Lynn Margulis


American Author, Evolutionary Biologist and Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst known for Theory on the Origin of Eukaryotic Organelles or Endosymbiotic Theory, William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement

Author Quotes

[History will ultimately judge neo-Darwinism as ] a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon biology.

Life learned early on to recognize itself.

The Gaia hypothesis states that the temperature of the planet, the oxidation state and other chemistry of all of the gases of the lower atmosphere (except helium, argon, and other nonreactive ones) are produced and maintained by the sum of life. We explored how this could be. How could the temperature of the planet be regulated by living beings? How could the atmospheric gas composition ? the 20-percent oxygen and the one to two parts per million methane, for example ? be actively maintained by living matter?

All I ask is that we compare human consciousness with spirochete ecology.

Life on earth is more like a verb. It repairs, maintains, re-creates, and outdoes itself.

The urgency to mate persists in all people as in all other mammals because of the evolutionary drive to continue the species, the inborn imperative for genes to reproduce and hormonal differences that evolved over millions of years.

All living beings, not just animals, but plants and microorganisms, perceive. To survive, an organic being must perceive - it must seek, or at least recognize, food and avoid environmental danger.

Life on earth is such a good story you cannot afford to miss the beginning... Beneath our superficial differences we are all of us walking communities of bacteria. The world shimmers, a pointillist landscape made of tiny living beings.

There is no scientific reason to think that we, even with space travel, are going to survive as a species forever, certainly not by biting off the hand that feeds us, which is exactly what we are doing.

All of us from fertile egg to embryo to corpse, are exactly that: warm, wet, furry animals compelled by the sexuality of our forefathers and foremothers to be, either directly or indirectly, our own exciting and excitable, provocative and provocable selves.

Lovelock would say that Earth is an organism. I disagree with this phraseology. No organism eats its own waste. I prefer to say that Earth is an ecosystem, one continuous enormous ecosystem composed of many component ecosystems. Lovelock's position is to let the people believe that Earth is an organism, because if they think it is just a pile of rocks they kick it, ignore it, and mistreat it. If they think Earth is an organism, they'll tend to treat it with respect. To me, this is a helpful cop-out, not science. Yet I do agree with Lovelock when he claims that most of the things scientists do are not science either. And I realize that by taking the stance he does he is more effective than I am in communicating Gaian ideas.

To me, the human move to take responsibility for the living Earth is laughable - the rhetoric of the powerless. The planet takes care of us, not we of it. Our self-inflated moral imperative to guide a wayward Earth, or heal our sick planet, is evidence of our immense capacity for self delusion. Rather, we need to protect ourselves from ourselves.

There's not a single chemical ability present in animals and plants that isn't already present in bacteria. The only thing that makes an organism unique is the way it combines them.

Of all the organisms on earth, only bacteria are individuals.

I was taught over and over again that the accumulation of random mutations led to evolutionary change – led to new species. I believed it until I looked for evidence.

The notion of saving the planet has nothing to do with intellectual honesty or science. The fact is that the planet was here long before us and will be here long after us. The planet is running fine. What people are talking about is saving themselves and saving their middle-class lifestyles and saving their cash flow.

The idea that we are “stewards of the earth” is another symptom of human arrogance. Imagine yourself with the task of overseeing your body’s physical processes. Do you understand the way it works well enough to keep all its systems in operation? Can you make your kidneys function? . . . Are you conscious of the blood flow through your arteries? . . . We are unconscious of most of our body’s processes, thank goodness, because we’d screw it up if we weren’t. The human body is so complex, with so many parts... The idea that we are consciously caretaking such a large and mysterious system is ludicrous.

The major source of evolutionary novelty is the acquisition of symbionts - the whole thing then edited by natural selection. It is never just the accumulation of mutations.

Evolution is no linear family tree, but change in the single multidimensional being that has grown to cover the entire surface of Earth.

Our own role in evolution is transient and expendable in the context of the rich layer of interliving beings forming the planet's surface... Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking.

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American Author, Evolutionary Biologist and Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst known for Theory on the Origin of Eukaryotic Organelles or Endosymbiotic Theory, William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement