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Daisy world and nuclear energy: two sides of Gaia

'The Ages of Gaia' reviewed by Gert Korthof.

Updated: 26 may 2014. First published: 3 Oct 2004.

Daisy world and nuclear energy: the two sides of James Lovelock

Further Reading
Lovelock paperback cover
James Lovelock The Ages of Gaia. A Biography of our Living Earth, first edition 1988, second edition 1995, 2000. Oxford University Press, paperback, 255 pages.
James Lovelock is a visionary character, a colourful person and an independent scientific thinker and inventor. Lovelock is widely known for his Gaia theory. The earth is a superorganism, consisting of both living organisms and a non-living environment. Gaia has the ability to self-regulate climate and chemistry of the earth. Lovelock invented instruments to detect chloro-fluoro-carbons and found them present in the atmosphere, but initially judged them not dangerous for human health. Later Lovelock developed the daisy-world computer model to prove that organisms could self-regulate the earth's climate and that daisy-world does not contradict neo-Darwinism. He proposed ideas how to make Mars habitable, and claimed that radioactivity is as dangerous as breathing oxygen.


  In his 1979 book Gaia Lovelock wrote that plants produce oxygen because it benefits life as a whole. That version of the Gaia hypothesis was teleological (goal directed), because it involved impossible foresight and planning, and Lovelock did not propose a mechanism. No wonder it was strongly criticised by biologists and especially neo-Darwinists. Richard Dawkins pointed out that "if plants are supposed to make oxygen for the good of the biosphere, imagine a mutant plant which saved itself the costs of oxygen manufacture." (1) Indeed, the non-oxygen producing mutant would soon become the dominant form, and oxygen production would vanish from the earth. "This was a final condemnation. Teleological explanations are a sin against the holy spirit of scientific rationality." (2). Lovelock reacted to this and other criticisms by developing the daisy model. The daisy model was non-teleological (no goal involved). Black and white daisies in the model regulate the temperature of the earth by reflecting few or much sunlight, thereby cooling or heating the earth's atmosphere. The definition of Gaia is:

"Living organisms and their material environment are tightly coupled. The coupled system is a superorganism, and as it evolves there emerges a new property, the ability to self-regulate climate and chemistry"
"Through Gaia theory, I see the Earth and the life it bears as a system, a system that has the capacity to regulate the temperature and the composition of the Earth's surface and to keep it comfortable for living organisms." (p.30)

The original observation that triggered the Gaia hypothesis is that the earth's atmosphere is in a chemical disequilibrium. If methane reacts strongly with oxygen, then how can it be measurably present in the atmosphere? The cause is the constant input of methane from micro-organisms. The most dramatic feature is the level of oxygen in the earth's atmosphere. The 21% oxygen is now necessary for life, but when life originated on earth oxygen was absent. Oxygen did not arise from extraterrestrial or geological sources, but was produced 2.5 billion years ago by life itself as a toxic by-product. Eventually the rest of life adapted to oxygen. Contrary to the earth's atmosphere, the 'dead' atmosphere of Mars is the atmosphere of a dead planet. But there is more. Apart from the presence of oxygen, there is the observation of the constancy of the oxygen level over hundreds of millions of years.
Any theory of life on earth, including the theory of evolution, needs to integrate this knowledge. Another factor is the constant temperature of the atmosphere of our planet.

The evolution of the climate and atmospheric composition of the earth
Figure 2: The evolution of the climate and atmospheric composition of the earth (p. 143)

How do we explain the relative constancy of oxygen? Evolution has no foresight: oxygen is not produced to make land animals in the future possible. It can't be an example of self-regulation. It must be a by-product. If oxygen really would be produced by one species for the sole benefit of other species that would refute Darwin! Because no species survives such an altruistic act in the long run. According to Lovelock, the constancy of 21% oxygen may be an example of self-regulation. Contrary to Lovelock, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere is not constant as his own figure 2 shows. Even worse, for the biggest part of the age of the Earth there was no atomospheric oxygen (wiki).

The meaning of Gaia

  Lovelock introduced atmospheric science into (evolutionary) biology. The lesson is that tiny micro-organisms can have an enormous effect on the earth's atmosphere. This lesson is missing in most evolution textbooks. Richard Dawkins justly criticises Gaia's self-regulating capacity, but he is not interested in the amazing effect of micro-organisms. There is neither oxygen nor atmosphere in Douglas Futuyma's textbook! (3). Strickberger however, (4) has an elaborate discussion of oxygen. When organisms have created the habitability of our earth in such a significant way it ought to be incorporated in the theory of evolution. The question remains how the constancy has to be explained. Explaining it by 'homeostasis' is not a real explanation, since there is still no mechanism. Secondly, 'homeostasis' strongly suggests a living organism, because there is no homeostasis without an organism. The statement 'maintained at an optimum by homeostasis' and this maintenance is performed by the biosphere itself" is no explanation, because it reintroduces the notion that Gaia is alive, which Lovelock rejected earlier. Homeostasis makes only sense within an organism. Indeed the expression "the atmosphere as a circulatory system" (5) reveals that Lovelock uses the analogy of the blood system and its properties. However, there is a big difference between homeostasis of the blood system and of oxygen in the earth's atmosphere. Good analogies invite good questions. Wrong analogies invite wrong questions, but at the same time could produce new discoveries. Does Daisy world explain homeostasis? An indication of Lovelock's doubt is the odd remark that his theory need not be true to be useful.

Is Gaia alive?

  Both Lovelock and Margulis claimed in their earlier writings that Gaia is a living organism, and later changed changed to claims that are more moderate. According to Margulis, Lovelock defended that "the earth is a organism" (6). Margulis: "I cannot stress strongly enough that Gaia is not a single organism" (7). And "Rather than state "Earth is alive", we prefer to say that Gaia is a hypothesis about the planet Earth, its surface sediments, and its atmosphere" (8).
Before we can answer the question Is Gaia alive?, we need to know to what life is. Lovelock recognises the need for a definition of the concept 'life'. He observes that the Dictionary of Biology has no entry for 'life'! In general biologists avoided the question, he says. However, I disagree that no one has yet succeeded in defining life. Lovelock did not know Ganti's definition. Lovelock attempts to define life, but misses the dual nature of life (metabolism-heredity). On the other hand he quotes Schrödinger's definition: living systems have boundaries and are open systems at the same time. This is a dual nature from another perspective. In the context of thermodynamics: life is a self-organising system characterised by an actively sustained low entropy. Because Lovelock overlooks the importance of 'minimal life' in defining life, he fails to give a thorough and satisfactory definition. A probable cause is his focus on planetary biology and symbiosis (life exists in communities and collectives). The lack of a good definition of minimal life prevents a good understanding of problems inherent in the origin of life (20). For example when discussing the origin of life, he states "The first living cells may have used as food the abundant organic chemicals lying around; also the dead bodies of the less successful competitors..."(9). However, by definition, the first forms of life could not have used dead bodies.
Secondly, Lovelock seems to dismiss the criterion of reproduction for reasons unclear to me. I guess in order to maintain the idea that Gaia is alive notwithstanding the obvious fact that Gaia does not reproduce. Only individual organisms reproduce. Just because the atmosphere is in disequilibrium, improbable, anomalous and these properties are caused by living organisms, does not mean that the earth itself is alive.

    Whether or not the earth is a self-regulating superorganism, the fact that tiny creatures can influence and even create the earth's atmosphere (with huge dimensions relative to the size of microbes themselves), is interesting enough. I agree that the earth's atmosphere cannot be understood by physics and chemistry alone, but biology is needed to explain its anomalous nature (chemical disequilibrium).


Does Gaia keep the atmosphere of the Earth stable?

26 May 2014
Here is some evidence against Gaia keeping the Earth's atmosphere stable: First Land Plants May Have Caused a Series of Ice Ages (18). Furthermore, snowball earth was not favorable for the evolution of complex multicellular life forms. The Permian–Triassic extinction event was the Earth's largest extinction event and killed 57% of all families, 83% of all genera and 90% to 96% of all species. One of the causes of this biodiversity crisis were sulfate-reducing bacteria producing large amounts of hydrogen sulfide in the anoxic ocean, and releasing massive hydrogen sulfide emissions into the atmosphere. This would poison terrestrial plants and animals, as well as severely weaken the ozone layer, exposing much of the life that remained to fatal levels of UV radiation. This doesn't look like Gaia. And that was one of the five major extinction events (19).


Daisy world: a computer model

18 Apr 18
daisy Lovelock developed the Daisy world computer model as an answer to the apparently justified criticism that Gaia was teleological (goal directed). He wanted to show that ordinary natural processes can account for the constancy of the earth surface temperature despite the increasing luminosity of the sun during the last billion years. Regrettably, I did not find a good explanation of the model and no information about the assumptions of the model in this book, although there is information about the output of the computer model. So it is impossible to evaluate his Daisy model from the information in this book. According to Lynn Margulis the Daisy world model shows that the daisies cool their world despite the warming sun (10). From other sources describing the daisyworld model I come to the tentative conclusion that it is an unrealistic model because
  • the temperature of the earth is not determined (let alone stabilised) by the reflective properties of organisms. For ecological reasons the earth's land surface cannot be covered with enough daisies (or animals or other plants) to have a sufficiently large effect on the temperature of the earth's atmosphere. Furthermore, 71% of the total surface of the Earth is water, and thus only 29% is land.
  • the daisies must exclude all other species from the environment to dominate life on earth. However, each individual plant needs some space around it to flourish. Flowers are small and are not present the whole year due to the seasons and flowers are rarely black. Neither are leaves black or white. Leaves are green.
  • the earth has different climate and geograpical zones: Ice cap, Tundra, Boreal, Warm temperate, Subtropical, Tropcial. Does the Daisy World model replace all those climate zones by one uniform optimal temperature on the entire surface of the earth?
  • there is no empirical or experimental evidence showing the claimed effect on the individual plant, or an effect on the local or global environment. We need real-life data. We need measurements.
  • sofar the model works best in an abstract computer world. Daisy world is a virtual world. A computer model is no substitute for empirical evidence. No refinement of the model can help in that respect. You can teach a dog many tricks, you can teach a computer nearly every trick.
Lynn Margulis seems to agree about the artificiality of Daisy-world: "In real life, as opposed to Daisy World, microbes, not daisies, play the crucial role" (11). Daisies and plants seem a bad choice to model the contribution to the temperature of the atmosphere. Land ice and snow seems to do a better job in reflecting light. Aren't gases (methane, carbondioxide) produced by microorganims better candidates to influence the climate? The daisy world model cannot be a general model for animals anyway (not enough polar or black bears to cover the earth!). Adding goats and foxes to the model doesn't seen to solve these problems.

Nuclear radiation is as dangerous as breathing oxygen

22 Dec 2013
In chapter 4 (The Archean), Lovelock describes the 'radioactive Earth' (13):
"Even today, the Earth is radioactive. ... We are so used to thinking of radioactivity as artificial that we easily ignore the fact that we ourselves are naturally radioactive." (p. 66)
The reason is our bodies contain potassium (K):
"The element potassium is radioactive but it is also essential for life. ... Potassium, like uranium and thorium and radium, is a long-lived radioactive nuclear waste of the supernova bomb." (p. 66, chapter 4).
Indeed, potassium is the most common radioactive element in the human body, but Lovelock forgets to tell his readers that it is present in very low concentrations (0.0118%) (14).
In chapter 5 (The Middle Ages) Lovelock returns to the 'radioactive Earth'. He describes the amazing natural nuclear reactor called Oklo in Gabon, Africa. The most amazing fact is that microorganisms were involved "with the strange capacity to collect and concentrate uranium specifically." (p. 116). (16).
"As far as our cells are concerned damage by nuclear radiation and damage by breathing oxygen are almost indistinguishable" p.165.
In chapter 7 (The Contemporary Environment) there is a paragraph called 'A Dose of Nuclear Radiation' (p. 161–171). Lovelock wonders why so many people are against nuclear energy, considering the fact that nuclear energy is the natural energy source of the universe. The power that lights the stars is nuclear. What follows is an argument for the naturalness of nuclear energy.
"Oxygen kills just as nuclear radiation does. Oxygen is thus a mutagen and a carcinogen" (p. 166).
These are words I did not expect from the inventor of Gaia. Lovelock's treatment of the dangers of radioactivity is irresponsible. The comparison of radioactive- and oxygen-damage is misleading. It is true that the cell evolved mechanisms that protect both to radiation and oxygen breathing. However, according to the expert on oxygen metabolism, Rick Lane
"There is one major difference between radiation and breathing–the starting point. (...) Because our normal exposure to radiation is low we have not evolved to deal with this pattern of distribution or immediate reactivity." (12)
Two additional remarks. Radiation causes an extra amount of damage above the oxygen damage level. We cannot say "I stop breathing for some time, because I need all my resources to repair radiation damage". Furthermore, Lovelock's argument assumes 'normal' doses of radiation. Of course the body cannot deal with a high doses of radiation during short periods of time (nuclear accidents!). Accidents are a reality of our society and so when evaluating the health risks of radiation, we cannot ignore accidents (15). Lovelock should have given the reader a more complete and balanced analysis of this controversial issue. One cannot draw conclusions about the safety of nuclear energy and certainly not about nuclear power plants (15) on the basis of facts as "we ourselves are naturally radioactive", the Oklo natural reactor, or "Oxygen kills just as nuclear radiation does". One needs experts such as cell biologists, medical researchers, geneticists, oncologists, and biochemists.
It is disappointing that Lovelock makes personal attacks on radiation biologists and government scientists.

The cosmological and planetary context of life

Dec 2013
In this section I will discuss the cosmological and planetary context of life in Lovelock's book. We inhabit a nuclear-powered Universe. The earth is radioactive. That's because the Earth is made of radioactive debris of a supernova (exploding star). (p.165). The earth contains uranium deposits. A special uranium deposit where self-sustaining nuclear chain reactions have occurred was discovered in 1972 at Oklo in Gabon, Africa (17) which was operating between 2.0 and 1.5 billion years ago.

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  1. Richard Dawkins (1982,1999) The extended penotype, paperback edition, p.236.
  2. James Lovelock (2000) The Ages of Gaia, paperback second edition, p.32.
  3. Douglas Futuyma (1998) Evolutionary Biology, Third edition.
  4. Monroe Strickberger (2000) Evolution, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, third edition, hardback.
  5. Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan (1997) Slanted Truths, Copernicus, hardback. Chapter 10 has the title "The atmosphere as a circulatory system of the biosphere- The Gaia System" and is written by Margulis and Lovelock.
  6. Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan (2002) Acquiring Genomes, hardback, p.134.
  7. Lynn Margulis (1998) The symbiotic planet, hardback, p.123.
  8. Slanted Truths: p.208.
  9. James Lovelock (2000) The Ages of Gaia, p.71-72.
  10. Lynn Margulis (1998) The Symbiotic Planet. A New Look at Evolution. Chapter 8: "Gaia", p.126.
  11. Slanted Truths: p.155.
  12. Nick Lane (2002) OXYGEN. The Molecule that made the World, p.125.
  13. It is quite easy to find support in the scientific literature for the idea of the radioactive earth. For example: The Radioactive Earth. Also, the heat generated from the decay of radioactive elements in the core of the earth (Scientific American).
  14. Bob and Ann Rowland: Potassium, a radioactive element?. There are many other sources on radioactivity in the body on the internet.
  15. See the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.
  16. Indeed: "Some organisms, such as the lichen Trapelia involuta or microorganisms such as the bacterium Citrobacter can absorb concentrations of uranium that are up to 300 times higher than in their environment." (wikipedia).
  17. Natural nuclear fission reactor (wikipedia). See also: Tick tick boom, the Earth spits out a moon, New Scientist 05 August 2013. See also The Moon may have formed in a nuclear explosion.
  18. American Scientist First Land Plants May Have Caused a Series of Ice Ages, 2012.
  19. See also 'Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey' episode 9 by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
  20. "In his debut, Gaia, he sidestepped evolution's first and biggest obstacle (how to get from organic chemistry to a living, devouring, excreting, replicating organism) in two sentences that seem to me models of clarity and brevity: 'Life was thus an almost utterly improbable event with almost infinite opportunities of happening. So it did.'". Source: Tim Radford (2019) James Lovelock at 100: the Gaia saga continues. Nature 25 June 2019

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Other reviews

  • James Lovelock (2009) The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning, Allen Lane/Basic Books: 2009. 192 pp./ 288 pp.
    John Gribbin & Mary Gribbin (2009) He Knew He Was Right: The Irrepressible Life of James Lovelock and Gaia, Allen Lane/Princeton University Press: 2009. 256 pp/272 pp. (this is a biography of Lovelock. Lovelock's most famous discovery is that life on other planets can best be detected by looking for biological footprints of life in the atmosphere of the planet.)
    Both books are reviewed in Nature 458, 970-971 (23 April 2009) by Andrew Watson:
    • "In The Vanishing Face Of Gaia, Lovelock argues that model projections of the climate a century ahead are of little use. The models of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) extrapolate from a smooth trend of warming, yet the real climate system, complex and fully coupled to the biology of land and ocean, is unlikely to change in this simple way. It is more likely to flip from one state to another, with non-linear tipping points that the IPCC models are too simplistic to capture. Lovelock fears that the climate will shift to a new and considerably hotter regime, and that once underway, this shift will be irreversible." (Nature)
  • Lee R. Kump (2009) 'A Second Opinion for Our Planet', Science 31 July 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5940, pp. 539 - 540. Is a review of: He Knew He Was Right. The Irrepressible Life of James Lovelock and Gaia (UK title); James Lovelock In Search of Gaia (USA title) by John Gribbin and Mary Gribbin and The Vanishing Face of Gaia A Final Warning by James Lovelock.
    • "Throughout his book, Lovelock decries American science. He refers to the "disastrous mistake" of assuming "that all we need to know about the climate can come from modeling the physics and chemistry of the air in ever more powerful computers"."

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Further Reading

  • James Lovelock (2000) "Homage to Gaia: The life of an independent scientists", Oxford University Press. This is an autobiography. For a review see: Chrispin Tickell (2001) Memoirs of a reluctant cult figure, Nature, 409, 453-545 and a review by Stephen H. Schneider (2001) A Goddess of Earth or the Imagination of a Man? in Science, 9 March 2001. (including Daisyworld).
  • James Lovelock (2006) The Revenge of Gaia. Why the earth is fighting back - and how we can still save humanity. (info from publisher). Reviews: Nature, American Scientist. Reprint, 2006 ed.: 'The Revenge of Gaia, Earth's Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity', Basic Books (Perseus), New York, 2007, Paperback: 198 pp.
  • Lynn Rotschild and Adrian Lister (ed) (2003) "Evolution on planet Earth. The impact of the physical environment", (publishers information). A fascinating review of all physical influences on the evolution of life on earth by specialists in different fields. The earth's atmosphere (oxygen and carbon dioxide levels), solar radiation, panspermia, gravity, temperature, continental drift, climate and extraterrestrial conditions for life. We will never have a complete theory of evolution and full understanding of evolution without the physical factors! Many illustrations. Textbook-like layout.
  • Lynn Margulis (1997) Slanted Truths. Essays on Gaia, Symbiosis, and Evolution. Chapters 10-19 are about Gaia.
  • Lynn Margulis (1998) The Symbiotic Planet. A New Look at Evolution. Chapter 8: "Gaia".
  • Lynn Margulis (2002) Acquiring genomes. A theory of the origin of species. Chapter 8: "Gaian Planet".
  • James F. Kasting (2004) When Methane Made Climate, Scientific American July 2004, pp 52-59.
  • T. M. Lenton and J. E. Lovelock (2001) Daisyworld Revisited: Quantifying biological effects on planetary self-regulation, Tellus 53B: 288-305. Abstract. Tellus B Chemical and Physical Meteorology Volume 53: Issue 3 Page range: 288 - 305
  • Timothy M. Lenton and Marcel van Oijen (2002) Gaia as a complex adaptive system, Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Volume 357, Number 1421 / May 29, 2002 Pages: 683 - 695.
  • Stephen Schneider et al (2004) Scientists Debate Gaia : The Next Century, MIT Press, 400 pages, $50. 31 essays. Short review in NewScientist 16 Oct 2004 p.53. Amazon: "In the book, 53 contributors explore the scientific, philosophical, and theoretical foundations of Gaia. They address such topics as the compatibility of natural selection and Gaian processes, Gaia and the "thermodynamics of life," the role of computer models in Gaian science (from James Lovelock's famous but controversial "Daisyworld" to more sophisticated models that use the techniques of artificial life), pre-Socratic precedents for the idea of a "Living Earth," and the climate of the Amazon Basin as a Gaian system."
  • Sergio M. Vallina and Rafel Simó (2007) 'Strong Relationship Between DMS and the Solar Radiation Dose over the Global Surface Ocean', Science 26 January 2007: 506-508. (The amount of dimethylsulfide produced by marine organisms helps to form clouds but depends on the amount of local sunlight, forming a negative feedback system.)
  • Oliver Morton (2007) Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet (Fourth Estate, HarperCollins): hardback 412 pages of text (excluding index, bibliography, further reading).
  • World Climate Research Program WCRP. The Amsterdam Declaration (2001) reads: "The Earth System behaves as a single, self-regulating system comprised of physical, chemical, biological and human components." This is interpreted as a victory for Gaia. "The idea that life is content passively adapting to environments over which it has no sway – which really was the dominant paradigm just forty years ago– has gone for good, and Lovelock played a defining role in its demise." p.256 Oliver Morton (2007) see note above.
  • Paul G. Falkowski and Andrew H. Knoll, Eds. (2007) 'Evolution of Primary Producers in the Sea', Academic Press (Elsevier), Burlington, MA, 2007. A good review in: Science, 1 February 2008.
    "The volume rightly emphasizes the effects of Earth's oxygenation on phytoplankton evolution. After all, these organisms were presumably largely responsible for the significant oxygen increase that occurred before terrestrial plants greened the continents. At the same time, decrease in carbon dioxide has also strongly influenced phytoplankton, because inorganic carbon is fundamental for photosynthesis."
  • V. Smil (2002) The Earth's Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics and Change MIT Press, Cambridge, 2002 (info).
  • Peter Ward (2009) The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive? Princeton University Press, hardback, 180 pages.
    In this book Ward defends the Medea hypothesis: Life will unconsciously changing conditions on earth to a point where there can no longer be plant life, or ultimately any kind of life. This is opposed to the Gaia hypothesis. Evidence falsifies the Gaia hypothesis. But both Gaia and Medea hypothesis are within Earth System Science.
  • Toby Tyrrell (2013) On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth, Princeton University Press. "On Gaia undertakes the first in-depth investigation of the arguments put forward by Lovelock and others–and concludes that the evidence doesn't stack up in support of Gaia. ... and finds that it is not a credible picture of how life and Earth interact."
    Recommended interview with the author: Interview with Toby Tyrrell, author of "On Gaia": "the Gaia hypothesis does not "hold up in court": it is not consistent with modern scientific evidence and understanding and should therefore be rejected.".
  • Michael Ruse (2013) The Gaia Hypothesis: Science on a Pagan Planet, University of Chicago Press, 288 pages.
    See: youtube lecture about this book: The Gaia Hypothesis is bound to fail because it invokes final causes, ignores natural selection, and incorporates group thinking. Furthermore, cries of "crank science" or "pseudo science" become common when scientists are tense among themselves. And what was very much the case for evolutionary biology around 1980.
  • SOME LIKE IT VERY HOT, From: INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, May/June 2012. "One category, the radioresistants, contains Deinococcus radiodurans, which the environmentalist James Lovelock says is his favourite creature ... It can survive 1,000 times the level of radiation that would kill a human and has been found to exist in the cores of nuclear-power stations. As such levels are not found on the Earth's surface, why it should have such a system is unknown. Deinococcus has a system for constantly repairing its own DNA...". Comment: the article did not mention that there is a connection with Lovelock's opinion about nuclear energy. See also: Fred Hoyle (1983) The Intelligent Universe about Deinococcus radiodurans.
  • James Lovelock (2014) A Rough Ride to the Future: The Next Evolution of Gaia, Allen Lane. Reviewed in Nature 3 Apr 2014 by Tim Lenton:
    • "A Rough Ride to the Future is a more optimistic book than its two predecessors. ... So, how does Lovelock rate our chances of making it through this century? Having heralded the apocalypse in The Revenge of Gaia (Allen Lane, 2006) and backed off a bit in The Vanishing Face of Gaia (Allen Lane, 2009), here he tries to shut the stable door after the horse (climate change) has bolted. He sees no prospect of us collectively reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and has nothing good to say here about geoengineering. That leaves adaptation as the only option.
      Lovelock pictures most of us retreating to high-tech cities protected from the ravages of climate change by air conditioning – if we can afford it. He sees a glimmer of hope that a dwindling supply of cheap fossil-fuel energy may be slowing our exponential growth in material consumption. Meanwhile, to power those high-tech cities, he remains a consistent fan of nuclear power and even shows a soft spot for natural gas, while continuing to critique the weak and intermittent supply of wind energy. He fails to discuss solar power, perhaps because he sees an unlimited supply of renewable energy as a great danger to us and to the planet".
  • A.J.Wood, J.B.Coe (1007) A fitness based analysis of Daisyworld, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Volume 249, Issue 2, 21 November 2007, Pages 190-197.
    • We show that standard methodology from quantitative genetics can be used to predict the stationary states and dynamic behaviour of Daisyworlds. The system regulates its temperature due to the low-level evolutionary dynamics of competition between the thermally coupled daisies, no higher level principle is invoked. A reconciliation of Gaia with evolutionary theory may allow further development of evolutionary arguments for the existence of global self-regulatory systems.
  • Timothy M. Lenton, Bruno Latour (2018) Gaia 2.0, Science, 14 Sep 2018
  • James Lovelock, Bryan Appleyard (2019) Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, Allen Lane. Reviewed: Tim Radford (2019) James Lovelock at 100: the Gaia saga continues. Nature 25 June 2019
  • James E. Lovelock (1919-2022), OBITUARY Nature, 3 Aug 2022.

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Copyright ©G. Korthof 2004 First published: 3 Oct 2004 Updated: 18 Apr 18 Notes/FR: 13 Aug 2022