Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

System-Wide Thinking: Letters

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

System-Wide Thinking: Letters

Article excerpt

Jon Turney's review of Toby Tyrrell's On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth (Books, 8 August) refers to Tyrrell's proposal that the Gaia hypothesis is not a reasonable view of how the Earth and life interact.

Tyrrell's investigation is hugely valuable and makes a considerable contribution to current understanding. On Gaia, however, makes a category error conflating Gaia theory as the new field of holistic science with the very human desire for explanations and mechanisms. Gaia theory has made the Earth, its rocks, oceans and atmosphere and all of life upon it the ultimate system of ecological study. In Revolutions that Made the Earth (2011), Tim Lenton and Andrew Watson write: "Gaia Theory and the Earth system are for us close to being synonymous."

Tyrrell considers "there is a lack of any clinching fact or argument that points exclusively to Gaia as the only plausible hypothesis for how Earth and life influence each other". This is a young science, and the lack of an explanatory mechanism is no reason for rejection or for acceptance. …

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