Visions of Gaia: The role of the organism metaphor in the development of Gaia Theory
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James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory has historically been a controversial theory. Popular with the countercultures and initially not accepted by the scientific community, Gaia has always bordered on pseudoscience. A fair share of the critiques Gaia has attracted are related to Gaia’s central metaphor which likens Gaia to an ‘organism’. This organism metaphor has played an important role in the development of Gaia Theory, and this paper shows how the organism metaphor influenced the scientific discourse surrounding Gaia Theory. The organism metaphor opposed the more reductionistic scientific worldviews of the Neo-Darwinists who critiqued Gaia. Moreover, Gaia’s organism metaphor allows for contradictory interpretations, and this aspect of the organism metaphor can be seen as an explanation as to why Gaia Theory was simultaneously widely discussed and ridiculed by scientists. Because of its contradictory nature, the organism metaphor is arguably too broad for what Lovelock tries to achieve with it, namely being a spearhead for green movements.
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