Joined: Jan. 2006
Steve suggested over on the BW that I open a thread to blog about the Biology course I'm taking in my first semester in college. Here it is.
A little about the course:
It's Bio 111, with a lab, and it's the first course along my way to a Biology Education degree.
The instructor, who I'll just name "Doc" for now, earned his bachelor's at Ohio State, his master's at University of North Carolina Wilmington, and his PhD at North Carolina State. Along the way, he taught various places, including at Coastal. He's been teaching there for (if I recall correctly) 22 years or so.
The text we're using is Biology, Eighth Edition, by Campbell & Reese et al, and the lab manual is Biology, Ninth Edition, by Sylvia S. Mader.
I have the lecture at 8:00 AM on MWF, and the lab is Mondays from 11:00 to 2:00.
Monday's lecture was mostly course introduction, reviewing the syllabus, that sort of thing. With a bit of time left in the class period, Doc opened the floor to questions. I asked him about his background, and hence the biographical content above.
Monday's lab consisted of some discussion of the Scientific Method, evidence, and making observations, creating hypotheses, predictions, and testing, and making conclusions. There was more than a little stress placed on the idea that in Science, we don't prove things, we disprove them or we say that evidence supports our conclusions. A lot of that discussion can be found in various forms all over this board, or at your friendly neighborhood Science blog or ScienceBlog.
We then played some cards. Specifically, we did a class demonstration of a game called Eleusis.
The idea of the game is to demonstrate the Scientific Method in a way that students can relate to it.
One person is designated "Nature". Nature draws a small envelope from a larger one, and inside the smaller envelope there is a rule for a sequence of cards. The rule might be "Black Red Black Red" or "2,4,6,8" or something having to do with the four suits of cards. Each of the smaller envelopes contains a different rule, and each is numbered (ie. Rule #6)
Nature picks two cards out of the deck and lays them on the desk to begin the sequence.
The other members of the group then make their initial observation of the first two cards and form a joint hypothesis about the rule (writing it down of course). They then find a card in the deck to test their hypothesis, and hand the card to Nature, who places is either next in the sequence if it fits the rule, or perpendicular to the last card that fit the sequence if it does not. The group then observes the "test result" and progresses from there until they are confident they have figured out the rule.
One thing Doc really stressed was that Nature was to remain absolutely silent, never ever giving the rule. Not during the process, not when the group is sure they have it, not during the comparisons later, not ever. The idea being of course, that Nature really doesn't ever tell us if we're right. There is no right. There is only supported or not supported by the evidence.
After the class demonstration, the class broke into three or four smaller groups and each group played this game for some time.
Afterwards, each group sent a representative up to the board to write down their theories about the rules. It sort of mimicked a portion of the post-peer review experiment replication process, in that each group was repeating the exact same experiments and then comparing results.
None of the groups finished all ten rules. There was overlap on many of the rules that were completed, and in some, all the groups got the same answer. In others, there were two or three groups that had different answers for the same rule.
We then discussed what happens in Science when one group of scientists does an experiment, but other scientists get differing results from the same experiment. It seemed to be very instructive to the class. They got it.
Moving on, cross posting from the BW, here are my notes and thoughts from this morning's lecture:
|Quote (Lou FCD @ Aug. 20 2008,11:24)|
|Great introductory bio lecture this morning. Living vs. nonliving stuff, hierarchies, stressing on evidence, that sort of thing.|
One thing Doc really spent some time on was the difficulty in defining life, and how any definition of life has to encompass so much.
Over the thin skin of the earth, the only place we know for sure that life exists, we've documented and catalogued:
over 350,000 species of plants, over a million species of animals (BEETLES!!!), and thousands upon thousands of fungi, protists, bacteria. Given that we have documented about 1.8 million species of life, here's some context:
That's life on earth now.
Water covers 70+% of the surface area and 99% of the volume of the known biosphere. We've explored perhaps 5% of that.
Over 95%, and perhaps as much as 99% of all species ever are now extinct.
Earth is a dust mote in the context of the cosmos
Any definition of life would have to cover the species we know, the species that are extinct, the species that live in the vast majority of the Earth we haven't even been to, and then still cover any life we might find elsewhere.
Holy crap, that really is overwhelming in that context.
He also mentioned Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote about pornography from the 1964 Jacobellis v. Ohio case, "I know it when I see it". It was an interesting aside.
Another interesting note from today's lecture:
Discussing the definition of Science, our working definition is 'an evidence-based way of learning about the natural world'.
and allow me this little quote on the subject of evidence, from my prof:
"...not just because it's written in a book somewhere."
Dogs and cats came up in the context of heredity, and I imagine that it wasn't accidental. Sort of the wind up for the pitch to follow later, I think.
I'm loving my Biology class, in case anyone couldn't tell.
Lou FCD is still in school, so we should only count him as a baby biologist. -carlsonjok -deprecated
I think I might love you. Don't tell Deadman -Wolfhound