Environment

Is the Earth Alive?

The idea that organisms collaborate to keep the planet habitable was once dismissed as New Age earth science. Now even skeptics are taking a second look.

By Oliver MortonOct 1, 1999 12:00 AM

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The small crowd milling about an Oxford University courtyard on a sunny Easter afternoon is an unusual mix--part academic, part acolyte.

Ron Williams, for example, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Toronto, is retired but still active, sharp of mind, neat in appearance, the sort of person you'd expect to find enjoying academic discussions at Oxford. Peter Horton, a few decades younger and trying his hand at living off the land in the south of France, is bearded, thick-sweatered, and direct. He has not been in formal education since he was a teenager. Still, he has come to Oxford for the same reason Williams has. And it's not a religious one, although it can seem that way.

Full text of this article appears in Discover magazine.

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