Seeking info on plague theory

Allen Brown browna at
Thu Jun 8 08:56:00 EST 1995

In article <maga-060695085956 at>,
Giovanni Maga <maga at> wrote:

>In article <3qp3c4$mii at>, at
>(Christopher Haley) wrote:
>> Hello all,
>>     I am currently writing a paper for school on some of the killer
>> viruses. I have heard about something called "GAYA OR GIA OR MABE GAEA"
>> theorism.
>>    [material deleted]
>> Thank you, T.Page at
>The spelling is GAIA, it comes from ancient greek and means earth. The
>theory you are referring consists basically in viewing the planet earth as
>a living entity, with all the living organisms within (but not humans
>strangely) connected through a kind of network and able to *fight back* at
>our attempts to corrupt it. It is obviously a pure speculative theory
>without any scientific fundament, but some groups of green activists like
>it.  [material deleted]

As G. Maga wrote, the theory is called the "Gaia Hypothesis"; it is named 
for the Greek goddess of the Earth.  The Gaia hypothesis was developed by
British chemist James E. Lovelock and American microbiologist Lynn Margulis.
The gist of Gaia, as Maga wrote, is that all life on Earth can be viewed as
a single entity, a superorganism, that not only adapts to, but interacts with
and controls the physical world.  This system of life and earth acts to 
create, maintain, and regulate conditions that are hospitable to life as
a whole.

The theory is appealing to many environmentalists.  Moreover, the
philosophical and religious implications of Gaia appeal to others.
The original formulation of the theory placed humanity as just another
species--no *worse* nor better than any other.  Some adherents of Gaia, 
however, have a disparaging view of our role in Gaia.  These people see
humans and our activities as deleterious to the rest of life on the planet.
In other words we have run amok like cancer cells.  And like our bodies,
Gaia has an "immune" response to lessen, if not eliminate, human impact.
This is where deadly viruses and plagues have a role.  But as I wrote,
this is *not* part of Lovelock's and Margulis' hypothesis.

Gaia is controversial, and it has been debated for years.  At the very
least it has gotten geological scientists to pay more attention to the
interplay between the planet's biota and the physical environment.

Here are some sources for more information.

Lovelock, James E.  _Gaia, a new look at life on earth_.  New York:  
Oxford University Press.  1987 (and 1979).

Lovelock, James E.  _The ages of Gaia:  a biography of our living
earth_.  New York:  Norton.  1988.

Margulis, Lynn & Dorion Sagan.  _Microcosmos:  four billion years of
microbial evolution_.  New York:  Summit Books.  1986.

Joseph, Lawrence E.  _Gaia:  the growth of an idea_.  New York:  St.
Martin's Press.  1990.

There is a Library of Congress subject heading--GAIA HYPOTHESIS--that
you can use to search your local library's collection.

There is an FTP site with some newsgroup articles about Gaia at: 

Finally, the PBS series "Nova" aired a program on Gaia entitled "Goddess
of the Earth."  It aired on 1/28/86.  Contact WGBH in Boston or Journal
Graphics in Denver for more information.

I hope this is enough to get you started.  Good luck. 

Allen Brown
browna at
Beaverton, OR

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