In The Gaia Hypothesis: Science on a Pagan Planet
(University of Chicago Press, 2013), Michael Ruse
offers a fascinating history of the Gaia Hypothesis in the context of the transformations of professional and public engagements with science and technology in the 1960s. Based on an archive that spans texts, oral histories, and interviews with some of its major figures, The Gaia Hypothesis
charts the development of the idea of the earth as a self-regulating organism. Ruse explores the development of the idea by Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock, and analyzes the nature and bases of the reactions to Margulis and Lovelock's ideas from within different scientific and public communities. All of this is contextualized in a deep history of the different world concepts and philosophies of nature that informed the heated debate over Gaia, considering the idea of the earth as organism and nature as a self-regulating system in a range of texts that include Plato's Timaeus
, the work of German idealists, and the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, among many others. (The attentive reader will also note a surprising connection between Gaia and William Golding's Lord of the Flies
.) The book is full of empathetic, insightful, and often very funny portraits of Margulis, Lovelock, and a community of other figures associated with Gaia and its histories. It is also a wonderfully lively and readable narrative. Enjoy!