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Sulfur Finding May Hold Key to Gaia Theory of Earth as Living Organism

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posted on May, 16 2012 @ 04:17 PM

Is Earth really a sort of giant living organism as the Gaia hypothesis predicts? A new discovery made at the University of Maryland may provide a key to answering this question. This key of sulfur could allow scientists to unlock heretofore hidden interactions between ocean organisms, atmosphere, and land -- interactions that might provide evidence supporting this famous theory.


I have always been fascinated and intrigued with the 'Gaia theory',We have probably all heard the analogies & phrases of the Earth "shaking off humanity like a bad case of fleas" because of what we are doing to our planet & it's ecosystems.

The implications of such an amazing discovery would be unparalleled in humanities history & science.The Earth,a sentient,self regulating organism...Alive.Created whether by natural evolutionary means or by some unknown advanced intelligence in the grand scheme of things is another argument ,for another time.

Whether you lean closer to the scientific or metaphysical origins and explanations,One still has to entertain such notions if the 'Gaia theory' were to be proven an absolute certainty.

So what exactly is the 'Gaia theory'?

Gaia hypothesis:

The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life on the planet.

The scientific investigation of the Gaia hypothesis focuses on observing how the biosphere and the evolution of life forms contribute to the stability of global temperature, ocean salinity, oxygen in the atmosphere and other factors of habitability in a preferred homeostasis. The Gaia hypothesis was formulated by the chemist James Lovelock and co-developed by the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s.

Initially received with hostility by the scientific community, it is now studied in the disciplines of geophysiology and Earth system science, and some of its principles have been adopted in fields like biogeochemistry and systems ecology. This ecological hypothesis has also inspired analogies and various interpretations in social sciences, politics, and religion under a vague philosophy and movement.


One of the early predictions of this hypothesis was that there should be a sulfur compound made by organisms in the oceans that was stable enough against oxidation in water to allow its transfer to the air. Either the sulfur compound itself, or its atmospheric oxidation product, would have to return sulfur from the sea to the land surfaces. The most likely candidate for this role was deemed to be dimethylsulfide.

The research was done by University of Maryland's Harry Oduro, UMD geochemist James Farquhar and marine biologist Kathryn Van Alstyne of Western Washington University. (Their study appears in this week's Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).)

At the very end of the article they go on to state -

"Harry's work establishes that we should expect to see variability in the sulfur isotope signatures of these compounds in the oceans under different environmental conditions and for different organisms. I think this will ultimately be very important for using isotopes to trace the cycling of these compounds in the surface oceans as well as the flux of dimethylsulfide to the atmosphere. The ability to do this could help us answer important climate questions, and ultimately better predict climate changes. And it may even help us to better trace connections between dimethylsulfide emissions and sulfate aerosols, ultimately testing a coupling in the Gaia hypothesis," Farquhar says.

[ Emphasis added by me ]

They state that this could ultimately test the 'Gaia theory' to either be true or false.Personally I am very interested and look forward to their findings.

At the very least,they will have a much better understanding of climate and understanding in order to predict climate changes in general.Which In my opinion is a win/win outcome,if nothing else.

Further reading about the 'Gaia hypothesis',That I highly recommend taking the time to check out if you are interested to learn more -

- Philosophical implications of the Gaia Theory

- Understanding Gaia Theory

I am curious what my fellow ATS members make of this article and the general implications if such a theory were to be proven.

What do you believe? Is the Earth alive? an actually sentient,self regulating system.
Do you think that such a theory is completely out of the realm of possibility.?

I look forward to your replies

ETA: Here is a really good thread on 'the Gaia hypothesis' - Earth is a self-aware living creature
edit on 16-5-2012 by PerfectPerception because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 04:27 PM
Do you think the human society would treat the environment any differently even if it was proven 100% that the world is an actual living organism?

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 04:46 PM
It makes scence to me. Especially as life on earth is so diverse. Like makes like and grows/dies, we can be healthy bacteria or deadly, Only when we know we have the choice. Big picture, We paint. Will it be spoilt, or will it be a master piece. Or will we have to try and save it after its been spoilt. Maybe to late. If mother earth isn't alive, she maybe one day with concious AI.

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 04:52 PM
reply to post by PsychoReaper4

I can answer for myself, yes. Would you? We act cos the way we are taught. U be the teacher. We all know deep down what we need to do. Money makes us desire something un-natural. Twists our mind ever so slightly. Desire nature to provide.

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 04:53 PM
Severely doubt this to be honest

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 04:55 PM

Originally posted by PsychoReaper4
Do you think the human society would treat the environment any differently even if it was proven 100% that the world is an actual living organism?

That is a great question,I was thinking about adding something like your question to the OP.

I can only speak for myself. I honestly cannot answer that question or speak for everyone in this regard.

I think it would definitely have an effect on humanities actions and choices if they were to know that the Earth was sentient.

I would hope it would. I know it would effect me personally.

Then again,even without scientific conclusive evidence, I try to live my life and make choices that respect & cherish the Earth.

Truth of the matter is this: it is irrelevant whether the earth is alive or not,we should be taking care of our planet/home,not polluting & destroying it. IMHO.

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 05:18 PM
reply to post by Wifibrains

I personally don't believe anyone would believe it and go on with their own business.

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 05:19 PM
reply to post by PerfectPerception

You have a good head on your shoulders man.

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 05:36 PM
reply to post by PsychoReaper4

Your probably right, you can say the same thing a thousand times in a thousand different ways, but to most only one, will make scence. When we open our perceptions, the metaphore is always the same.

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 06:08 PM
I don't think necessarily that the Earth is a Living organism, rather that life in general, through natural selection develops the necessary conditions for Life to flourish on Earth. The sum of the parts make up far more than all of the individual organisms. Life finds a way to flourish and in doing so, creates the optimal conditions for life to continue.

Too much of something in the atmosphere or ocean? Life will develop a "scrubber" to take it back down to optimal levels for life to flourish. Even mass extinction events couldn't snuff out life and it's filling of every niche available. The only major threat is a lack of biodiversity and that only lengthens the process till life can branch out once again.

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 06:30 PM
When people were first talking about the theory in my own experience, I thought they were completely nuts. They made it sound as if they thought the earth was basically an "animal" of some sort and all the living things on it, plants, animals, bacteria, etc were like parasites living on this other "animal" and it sounded absolutely ludicrous.
Since then (many years ago), it's come to light a little more as a "cooperative ecosystem" where all the life forms depend on one another. The orb itself wasn't a living creature with its heart at the core and blood pumping through the volcanoes and talking to the other planets on the phone

Lately I've seen the concept of one species reaching extinction would have a severe impact on other species due to the food chain as well as what that species may have produced. That made much more sense than the initial reaction many years ago.
There has been a lot of talk in the past few years about what would happen if we lost the honeybee. How pollination would be severly taxed, how it would affect the foodchain, whether it could, in essence, wipe out life. Those theories do have merit. I don't know about the validity and haven't really researched it much as I've put my effort into other things in my own area, but it is interesting.

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 07:12 PM
'It's life Jim - but not as we know it!'

I find the Gaia theory very interesting and look forward to checking out those links, been meaning to find out more about it. Need more time dammit!

We would be foolish to believe that out time of being dominant species here will last forever. Mother Earth would appear to have her ways of adjusting the balance of things - and an itch that needs scratching!

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 07:16 PM
reply to post by Wifibrains

To me it just seems the human race isn't ready to accept that the world we live on might be a living organism until it decides to "get rid of us", then that's when everyone will be flipping sh*t screaming towards the skies, "OH GAWD, WHY IS THIS HAPPENIN!!"

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 07:20 PM
The earth is alive and it's life is composed of every living thing on it. That includes man but man's populations are dwarfed by the populations of other organisms on the planet. Collective consciousness can be dangerous. Some of us are still able to understand the earth and it's not those who you would expect. Gaia is going to reduce our populations drastically in the next couple of years one way and another.
edit on 16-5-2012 by rickymouse because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 07:23 PM
Appreciate the replies and differing views pertaining to this subject

I will reiterate here what I have said often on this site albeit in other ways:

I am consistently amused at humanities arrogance.

We tend to be curious beings that have the need to explain & understand everything under the sun.take science for instance, it should be applauded in it's search for finding the answers that we seek,although it must be said it is not without it's own faults & limitations.

There have been plenty of examples throughout history where science was proven wrong.

Look no further than the cliche "the world was once believed to be flat"

Want further examples for reference?

- Top 10 Most Famous Scientific Theories (That Turned out to be Wrong)

- Science Mistakes

My point is not that science is bad or that we should abolish science or our pursuit to learn and understand.

It is only to remind and accentuate that we have been wrong about many things before.Humanity collectively has been wrong.Not to single out science.Hubris is a slippery slope.

We have a deep rooted desire to know where we come from. where we are going once this mortal life expires or if life's end is final.We want to know "are we alone? or is there anyone else out there in the universe? "

There is nothing wrong with asking questions and seeking answers but I must emphasize my personal belief that we should never prematurely refute or discard any idea/theory.(One day it could be the difference between life and death.)

We need to humble ourselves,realize we do not yet have all the answers,change our paradigm.

I believe Socrates had it right when he said: "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing".

Call me an imaginative open minded optimist .I do not blindly believe or disbelieve.I also know that I nor anyone on this planet has the answers to everything...and just when we think we may believe we know something with certainty,wham!,back to the drawing board.

We only have our own minds as a barometer to compare to.Being the higher thinking life forms of the planet.

We are still finding new species each and every year within our rain forests or in our oceans.

Here is a nice bit of trivia -

The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface and contains 97 percent of the planet's water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored.

We have barely even skimmed the surface of our own planet.Let alone it's depths. to even fathom the complexities,oddities and vastness of space and the cosmos is an understatement.

So please forgive my indifference, when I see anyone say we know for sure of anything or "that's impossible" that I adamantly have to disagree.

I am merely saying remain open minded,do not let our desire to know and explain everything block or distort potential realities and possibilities yet to be understood and/or discovered.

I believe this is relevant -
" There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. "

edit on 16-5-2012 by PerfectPerception because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 16 2012 @ 08:18 PM
reply to post by PerfectPerception

I would find it hard to believe that the entire planet is somehow alive.

The earth would become a gestalt. A intelligence.

But what would earth interact with? Other planets?

I can see how human cells + non-human cells = human being.

But it's hard to see how ocean life + lithosphere life + biosphere life = earth being.

Regardless, science is the only way to resolve this. Not metaphysics.

I"m not ruling out a metaphysical hocus pocus, but to resolve this, it has to be understood.

If it's metaphysical then it won't be understood. Thus, we NEED science to resolve it.

It's metaphysical precisely because we don't understand it scientifically yet.
edit on 16-5-2012 by jonnywhite because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 17 2012 @ 02:36 AM
I think Earth is conscious being as well as the Universe itself. I don't think that human beings will ever be able to perceive that because I don't think it's perceptible to human beings. Most of us are so deluded that we don't think about how everything we know could be a complete lie.

posted on May, 17 2012 @ 03:54 AM
I personally cannot understand how anyone who sincerely believes in evolution and/or abiogensis would not be willing to even contemplate 'Gaia hypothesis' .

Abiogenesis has never been reproduced in a laboratory or viewed naturally in nature -

To date, scientists have not observed abiogenesis happening in nature, nor have they been able to create a lifeform through controlled experiments. In fact, reaction conditions resembling the Earth's early conditions have even failed to produce the most basic polymers that all lifeforms possess (protein, DNA, RNA, etc.).

It is now understood that the probability of even a single protein forming through purely natural processes exceeds what is acceptable based on the law of probability. It is also important to understand that and the origin of life in reliant upon chance alone, since natural selection could play no part until a self-replicating cell had been formed.


Really read that quote,that is how incredible life is.It is a miracle- a gift - sacred.

I do not believe in accidents or coincidences.I do not know exactly what happened but I do know it was not by chance.IMO.

If something that miraculous could happen,why not a sentient,self reproducing,regulating life form ... Gaia.

We are mere infants compared to the intricate and unfathomable universe of potential and possibility.

edit on 17-5-2012 by PerfectPerception because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 17 2012 @ 05:13 AM
reply to post by PerfectPerception

Reminds me of this. Take a look.

Especially from 3min 40sec.

edit on 17-5-2012 by Wifibrains because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 17 2012 @ 05:43 AM
the sinus-clearing 'primordial soup' out of which the first crystals evolved into life thanks alot to the 2 main biogenic Elements - sufur & phosphorus - come to mind!

as does dimethyl sulfone (msm)

and the fact every living cell needs sulfur!

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