Earth, Life, and System: Evolution and Ecology on a Gaian Planet

Earth, Life, and System: Evolution and Ecology on a Gaian Planet

Earth, Life, and System: Evolution and Ecology on a Gaian Planet

Earth, Life, and System: Evolution and Ecology on a Gaian Planet


Exploring the broad implications of evolutionary theorist Lynn Margulis's work, this collection brings together specialists across a range of disciplines, from paleontology, molecular biology, evolutionary theory, and geobiology to developmental systems theory, archaeology, history of science, cultural science studies, and literature and science. Addressing the multiple themes that animated Margulis's science, the essays within take up, variously, astrobiology and the origin of life, ecology and symbiosis from the microbial to the planetary scale, the coupled interactions of earthly environments and evolving life in Gaia theory and earth system science, and the connections of these newer scientific ideas to cultural and creative productions.

Dorion Sagan acquaints the reader with salient issues in Lynn Margulis's scientific work, the controversies they raised, and the vocabulary necessary to follow the arguments. Sankar Chatterjee synthesizes several strands of current theory for the origin of life on earth. James Strick tells the intertwined origin stories of James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis and Margulis's serial endosymbiosis theory. Jan Sapp explores the distinct phylogenetic visions of Margulis and Carl Woese. Susan Squier examines the epigenetics of embryologist and developmental biologist C. H. Waddington. Bruce Clarke studies the convergence of ecosystem ecology, systems theory, and science fiction between the 1960s and the 1980s. James Shapiro discusses the genome evolution that results not from random changes but rather from active cell processes. Susan Oyama shows how the concept of development balances an over-emphasis on genetic coding and other deterministic schemas. Christopher Witmore studies the ways in which a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, mixes up natural resources, animal lives, and human appetites. And Peter Westbroek brings the insights of earth system science toward a new worldview essential for a proper response to global change.


Bruce Clarke

The late evolutionary thinker Lynn Margulis produced four decades of controversial, paradigm-shifting science. She also authored an unusual amount of popular materials for students and nonscientists. in this regard, Margulis and her son Dorion Sagan collaborated on a series of works for general readers, including Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution, Acquiring Genomes: a Theory of the Origins of Species, Dazzle Gradually: Reflections on the Nature of Nature, and What Is Life? These remarkable volumes narrate her cutting-edge evolutionary ideas through strikingly graceful prose of literary caliber. in addition, along the way Margulis and Sagan articulated a refreshing posthumanism, that is, a viewpoint placing humanity not as the mea sure of all things but as an obligatory participant within a wider planetary ecology. in its broadest strokes, Margulis’s science offers a compelling cosmic-evolutionary view of the processes that couple solar energy and the material Earth together with the integrated operations of all living systems (Plate I).

This volume is the culmination of a conversation with Lynn Margulis that began in the fall of 2005 when paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee invited her to Texas Tech University as part of the Paul Whitfield Horn Professor Lecture Series. Chatterjee had an ulterior motive: he wanted her views on his theoretical work on the origin of life, work that has its general debut in this collection. Lynn and Sankar pursued that discussion . . .

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