I just finished reading a great new book by Stephen Johnson called The Invention of Air. From the flyleaf – “It centers on the story of Joseph Priestly – scientist and minister, protege of Benjamin Franklin, friend of Thomas Jefferson – an eighteenth-century radical thinker who played key roles in the invention of ecoystem science, the discovery of oxygen, the founding of the Unitarian Church, and the intellectual development of the United States.”
I heard about this book in an NPR interview with the author and was really fascinated by Stephen Johnson’s pursuit of the themes of innovation and the way new ideas emerge and spread. He is endorsed on the back of the book by one of my favorite writers, Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers).
A key paragraph on page 108 deals with the subject of homeostasis (defined as: the tendency of a system, esp. the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus tending to disturb its normal condition or function). Here is what he says,
“That knack for self -regulation – also known as homeostasis – was the driving question that led James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the early 1970’s to formulate their famous and endlessly debated Gaia Hypothesis, in which the two argued that “early after life began, it acquired control of the planetary environment and that this homeostasis by and for the biosphere has persisted ever since.” That control system sought an “optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet. Lovelock and Margulis began the first significant paper they published on Gaia with the story of oxygen’s miraculous stability.”
This concept of homeostasis seems to be another amazing proof from the world of science for the existence of God and His incredible plan for our planet. What an ironic statement that “after life began, it acquired control …” How did life begin and gain control of something on it’s own as if life is in control of itself. Even Joseph Priestly had an innate belief in God and yet many of those he has influenced have lost that belief and in my view missed one of the central points of his discoveries – homeostasis evident in oxygen’s miraculous stability is really another proof for a creator God.