British biologist, James Lovelock, seems to view humanity as an infection of mommy Earth. While many Darwinists may wish to crawl back into the womb of mommy nature, as mynym has noted, some want to eradicate the infection of humanity within their deified mother.
“Individuals occasionally suffer a disease called polycythaemia, an overpopulation of red blood cells. By analogy, Gaia’s illness could be called polyanthroponemia, where humans overpopulate until they do more harm than good,” Lovelock writes. He says the cure won’t come until the human tribe is trimmed back from its current 6.8 billion to, say, 1 billion people.
Others see mother nature as a mean woman who will take care of herself by killing us off when we get out of hand. Paleontologist Peter Ward seems to find this view of mommy more compelling.
“I hypothesize that life and its processes, together often referred to as ‘Mother Nature,’ was, is, and will be anything but a good mother to her many evolved and evolving species,” Ward contends in his new book, “The Medea Hypothesis.”
Gaia vs. Medea … that sounds like the start of a philosophical catfight.
Ward, however, says he’s not just trying to pick a fight with the 90-year-old Lovelock. “Most every scientist is trying to ‘pick a fight’ with another scientist,” he told me today. “We try to do it in a collegial fashion. … I’m trying to do science, but I’m also trying to point out that there has never been opposition in a formal sense – it’s been Gaia, Gaia, nothing but Gaia.”
So the scientific debate here seems to be whether mommy E is kindly, but infected, versus potty training conflicts projected onto the environment.
While Lovelock uses “Gaia” to refer to Earth’s biosphere as a kindly mother goddess, Ward uses “Medea” as a reference to the mother in Greek myth who killed her own children. Ward says life, like Medea, eventually sows the seeds of its own near-destruction – over and over again. “Life boils up and bubbles up, and through its own waste products and activities makes the planet no longer inhabitable,” he said.
So, the important question seems to be, shall mommy kill us with her flatus?
Ward’s “rotten-eggstinction” scenario begins with a shift in climate that sparks blooms of sulfur-loving microbes in the world’s oceans. Their belches of hydrogen sulfide – the gas commonly associated with rotten eggs – triggers a sequence of events that end with a global poisoning of marine and land species. (This scenario is detailed in Ward’s previous book, “Under a Green Sky.”)
In “The Medea Hypothesis,” Ward sketches out similar biocidal scenarios for other extinction events. He goes with the conventional wisdom that a huge asteroid touched off the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction that killed off the dinosaurs, but says continent-spanning forest fires most likely sparked a global winter that finished the job. Thus, he writes, “it could be argued that the effects of life magnified the extent of the extinction.”
One certainly hopes not! However, we must await the outcomes of future science to know for certain.