Gaia As Solaris: An Alternative Default Evolutionary Trajectory

©NASA

Habitable exoplanet

Now that we know that Earth-like planets are ubiquitous in the universe, as well as that most of them are much older than the Earth, it is justified to ask to what extent evolutionary outcomes on other such planets are similar, or indeed commensurable, to the outcomes we perceive around us.

In order to assess the degree of specialty or mediocrity of our trajectory of biospheric evolution, we need to take into account recent advances in theoretical astrobiology, in particular (i) establishing the history of habitable planets' formation in the Galaxy, and (ii) understanding the crucial importance of "Gaian" feedback loops and temporal windows for the interaction of early life with its physical environment.

Hereby we consider an alternative macroevolutionary pathway that may result in tight functional integration of all sub-planetary ecosystems, eventually giving rise to a true superorganism at the biospheric level. The blueprint for a possible outcome of this scenario has been masterfully provided by the great Polish novelist Stanisław Lem in his 1961 novel Solaris.

In fact, Solaris offers such a persuasive and powerful case for an "extremely strong" Gaia hypothesis that it is, arguably, high time to investigate it in a discursive astrobiological and philosophical context. In addition to novel predictions in the domain of potentially detectable biosignatures, some additional cognitive and heuristic benefits of studying such extreme cases of functional integration are briefly discussed.

Srdja Janković, Ana Katić, Milan M. Ćirković

Comments: 20 pages, 1 figure; accepted in "Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres"
Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2201.04956 [physics.pop-ph] (or arXiv:2201.04956v1 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)
Submission history
From: Milan M. Cirkovic
[v1] Wed, 5 Jan 2022 16:55:44 UTC (351 KB)
https://arxiv.org/abs/2201.04956
Astrobiology

Please follow Astrobiology on Twitter.


  • submit to reddit