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Guest Lecture: Dr. Michael Ruse - The Gaia Hypothesis

February 19, 2015 7:00 PM - February 19, 2015 8:30 PM   |   Location: Chapel of the Abiding Presence

This event is free and open to the public.

Specializing in the philosophy of biology, Dr. Ruse will discuss the Gaia hypothesis in an interdisciplinary presentation discussing the relationship between science and religion, including the creation-evolution debate.

The Gaia Hypothesis

In 1965 English scientist James Lovelock had a flash of insight: the Earth is not just teeming with life; the Earth, in some sense, is life. He mulled this revolutionary idea over for several years, first with his close friend the novelist William Golding, and then in an extensive collaboration with the American scientist Lynn Margulis. In the early 1970s, he finally went public with the Gaia hypothesis, the idea that everything happens for an end: the good of planet Earth. Lovelock and Margulis were scorned by professional scientists, but the general public enthusiastically embraced Lovelock and his hypothesis. People joined Gaia groups; churches had Gaia services, sometimes with new music written especially for the occasion. There was a Gaia atlas, Gaia gardening, Gaia herbs, Gaia retreats, Gaia networking, and much more. And the range of enthusiasts was—and still is—broad.

Ruse’s presentation will include slides, a short history of mechanism and organicism in the life sciences, and thoughts on how to distinguish science from pseudoscience. He will reflect on why it is that a theory of the Earth as a living, self-regulating organism has been so immensely popular among the lay public while at the same time drawing harsh criticism from most professional scientists. In short, it will be an interdisciplinary presentation that should have something of interest for anyone.

About Dr. Ruse

Michael Ruse is the Lucyle T. Wekmeister Professor and Director of the History and Philosophy of Science Program at Florida State University. Before coming to Florida State in 2000, he taught at the University of Guelph for 35 years. Ruse received his B.A. from the University of Bristol in 1962, his M.A. from McMaster University in 1964, and his Ph.D. from the University of Bristol in 1970. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he holds honorary doctorates from the University of Bergen, McMaster University, and the University of New Brunswick. In September of 2014 he was made Honorary Doctor of Science by University College London. He has given talks all over the world.

Ruse is a philosopher of science who specializes in the philosophy of biology. He is well known for his work on Darwin, the demarcation problem, i.e., the problem of how to distinguish science from non-science and in particular science from pseudoscience, the relationship between science and religion, and the creation-evolution debate. Ruse was a key witness for the plaintiff in the hugely influential 1981 case of McLean v. Arkansas. At issue was a state law mandating that “creation science” be given equal time with evolution in science classes in the Arkansas school system. Federal Judge William Overton ruled that “creation science” was not science, using a definition of science based on Ruse’s testimony at the trial. This ruling proved to be extremely instrumental in subsequent rulings on the teaching of creationism in public schools.

Sponsored by the Departments of Philosophy, Biology & Brown Enrichment Funds.