Gaia theory, which describes the life-environment system of the Earth as stable and self-regulating, has remained at the fringes of mainstream biological science owing to its historically inadequate definition and apparent incompatibility with individual-level natural selection. The key issue is whether and why the biosphere might tend towards stability and self-regulation. We review the various ways in which these issues have been addressed by evolutionary and ecological theory, and relate these to 'Gaia theory'. We then ask how this theory extends the perspectives offered by these disciplines, and how it might be tested by novel modelling approaches and laboratory experiments using emergent technologies.
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