposed her to enormous hostility from within the scientific community, she came to be regarded as one of the most creative and respected researchers of her generation.” Note the last part of that statement. In the end, much of the “Gaia” concept can be retained within an overarching paradigm of wholly naturalistic evolution, thus making it far less revolutionary than one might think.
While Margulis could provide some useful observations concerning the errors of Darwinism, she could not be regarded as really challenging its most deeply rooted philosophical commitments. It must not be forgotten that James Lovelock pointed out quite clearly in a 1990 article in Nature, “Neither Lynn Margulis nor I have ever proposed a teleological hypothesis. Nowhere in our writings do we express the idea that planetary self-regulation is purposeful, or involves foresight or planning by the biota [or, for that matter, any other external force].”
Margulis always agreed with this as far as I can tell. They believed they could create the numinous by merely capitalizing Nature and exchanging a nature “red in tooth and claw” for a more cooperative symbiosis. No wonder, then, that in the end so many could make peace with a hypothesis that essentially sang the same materialistic song (however poetically expressed) only in a different key. The loss of any creative thinker like Margulis is unfortunate but let’s not raise her to the rarified status of path-breaking revolutionary. I just don’t see it.
Well, the serious discussion starts now. Thoughts?