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International Poker Champion
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Former CIA Clandestine Operative
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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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The Medea Hypothesis: All Life is Suicidal

If you really look at the history of life on this planet, you see a lot of biologically-produced catastrophes. Where do they come from? From life itself. 

I think all life is suicidal.  I thought up something tongue-in-cheek I call the Medea Hypothesis. Medea, Jason’s wife, was probably the worst mother in Greek History.  She murdered her children because of Jason’s infidelities.  Jason was probably not very good at anything, apparently, except making women fall in love with him.  He was good at that. 


He wasn’t much of a captain, he wasn’t a fighter.  The Gaia Hypothesis suggests that Mother Gaia, who is the Greek Mother, will sustain life, keeps life going. The kernel of that hypothesis is that life makes the world better for itself.  Through the regulation of a number of systems, life is increasing habitability.  It’s kind of like the scenario in which I’m at a hotel before I leave I paint the walls and I put in a better stereo system, or something.  I’m making the place better for having been there. 

That’s really what the Gaia Hypothesis suggests, whereas, if you really look at the history of life on this planet, you see a lot of biologically-produced catastrophes.  And that’s really what Medea is suggesting, that life is the global warming that starts the process, but the killing comes from the hydrogen sulfide, and where does that come from? That comes from microbes, from life itself.  So, life is the bullet if the gun itself is the volcano. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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