BIS2B, Fall 2008
Lecture 5, Friday Oct3
Please try to give this short piece and 57.1 in your text a quick read before class
We will try to have some discussion over these points tomorrow.
reading should not take more than an hour or so.
What is Science,
and How Does It Relate to Conservation?
We have learned quite a bit about the interaction of the non living environment with the
living environment. In brief summary, energy from the sun drives the global atmospheric
dynamo of heat and rain, which is huge influence in the global distribution of life on
earth; we examined the case of the terrestrial biomes in particular. Thus we have seen in
some detail how the environment and biodiversity interact on very large scales.
In lecture 5 we will have a first look at how humans come into the picture. In order to
deal with humans, we actually have to learn about the different kinds of science. After all,
science is much of what you will be doing in your time at UCD!
It is certainly true that it
is humans that do science, and when humans come under the microscope, science is a
different business than when humans are not the subject of study. So, when we apply
science to investigation of humans as we do in conservation, we have to take some pains
to understand this endeavor differs from when we investigate other species in the
biosphere without human involvement.
A first, brief pass at the big question, “What is science?”
Science, like all other human endeavors, is based upon values or an ethos.
Basic science values.
Maximal objectivity, logic & rationality, empiricism & testing about the natural
world without much concern about proximate payoff.
Objectivity (first two definitions from the Wictionary).
The state of being objective, just, unbiased and not influenced by emotions
or personal prejudices.
Universal and opposite from “in the eyes of the beholder.”
The world as it really is; reality
The “View from Nowhere” T. Nagel.
Free from bias and subjectivity (cf. below in social science)
Public, universally shared, with universally agreed upon means and
methods. eg. atomic masses, DNA sequences, numbers of species in a
region , weights of cattle, etc. etc are
measured identically among
religions, ethnic groups, political parties.
Testing. Bringing evidence to bear on hypotheses.