Bio_Lecture1 - NOTES FOR BIOLOGY 101: Dr. Charles Masarsky,...

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Instructor LAB #1 : Scientific Method: PP 3-7 in the lab manual, with modifications TBA. LECTURE #1 : What Is Science? Scientists seek to enlarge their knowledge of nature in a self-correcting way . Someone cannot simply announce that his or her latest hunch is “new knowledge” and be considered a scientist. A scientist is required to describe the process by which they gathered observations that led them to this “new knowledge”. Other scientists can then duplicate the same process or develop additional processes for gathering observations – also known as data – relevant to the alleged “new knowledge”. If repeated future observations fit the “new knowledge”, it gains scientific support. If some observations do not fit, the “new knowledge” must be revised to explain all existing observations. Any “new knowledge” in science must be tested with repeated, independent observations. It is this self-correcting aspect of science that makes it different from most other methods of gaining knowledge. One method of gathering data is descriptive research. For example, the Spanish scientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal looked at nerve cells in brain tissue and spinal cord tissue under his microscope in the late nineteenth century. Everything he had read about this tissue told him that the nerve cells are all directly connected to each other. However, when he looked in his microscope, he saw gaps between the nerve cells in this tissue. He carefully described his technique for preparing and examining his tissue samples. After a number of years, many other scientists reported that they independently observed the gaps first described by Cajal. Eventually, these gaps (later named “synapses”) were considered critical to our understanding of the nervous system, and Cajal received the Nobel Prize. Another method of gathering data is experimental research. First, a scientist develops an educated guess that will form the groundwork for an investigation into some aspect of nature. Such an educated guess is called a hypothesis , from a Greek root meaning “groundwork” (the word “hypothetical” comes from the same root). Often, a scientist’s hypothesis will grow out of the observations typical of descriptive research. This is followed by a type of reasoning that goes from the specific to the general. Such reasoning is called inductive reasoning or induction. For example, in 1964, Aklilu Lemma, an Ethiopian scientist, described a large number of dead snails close to where a group of women were washing their clothing in a stream. He found out that the women were using a local berry for soap. He hypothesized that the reason these specific snails were dying was because the berry was poisonous to this variety of snail in general . Lemma’s hypothesis was significant, because this particular type of snail carries a disease that afflicts some 200 million people worldwide (schistosomiasis). 1
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This note was uploaded on 09/15/2011 for the course ECONOMICS 302 taught by Professor Sdfd during the Spring '09 term at Northern Virginia Community College.

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Bio_Lecture1 - NOTES FOR BIOLOGY 101: Dr. Charles Masarsky,...

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