The CEED Wilson lecture 2017

Reverse Gaia Hypothesis: Life as a Geological Process, lecture by Professor John Hernlund from the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI), Tokyo Institute of Technology.

John Hernlund

Many major scientific revolutions were rooted in changes in our ways of thinking about the context of humankind in the universe that ran counter to cherished traditions. For example, the Copernican revolution challenged the notion that Earth was the center of the universe, and the theory of evolution championed by Darwin toppled paradigms in which humankind held a special divine status above all other living things. While Sigmund Freud famously penned these episodes as “great blows to human self-esteem,” in fact they ultimately revealed a deeper truth and beauty that underlies the nature of the universe, and opened the door to further advances and exciting discoveries.
In this Wilson Lecture, I will argue that we still have remaining “sacred cows” that are holding up progress in understanding subjects such as the nature and origin of life, its relationship to planets, and the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. In other words, certain ways of thinking are preventing us to marrying Copernican and Darwinian conceptions into an even broader scientific revolution. In particular, we have drawn an artificial boundary between the living and non-living world, even though they share the same characteristics and process the very same matter. Future progress toward the next revolution relies on our ability to be more flexible in our ways of thinking, to challenge and tear down the artificial barriers that chain us to old and stale conceptions. We need to intellectually adapt to the new era of exoplanet exploration, and the coming great discovery of life elsewhere in the universe. 


The lecture is in English and is open to all interested.

About the Wilson Lectures

The Wilson Lectures are given by the Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED), University of Oslo. Tuzo Wilson pioneered plate tectonics and hotspot concepts and this annual distinguished CEED Lecture is therefore named "The Wilson Lecture".

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Tags: geology
Published Aug. 9, 2017 8:41 AM - Last modified Aug. 14, 2017 1:39 PM