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Is Life on Earth Killing Us?


Is life toxic? Award-winning paleontologist Peter Ward thinks it is and has put forth a provocative theory about the unhealthy relationship between humans and other life forms and the planet in his new book The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?

Maureen Cavanaugh: As politics and popular culture fully embrace efforts to go green and minimize human impact on the environment, another voice has entered the debate. It's not a voice that challenges global warming, or the power of humans to harm the environment. Rather, it challenges the very underpinnings of the environmental movement - the theory that left to its own devices, nature is a self-regulating force that sustains life on this planet.

Based on the record of mass extinctions in the deep history of Earth, paleontologist Peter Ward has put forth a theory that nature is not naturally good at sustaining itself. In fact, it can be very efficient at turning back on itself with extreme and lethal consequences. Ward has named his theory the Media Hypothesis after the Greek myth of a pitiless and vengeful woman who killed her own sons. Not exactly our typical image of Mother Nature.

Peter Ward's lecture on the Medea Theory is Thursday, May 7, 2009, at 6:30 pm at the San Diego Natural History Museum.


Peter Ward, paleontologist and professor of biology at the University of Washington. He is author of the new book The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?

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