III. Ecosmos: A Revolutionary Fertile, Habitable, Solar-Bioplanet Incubator Lifescape
3. Earth Alive: A Cellular GaiaSphere Sustains Her (His) Own Viability
Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten. Revisiting the Gaia Hypothesis: Maximum Entropy, Kauffman’s ‘Fourth Law’ and Physiosemeiosis. http://arxiv.org/abs/1102.3338. In this extensive 2011 paper and bibliography, a senior Frankfurt School of Finance & Management specialist in evolutionary economics proposes that the main driver of earth’s viable lifesphere is an “accumulation of semantic information” as contained in biostructures. This “physiosemeiotic” view is braced by a Peircean philosophy and Kauffman’s self-organizing order. We excerpt the long Abstract for its argument. Please note an affinity with Freeman Dyson’s 2011 comment, search herein.
Recently, (Axel) Kleidon suggested a restatement of the Gaia hypothesis based on Maximum Entropy approaches to the Earth system. Refuting conceptions of Gaia as a homeostatic system, Gaia is seen as a non-equilibrium thermodynamic system which continuously moves away from equilibrium, driven by maximum entropy production which materializes in hierarchically coupled mechanisms of energetic flows via dissipation and physical work. I propose to relate this view with Kauffman’s ‘Fourth Law of Thermodynamics’, which I interpret as a proposition about the accumulation of information in evolutionary processes. I offer a twofold specification of Kauffman’s concept of an ‘autonomous agent’, one as a ‘self-referential heat engine’, and the other in terms of physiosemeiosis, which is a naturalized application of Peirce’s theory of signs emerging from recent biosemiotic research. I argue that the conjunction of these three theoretical sources, Maximum Entropy, Kauffman’s Fourth Law, and physiosemeiosis, allows to show that the Kleidon restatement of the Gaia hypothesis is equivalent to the proposition that the biosphere is a system of generating, processing and storing information, thus directly treating information as a physical phenomenon. In this view, there is a fundamental ontological continuity between the biological processes and the human economy, as both are seen as information processing and entropy producing systems. As with other previous transitions in evolution, the human economy leverages the mechanisms by which Gaia moves further away from equilibrium. This implies that information and natural resources or energy are not substitutes, i.e. the knowledge economy continues to build on the same physical principles as the biosphere, with energy and information being two aspects of the same underlying physical process.
Huggett, R. J. Ecosphere, Biosphere, or Gaia? Global Ecology and Biogeography. 8/425, 1999. The University of Manchester geographer compares the views of Teilhard whose biosphere is the totality of organic life, and Vernadsky to whom the biosphere was the whole animate zone from substrata to stratosphere. After noting a later Gaian sense of a living, self-regulating planet, the term of ecosphere is proposed, closer to Teilhard, as the most workable option.
Hystad, Grethe, et al. Statistical Analysis of Mineral Diversity and Distribution: Earth’s Mineralogy is Unique. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 426/154, 2015. Coauthor Robert Hazen, a Carnegie Institution of Washington geophysicist, has been the leading discoverer that earthly life and mineral forms coevolve (search). Here, with Hystad and Robert Downs, University of Arizona, and Edward Grew, University of Maine, this finding is expanded to exoplanet dimensions. In recognition of nature’s interplay of chemical determinisms and contingencies, Earth’s own mineralogy, while attuned to our human presence, is unlikely to be repeated on another bioworld. A companion article by these authors is Mineral Ecology: Chance and Necessity in the Mineral Diversity of Terrestrial Planets in the Canadian Mineralogist (53/295, 2015). See also On the Origin of Sequence by Peter van der Gulik (search, 2015).
Earth's mineralogical diversity arises from both deterministic processes and frozen accidents. We apply statistical methods and comprehensive mineralogical databases to investigate chance versus necessity in mineral diversity-distribution relationships. Hundreds of mineral species, including most common rock-forming minerals, distinguish an “Earth-like” planet from other terrestrial bodies. However, most of Earth's ∼5000 mineral species are rare, known from only a few localities. We demonstrate that, in spite of deterministic physical, chemical, and biological factors that control most of our planet's mineral diversity, Earth's mineralogy is unique in the cosmos. (Abstract)
Irrgang, Christopher, et al. Towards Neural Earth System Modelling by Integrating Artificial Intelligence. Nature Machine Intelligence. August, 2021. Seven senior researchers posted in Germany, the UK, and the USA including Niklas Boers and Elizabeth Barnes scope out this meld and upgrade of Earth system science with deep learning frontier methods. By this union, might this Gaia bioworld be able attain a global brain facility which cam proceed to take over and sustain itself?
Earth system models (ESMs) can help quantify the physical, geologic state of our planet and predict how it might change under ongoing anthropogenic forcing. In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has been used to augment or even replace classical ESM tasks, raising hopes that AI could solve grand challenges of climate science. In this Perspective we survey the recent achievements and limitations of both process-based models and AI methods. We then propose a new approach in which deep neural networks and ESMs are integrated as learning, self-validating ESM–network hybrids. (Abstract excerpt)
Jabr, Ferris. The Earth is just as Alive as You Are. New York Times. April 21, 2019. On Easter Sunday, a science writer makes a vibrant case, braced by new findings such as how even microbes can have an effect on plate tectonics, that the Gaia theory of a self-maintaining biosphere ought to be fully revived. As readers know, the view that living systems have long acted together to maintain a conducive world has had both advocates and detractors (see Michael Ruse). As so many stresses beset planet and person, maybe it is time to realize that our rarest abode is in actual fact a living organism.
In his early writing, Dr. Lovelock occasionally granted Gaia too much agency, which encouraged the misperception that the living Earth was yearning for some optimal state. But the essence of his hypothesis — the idea that life transforms and in many cases regulates the planet — proved prescient and profoundly true. We and all living creatures are not just inhabitants of Earth, we are Earth — an outgrowth of its physical structure and an engine of its global cycles. Although some scientists still recoil at the mention of Gaia, these truths have become part of mainstream science.
Jankovic, Srdja, et al. Gaia as Solaris: An Alternative Default Evolutionary Trajectory. arXiv:2201.04956. In an entry to appear in Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, SJ, University Children’s Hospital, Belgrade, Ana Katic, University of Belgrade and Milan Cirkovic, Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade (search) provide an imaginative essay as a wider vista by which to view a conducive, biospherical planet upon which living systems can form, evolve and sustain themselves. By so doing they take this self-vitalizing quality which distinguishes our especial Earth to further degrees of organic vitality and sensory implication. With regard to S. Lem’s early vision, this temporal emergence can then be seen to achieve an enveloping cerebral noosphere with a mind of its own. The authors point is that enhanced appreciations can inspire a more fruitful search for intelligent exoplanet civilizations, if they do exist, and are able to survive.
Since Earth-like planets are known to fill the universe, whereof most older than the Earth, it serves to ask what their evolutionary outcomes might be. In order to assess the specialty or mediocrity of biospheric evolution, we need to consider advances in astrobiology such as (i) the history of habitable planet formation in the Galaxy, and (ii) the vital importance of "Gaian" feedback loops and temporal windows for early life within its physical environment. But here we view an alternative macroevolutionary pathway that results in a functional integration of all sub-planetary ecosystems, so to give rise to a true superorganism. In regard, we turn to a prior guide for this scenario by the Polish novelist Stanisław Lem in his 1961 novel Solaris. (Abstract)
Kaltenegger, Lisa. Searching for Earth’s History among Earth-like Worlds. Mercury. 36/1, 2007. The steadily increasing ability to detect earth-size planets orbiting distant suns, along with their atmospheric, geological, and thermal signatures, can provide novel insights into how our home world came to form and evolve.
King, Roger and Ronald Birk. Developing Earth System Science Knowledge to Manage Earth’s Natural Resources. Computing in Science and Engineering. January/February, 2004. A survey article by NASA scientists in a special issue on “Grand Challenges in Earth System Modeling.”
Earth system science, the study of how the Earth works as a system of continents, oceans, atmosphere, ice, and life, is based on our ability to measure key parameters and integrate that knowledge into Earth system models. (47)
Kleidon, Alex and Ralph Lorenz, eds. Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics and the Production of Entropy. Berlin: Springer, 2005. An exploration of the Maximum Entropy Production concept as the best way to quantify how the earth’s viable biosphere regulates and sustains itself. Following Kleidon and Lorenz’s earlier work, an array of authors such as Eric Chaisson, Roderick Dewar, Robert Ulanowicz, Charles Lineweaver, Hisashi Osawa, David Schwartzman, Timothy Lenton, and others review issues and aspects from thermal gradients to ocean circulation, atmosphere interactions, human impacts, and so on. A good summary of this pertinent work can be found in John Whitfield's article "Order Out of Chaos" in Nature for August 18, 2005.
Kleidon, Axel. Beyond Gaia: Thermodynamics of Life and Earth System Functioning. Climatic Change. 66/3, 2004. A leading researcher in this field proposes that the biosphere regulates and sustains itself by a propensity to reach a state of Maximum Entropy Production (MEP). This state provides the most available potential energy to allow increased “degrees of freedom” so a biological diversity to prosper.
It is concluded that the resulting behavior of a biotic Earth at a state of MEP may well lead to near-homeostatic behavior of the Earth system on long time scales, as stated by the Gaia hypothesis. (271) Besides providing a fundamental perspective on homeostasis, the MEP hypothesis is a result of the application of the MEP hypothesis also provides a framework to understand why photosynthetic life would be a highly probable emergent characteristic of the Earth system and why the diversity of life is an important characteristic of Earth system functioning. (271)
Kleidon, Axel. How does the Earth System Generate and Maintain Thermodynamic Disequilibrium and What does it Imply for the Future of the Planet? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 370/1012, 2012. Kleidon’s web page as Director of the Biospheric Theory and Modelling group at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry lists his credits as mathematician, physicist and meteorologist and research interests as “atmosphere-biosphere interactions, geographic patterns of plant biodiversity, global vegetation modelling, non-equilibrium thermodynamics of Earth system processes, Gaia hypothesis, Earth system evolution, natural limits of renewable energies, geoengineering.” Indeed, with many colleagues, his well regarded papers on the nonlinear thermodynamics of life continue apace (search here and his website). In this case, new appreciations of a “planetary hierarchy of free energy generation, transfer and dissipation,” is seen as a way to detect habitable exo-worlds. As a consequence then, an imperative is defined for humankind to intentionally realign the energy usage of its consumptive civilization to enhance such a dynamic, viable homeostasis.
I provided a holistic description of the functioning of the whole Earth system that is grounded in the generation, transfer and dissipation of free energy from external forcings to geochemical cycling and the associated fundamental limits to these rates. Since free energy generation is needed to maintain a disequilibrium state, this description allows us to understand why the Earth system is maintained far from equilibrium without violating the second law of thermodynamics. I showed how biotic activity generates substantial amounts of chemical free energy by exploiting free energy in solar photons that is not accessible to purely physical heat engines. Hence, Lovelock’s notion of chemical disequilibrium within the Earth’s atmosphere as a sign for widespread life can be substantiated and quantified. This paper can hence be seen as a direct continuation of the work by James Lovelock. (1036)
Klinger, Lee. Gaia and Complexity. Schneider, Stephen, et al, eds. Scientists Debate Gaia. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004. A geochemist and philosopher employs complex network principles as a way to better understand earth’s biotic mantle as a living entity. The dynamic biosphere is not only a complex adaptive system (see Lenton below) but exemplifies a self-organized criticality. This state is characterized by fractal self-similarity at each geological and ecological instance. The deep source of these qualities is a universal complementary of symmetry-building or breaking which imparts yin and yang attributes. A rare visionary contribution.
A conceptual model of the duality in nature that elaborates on the symmetry, asymmetry, and fractality of systems is shown to be readily extendable to a wide range of phenomena, from molecules of water to planets in our solar system. Furthermore, this model shows how certain Eastern traditions of thought, especially the Chinese principle of yin-yang, closely correspond to patterns in symmetry, entropy, free energy, and fractality expressed in nature. (187) Complexity represents a collaboration across disciplines of related theories that link the phenomena of self-organization, self-replication, life, evolution, morphogenesis, chaos, and more into a unified set of principles to explain the emergence of order in systems. (187)