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The Gaia hypothesis holds that the earth itself is a living organism. Associated most closely with the work of atmospheric chemist James Lovelock and microbiologist Lynn Margulis, the Gaia hypothesis is interpreted by some as a metaphor for how we should think about the earth and by others as a literally true description of the earth.

The Gaia hypothesis can be best understood in contrast to the alternative, which views the earth's biological and abiotic processes as independent of one another. From that perspective, the planet's geophysical processes, from plate tectonics and climate to atmospheric and oceanographic conditions, simply provide the physical context in which life evolves and exists. In contrast, the Gaia hypothesis emphasizes the effects that biological processes have in creating and maintaining geophysical ...

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