9. Ecology explains events in terms of their role within the total spatio-temporal Gaian hierarchy, not just in terms of the single event or cause that triggered them off.
In terms of mainstream science, an event is seen as being caused by another event that preceded it in time and which can be correlated with it statistically, without necessarily justifying this correlation on the basis of any serious theoretical considerations. This notion of causality was essential to the Newtonian world-view. Indeed, in a world made up exclusively of space and motion, there was no need for anything more than this crude notion of causality – no appeal to serious explanation was required.
As shown elsewhere, it was necessary too that the cause should precede the effect (seePrinciple 22). Though the Newtonian paradigm has been abandoned, in theory at least, the notion of cause has been retained because it fits in so well with the present paradigm of science. Its retention, however, prevents us, among other things, from understanding pathological – i.e. heterotelic (see Principle 65) – events occurring within natural systems.
Infectious diseases, for instance, are not ’caused’ by microbes as modern medicine continues to assure us – an interpretation that is very convenient to the pharmaceutical industry that churns out vast amounts of poisons for killing off the microbes. On the contrary, as René Dubos, the founder of the ecological approach to health, pointed out: infectious diseases are caused by a break-down in the balance between man and the microbial population that inhabits him and indeed must inhabit him, if his metabolism is to function properly.
The true ’cause’ of an infectious disease is thereby not the microbe that triggered it off but the circumstances that led to the breakdown in this critical balance – or, more precisely, the local reduction in the critical order of Gala (see Principle 21).
Like all other discontinuities, infections can also, and perhaps more usefully, be seen to have been ’caused’ by a diversion from the optimum behaviour pattern, from the ‘Path’ or ‘Way’ (see Principle 49), which leads to the preservation of that critical order – a principle that was fully understood by vernacular peoples (see Principle 53).
But then the term ’cause’ is rarely used to refer to such general changes and theoretically cannot be, since the very notion of an optimum behaviour pattern to which behaviour must be geared, smacks of teleology (see Principle 22), hence of that ultimate scientific taboo – the final cause.
For that reason it is best to abandon the use of the term ’cause’ altogether and use instead the term ‘explanation’. An ecological explanation, of course, is one that examines the process in the light of an ecological model of the ecosphere as a total spatio-temporal system (see Principle 16).Back to top
10. Ecology studies natural Systems in their natural Gaian context.
Life processes can only occur normally within a certain range of environmental conditions (see Principle 35), those that bear some relationship to those in which the systems evolved and grew up (see Principle 34). It is only by studying life processes in these conditions that they can be understood and, in particular, that normal processes can be identified, and thereby distinguished, from abnormal processes – the physiological from the pathological and hence the homeotelic (see Principle 49) from the heterotelic (see Principle 65).
Life processes occurring in ‘controlled laboratory conditions’ – that is, in totally artificial conditions which have no counterpart in the real world – can provide little information on the role these processes play in assuring the critical order or stability of the ecosphere (see Principle 50) and cannot thereby serve as a basis for the understanding of the real world.Back to top
11. Ecology is qualitative.
In the 1940s, ecology was transformed into an ‘exact’ science. This meant, above, all expressing it in the medium of mathematics. The Oxford ecologist Arthur Tansley played an important role in this transformation. He denied the existence of anything in ecology that could not be strictly quantified and examined by the reductionistic (analytic) method of science. In this way, in the words of Worster, he sought to rescue ecology
“from the status of a vaguely mysterious moralising point of view and make it instead a hard-edged, mechanistic, nothing-but discipline, marching in closed ranks with the other sciences.” 
As the result of the work of Juday, Lindeman and also of Odum, the functioning of ecosystems came to be explained in terms of the energy that flowed through it from one trophic level to the next, and in terms of laws of classical thermodynamics. This had disastrous consequences. As Worster notes:
“By reducing the living world to ingredients that could be easily measured and graphed, the ecologist was in danger of removing all the residual emotional impediments to unrestrained manipulation.” 
This approach is, in any case, unjustified on purely scientific grounds, in that it means that the factors and the relationship between the factors that were now taken into account in ecological explanations, are no longer those that are relevant but instead those that happen to be quantifiable. Unfortunately, however, the most important features of ecosystems, indeed of natural systems in general, such as organisation, hierarchy, stability, creativity and so on, are not easily quantifiable. As Sibatani notes,
“systems in which the elements characteristically interact. are notoriously intractable to mathematical analysis.” 
What makes the enterprise even more futile, is that the scientific concepts that are routinely quantified have never even been properly defined. In biology, for instance, as Woodger notes,
“nothing is more striking. . . than the contrast between the brilliant skill, ingenuity and care bestowed upon observation and experiment, and the almost complete neglect of caution in regard to the definition and use of the concepts in terms of which its results are expressed.” 
An example is competition. Merrell  lists no fewer than 28 different ways in which the term is used. Clearly to quantify concepts that have never been defined is to endow them with an air of spurious accuracy,  when they are in reality vague and misleading.
The truth is that mathematics is not the language of nature. Nor, of course, it might be argued, is English, or any other man-made language. But then qualitative language is more flexible and can be used to express vivid metaphors that provide a more accurate picture of the ecosphere than can the more precise language of mathematics.Back to top
12. The ‘truth’ of an ecological proposition is the extent to which it fits in with the world-view of ecology.
All attempts to establish a rigid dichotomy between scientific (and hence supposedly valid) and non-scientific (and hence supposedly invalid) propositions have now been discredited.
The notion that ‘empirical verification’ provides such a criterion – the underlying principle of Logical Positivism, – was discredited long ago by Karl Popper. The criterion of ‘falsifiability’, which Popper proposed to replace verification, has now also been shown to be unacceptable. Even ‘operational verification’ is no criterion, since the effects of any act or operation in which one has a strong psychological stake are still judged subjectively – its failure, for instance, being invariably attributed to various technical factors, rather than to the basic validity of the operation and of the principles that rationalise it.
Thus, in spite of the terrible failure of economic development in the Third World, its ‘desirability’ remains unquestioned. Instead, slight changes in the way development policies are implemented are proposed, to eliminate its worst abuses, hence ‘rural development’, ‘ecodevelopment’, ‘appropriate development’ and now ‘sustainable development’ – all of which are basically euphemisms adopted by the Development Industry to placate its critics.
The myth that a scientific proposition is radically different from other propositions has been exploded by enlightened epistemologists such as Alfred Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend and others. From their writings, it emerges that a scientific proposition is no more than one that conforms to the reigning scientific paradigm or world view.
One must thereby conclude that the validity of an ecological proposition can only be judged by the extent to which it fits in with the largely subconscious and subjective world-view of ecology. To ask more of it is to ask the impossible.Back to top
13. Ecology serves to rationalise the world-view of ecology.
Ecology reflects and serves to rationalise a specific world-view, one which we can refer to as ‘the world-view of ecology’, in the same way that science, economics and the other disciplines into which our modern knowledge of the world is divided, reflect and serve to rationalise the world view of modernism.
This means that in terms of the former world-view, man’s welfare and prosperity are seen as maximised by adopting that Path or Way (see Principle 51) that best serves to achieve and maintain the critical order (see Principle 21) of the ecosphere: by contrast, in terms of the latter world-view, welfare and prosperity are seen as being maximised by adopting that path that best serves to favour the development and preservation of the technosphere.
Since the biosphere and the technosphere are in direct competition with each other, the expansion of the latter necessarily leads to a corresponding degradation and contraction of the former. The two world-views are thus diametrically opposed to each other.Back to top
14. Gaia is One.
Deep Ecologists refer to this principle as ‘the central intuition’. It is well-named. The unity of the world has been intuited by all known vernacular societies. As Father Placide Tempels writes, “for primitive man the supreme wisdom consists in seeing the universe. as reflecting the unity of the order of living things”.  This intuition has been confirmed by Jim Lovelock in his seminal book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth.Back to top
15. Gaia is a spatio-temporal system.
Gaia, like all natural systems, exists in time as well as in space. There can be no atemporal system any more than there can be a non-spatial process. Julian Huxley noted how this is true of a social system:
“We are beginning to grasp that societies, like the individuals which compose them, and like life in general, have a time-dimension. They are process, and their direction in time is as important a part of their nature as their organisation at any particular time.” 
To see Gaia and her constituent natural systems (see Principle 24) as both entities and processes, is for us very difficult. Among other things, our language distinguishes clearly between the spatial and the temporal as if they were totally distinct. I shall thus continue to use the term ‘system’ or ‘natural system’ when I wish to accentuate the spatial aspect of a spatio-temporal ‘entity-process’, and ‘process’ or ‘life-process’ when I wish to accentuate its temporal aspect. This is far from satisfactory, but the alternative is worse.Back to top
16. Gaia is a total spatio-temporal system.
The visible living thing which we take to be the biosphere is but an ‘evolutionary stratum’ – the tip of an evolutionary iceberg, so to speak, for its past is still present, in the sense that the information transmitted from generation to generation, from one ‘evolutionary stratum’ to another, reflects the experience of the whole spatio-temporal system, stretching back into the mists of time. This means that the past still controls the present as indeed it does the future, and, from the cybernetic point of view, still exists.
This must be true since the most general and hence the most fundamental information (see Principle 46) is non-plastic, that is it is modifiable only over a very long period of time. This general information reflects the system’s total experience, while it is only the more particular information into which the former is differentiated that is plastic, and whose modification serves to adapt the general information to changing environmental conditions so that it may serve to adapt the total spatio-temporal system to such conditions, rather than merely the contemporaneous ‘evolutionary stratum’.
This is quite clearly so in a vernacular tribal society. Its pattern of behaviour conforms with the traditional laws, which coincide with the laws governing the Gaian hierarchy of which it is part (see Principle 18). These laws are seen as having been enacted by the original ancestors at what Radcliffe Brown calls “the Dawn period”  and are thereby regarded as sacred and inviolable. They thereby reflect the experience of the society as a total spatio-temporal system.
A tribal society has been referred to as a ‘gerontocracy’, in that it is governed by its elders. It would be more appropriate to refer to it as a ‘necrocracy’ in that it is really governed by its dead, or more precisely, by its physically dead, for the ancestors still control the behaviour of their descendants and, cybernetically speaking, still exist.
It is only by viewing Gaia and her constituent subsystems in this way, that one can understand evolution (see Principle 17) and its constituent life processes.Back to top
17. Gaia is evolution seen as a total spatio-temporal system.
More precisely, evolution is the process whereby the Gaian total spatio-temporal system achieves and maintains its maximum stability by adapting to its changing environment. Evolution involves life processes, both ontogenetic and behavioural, and occurring at each level in the Gaian hierarchy.
These life processes are highly co-ordinated, which means that they are interconnected by ‘feedback loops’.
The Gaian total spatio-temporal system, as it evolves, is best seen as throwing out ‘feelers’. The feelers are individual generations or ontogenetic processes and they themselves throw out further feelers in the form of behaviour.
Information is fed back by the behavioural feelers to the ontogenetic feelers and is further fed back to the Gaian total spatio-temporal system.
The notion that behaviour provides the information required to help mediate ontogeny – and indeed evolution itself – is one that serious students of evolution have found hard to avoid, in spite of it having been tabooed by William Bateson and August Weissmann and more recently by Francis Crick.
Lamarck’s original formulation offended neo-Darwinist susceptibilities, but the notion was reformulated by Baldwin and Lloyd Morgan and later by Waddington, Schmallhausen and, still more recently, by Piaget.
A life process mediated by blind, one-way instructions that cannot be monitored and which are thereby unamenable to correction when they stray from the optimum course or Way (see Principle 51), is unknown in the natural world, and indeed inconceivable. The neo-Darwinist contention that genetic instructions proceed in this manner to dictate the course of evolutionary change, cannot thereby be taken seriously.Back to top
18. Man is an integral part of Gaia.
Man, when organised into a vernacular society and when observing the traditional laws of his society, as they have been observed by untold generations of his ancestors, is an integral part of Gaia. Such societies have co-evolved with the ecosphere so as to fulfil their differentiated functions within its hierarchy. They thereby contribute to her overall stability, and are subject to all the basic laws (see Principle 2) governing life processes on this planet.
Man when organised into the institutions that are the essential constituents of the technosphere (see Principle 52) is no longer a differentiated member of a vernacular society, nor indeed of the Gaian hierarchy. However, both he and the technosphere of which he is now part, still depend on Gaia for their survival, since it is from the biosphere that they must extract the vast bulk of the resources that they require and it is to the biosphere that they must consign their wastes.
Attempts to show that man is qualitatively distinct from other living things, and is thereby not subject to the laws governing other forms of life within the Gaian hierarchy, are simply not serious. If man has a soul, or is endowed with ‘consciousness’, ‘reason’, ‘intelligence’, the ability to predict the future etc. then so are other forms of life. The notion that non-human living things are all mere robots reacting blindly to external stimuli, which trigger off responses like a light-switch triggers off an electric light, is demonstrably false.
To believe, as mainstream Neo-Darwinists do today, that the evolutionary process that has brought into existence the incredibly complex and sophisticated biosphere of which man himself is part, can be explained in these terms – or, more precisely, in terms of the functioning of a generator of randomness, in conjunction with that of a sorting-machine – while man’s misguided and paltry achievements – the production of computers, electric toothbrushes and atom bombs – are the product of intelligence, reason, consciousness and so on, is simply laughable.
If it requires intelligence and reason to produce these crude artefacts, then it requires incomparably greater intelligence and reason to create the biosphere and its constituent systems. Indeed, if man is intelligent and rational, then the evolutionary process must be incomparably more intelligent and rational.Back to top
19. Vernacuiar man plays only a minor role in the workings of Gala.
Being humans, we are understandably more concerned with the fate of man than of that of other forms of life. Deep Ecology, however, regards man as no more important than other animals, the ‘Principle of ecological egalitarianism’ being a lynchpin of Deep Ecology.
Jim Lovelock and Lynn Margulis consider that, from the Gaian point of view, man is of little importance. It is bacteria that are mainly responsible for developing the biosphere and its atmospheric environment, and for assuring the stable relationship between the two. It may be truer to say that it is Gaia herself, not just her microbial constituents, that by her own efforts has evolved (see Principle 23) to her pre-industrial climax state and that, in this process, man had a very much smaller role to play than did the bacteria – but he did still have a role.
In ecological terms, man is a carnivore and a herbivore, and his principle ecological function – though there are many others – is to maintain qualitative and quantitative controls on herbivore populations and on those of primary producers (vegetation). If he were eliminated, the populations on which he preyed would become less viable qualitatively and might indeed expand in an uncontrolled way. This would to a certain extent disrupt the critical order of the ecosphere (see Principle 21) and hence the latter’s stability, even though the human role would probably soon be assumed by other carnivores and herbivores.
Man and other carnivores and herbivores are thus necessary constituents of the ecosphere, for without them, the living world would be far less stable. Primary producers, who alone can harness the energy of the sun, are even more important, since without them there would be no herbivores or carnivores. Bacteria can be considered still more essential, since without them the world would not be capable of supporting any of these forms of life.
This is not an anti-human position to adopt, as critics of Deep Ecology would undoubtedly maintain. Man is an integral part of the ecosphere. It is only by maintaining the latter’s critical order or stability (see Principle 21) that man can maintain his own stability and that his real needs (see Principle 37) can thereby best be satisfied. Man’s interest and Gaia’s interests are one. It is the fundamental flaw of the world-view of modernism to ignore this perennial truth.Back to top