BIOLOGY 103
FALL, 2000
FORUM, WEEK 1


Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Welcome
Date:  2001-09-01 16:18:26
Message Id:  25
Comments:
Looking forward to an interesting semester of thinking about what life is. Hope you are too. Since we're going to take a "scientific" approach to the matter, we should probably start by thinking about what that is ... what exactly does one mean by "scientific"? as opposed to anything else? What do you think? Don't by shy ... you need to start with what you yourself think, and everyone's thoughts are useful to the thinking of others, and ... you'll get lots of chances to develop your ideas further as the course goes on. So jump in ... This is a place for ideas/thoughts in progress.
Name:  sana dada
Username:  sana_dada@hotmail.com
Subject:  Scientific Approach
Date:  2001-09-04 17:24:36
Message Id:  49
Comments:
Hi
My name is Sana. I think that the scientific approach to something deals with developing a hypothesis and then experimenting and finding a solution. In science we have to consider many possible solutions to one problem. But, for example in math, if we wanted to solve a problem there could be only one solution. Also the scientific world is always changing so the solution may be different a year from now. But in math, the answer to a problem is always going to be the same.
Name:  Rianna
Username:  rouellet@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  science as opposed to what
Date:  2001-09-04 19:58:13
Message Id:  53
Comments:
Hi! My name is Rianna. I have usually thought of the sciences not in opposition to but merely different from the arts, language studies, etc. To me the division is made by the type of thought used for the pursuits, sort of a left brain, right brain thing. Properties of the sciences are found in the arts, and vice versa. Things that seem to be scientific (logical and analytical thinking, the ability to obtain the same results time and time again, testing equations) are not limited to the sciences, but rather expand them into all things. The sciences appear to be only a different way of observing and understanding the physical word. Degas had a way of observing and understanding the physical world, too. He definetly had a different approach than Newton, but I find both to be valid. Degas had a very personalized approach. If Newton and he were to observe ballet dancers, the canvases would be vastly different. However, if the two were to perform one of Newton's experiments, the results would be the same (given, of course, that Degas was properly instructed in Newton's method). So to say that something is scientific could mean that the thing can be taken for fact, true for everyone, rather than just personal feeling and interpretation. It has passed the thought/idea stage, been tested, and found to be reliable (and repeatable) within the rules it was tested by.
Name:  Julie Wise
Username:  jwise@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  getting it 'less wrong'
Date:  2001-09-05 10:02:10
Message Id:  56
Comments:
Hi everyone! My name is Julie. The science that I am most familiar with is the Science that never strays from the scientific method: Hypothosis, experiment, conclusion. The words 'methodical' and 'rigid' come to mind but I'm really hoping that this class will be more than that. When I think of the scientific method, I always think, 'well, how can we conclude that FOR SURE??' I mean, if Biology is the study of life and life is always evolving then how can anything be completely conclusive? I agreee with what we were talking about last class where we were striving to be 'less wrong' rather than concretely positive and trying to fool ourselves that what we conclude is the only truth.
Name:  Sarah Sterling
Username:  ssterlin@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Science in Life....
Date:  2001-09-05 15:09:08
Message Id:  57
Comments:
After observing all that went on in class today it has become quite clear to me how life and science interact with eachother -- or rather how they are eachother. All that life really involves is the answering of questions posed, whether they be our own questions or those that others ask. We observe all that is around us and within us in order to discover answers to questions that very likely are impossible to answer. What is the purpose of life? Mostly, it seems that the purpose of life is to not do things wrong, while what matters in science is being wrong. The only way we learn things, I mean really and truly learn things in life, is by being wrong. So by being told that "it's not being right that matters in science, it's being wrong" seems to explain life that much more. There is no life without science, and no science without life. And there is neither without being wrong.
Name:  Akudo Ejelonu
Username:  aejelonu@bmc
Subject:  I love this class
Date:  2001-09-05 23:29:28
Message Id:  61
Comments:
Today's class was a new experience, for once I don't have to worry about taking a science class that deals with false facts. In the past, I took lectures in biology and the classes would be boring. This biology class is fun and also informative. The discussion on hypothesis was an eye opener because for years I have been taught by my teachers that my lab hypothesis should be accurate.I was surprise to see myself wrirting notes on what my calssmates think that sciences is in their own terms and experineces. Eventhough our backgrounds are different, we were taught that science is perfect and that the facts are correct. I cann't what to hear what others think about life when they connect it to science.
Name:  Joelle A Webb
Username:  jawebb@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Hypothesis
Date:  2001-09-05 23:40:10
Message Id:  62
Comments:
It is going to be a tough feat to think about science and experimenting with a new perspective. Fourteen years of intense schooling are not easily undone. But, Professor Grobstein's lecture today has really overidden my fears of taking a laboratory class at Bryn Mawr. It is not that this course will not require effort on the part of the students, that is not the question at hand. Rather we are not in pursuit of the right answer, the exact result or to prove our hypothesis. This class seems like it will be much more of a learning experience and enriching to us as students than a cuthroat lab class full of pre-med undergraduates. I look forward to Friday's lecture and other people's reactions on how science and life are related.
Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  underway ...
Date:  2001-09-06 08:17:00
Message Id:  63
Comments:
NICE discussion in class yesterday. Wish we had a video tape of it, or at least a picture of what we put on the blackboard. Hmmm ... maybe ... why not? ... if its still there? .... hang on a minute ... BINGO.

As I was saying, a really interesting/helpful indictment/discussion of "science". Hope we can get some more of it here in the forum? What particularly intrigued me was the point in the conversation when many of us realized that there were two complaints with an interesting relation to one another: irritation that "science" claimed to be "Truth" and irritation when it turned out not to be so.

So, what do we think of the idea that in fact science doesn't and CAN'T, by its very nature, deal in "Truth"? Is always nothing more (and nothing less) than a summary of observations? Always "in progress"? And what might the relation be between that and life? Is it possible, as Sarah suggests, that life is an unending process of asking questions based on summaries of previous observations, changing the summaries, asking new questions?


Name:  Debbie Wang
Username:  dwang@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  ?
Date:  2001-09-06 21:06:41
Message Id:  67
Comments:
I too have been taught science conventionally in previous science classes and the questions brought up in Wed.'s class definetly (to some extent) defy what I grew up learning- that "scientific conclusion=truth". However, we speak of truth as if it is something concrete, something (perhaps?) objective. I think that TRUTH is a projection of our own perceptions of what "truth" is. (Does that make any sense?). Prof Grobstein above asked what we think about science not being able to deal in truth...but what is "truth"? I think that the reason why many think of "truth" in its concrete context is because there is comfort in what we think is concrete. That in turn ties the question of what truth is to our questions of what science is ...and why it is that we attempt to comfort ourselves by attaching "=" signs to many things. Am I being too general or going on a tangent? Sorry about that.
Name:  Savithri Ekanayake
Username:  sekanaya@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  The "Scientific" Life
Date:  2001-09-06 21:29:23
Message Id:  69
Comments:
Hi,I'm Savithri and I agree that life and science are possibly one and the same thing.Life is about making mistakes,getting things wrong and learning from our experiences,to get things 'less wrong' the next time:) All our past experiences/mistakes add to make our lives more enriching,just as in science where the summeries of observations get bigger and broader through new observations, enabling 'scientists' to generate new questions and come up with new modes of thinking. Life and science both thrive by adding to our database of experiences/observations.I use to think(before I took this class)that scientists ALWAYS get things right and that there were no wrong answers in science,but now I'm starting to think that maybe science like life flourish on getting things wrong,thereby making it possible to get things less wrong the next time :)I was wrong once about assuming science to be automatically 'gospel'truth,but the next time I might be less wrong due to the new observations I've added to my life from taking Bio 103.
Name:  Rebecca Roth
Username:  rroth@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  science and life
Date:  2001-09-06 22:03:55
Message Id:  70
Comments:
I think science, like life is a continuous process. We progress throughout our lives just like science progresses. As we get older, we gain more knowledge and start to gain a better understanding and awareness of the world around us. I guess life, like science is always subject to challenges based upon new observations. There are always new advancements coming out. In life we learn from our past observations and interactions and change our behavior accordingly. Science is working as a summary of observations. However, what are scientists looking for if it isn't truth?---are new observations just replacing or building upon old ones? If science is not dealing in truth than how can one be wrong? What exactly is one setting out for then?
Name:  Samantha Carney
Username:  scarney@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  thoughts
Date:  2001-09-06 22:14:09
Message Id:  71
Comments:
I agree that Professor Grobstein has found a fun and informative approach to biology. Listening to the class discussion on Wednesday, I agreed with a lot of the students that we have had the wrong ideas emphasized in our previous science classes. For me, I hated learning the Scientific Method over and over again because it seemed an innate process that everyone already used in their daily lives. Studying it was like learning the alphabet after you've learned to read and write. It is refreshing to hear that the journey is more important than the final product, but that in itself is the definition of a liberal arts education. We do use science in our every day lives, in the way we explore our own personal worlds. Looking at it in this light, science doesn't seem half bad.
Name:  viv
Username:  vbishay@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  some ideas
Date:  2001-09-07 10:44:22
Message Id:  73
Comments:
we've all undoubtedly grown up with the saying "you learn from your mistakes" not "you learn from not making mistakes." Life is an ongoing process of learning as is science; to me they are one in the same. Both cycles develop on a 'database', as others have put it, of knowledge, the growth of this knowledge, based on prior experiences, and more particularly prior mistakes, helps us anticipate the future. Both life and science use the process of observation and summary. In life we constantly try to predict the future, look to the future, like scientists, but we never know when a situation could alter dramatically. We come to expect a "normal" way things work in our lives. Each time we observe certain processes in our world such as water flowing down not up, we become more and more certain that this is the way it works, but there is no way of knowing it wont flow up next time.
Name:  Ilana Moyer
Username:  imoyer@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Change
Date:  2001-09-07 16:38:14
Message Id:  74
Comments:
Truth is constant. Life is ever changing. The continual evolution of science and life create an inconsistent atmosphere where truth cannot dwell. Does truth not exist in reality, but as a figment of our imagination to avoid the things unto which hold no answer? They say the only thing constant in life is change. Science might be our reckoning with the coexistence of truth.
Name:  Emi Arima
Username:  earima@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Scientific Method
Date:  2001-09-08 17:08:03
Message Id:  75
Comments:
Conversation in class has come back to our thoughts on the scientific method a lot. I think that our "new" approach to method as merely summaries of observations is a more accurate way of describing matters no doubt. However, everyone was complaining about how they just learned it the wrong way in elementary schools and everything. So my question was whether or not it was necessary to learn the strict, standard scientific mehtod as a little kid to help you get through science. In math you learn basic assumptions and as your education progresses you find that more and more of those assumptions were lies to make it easier to learn the foundations. So is learning the traditional scientific method the same concept, or should it be that we learn from early on that there are no certain facts in science and everything is merely an observation?
Name:  Margaret Pendzich
Username:  mpendzic@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  science and life
Date:  2001-09-08 20:15:43
Message Id:  76
Comments:
I just wanted to respond to Rebecca's question of what science is aspiring to if not the quest for truth. I think that science, along with all other disciplines, are merely ways of interpreting the world and improving the lives of people according to the philosophies of the times. For example, the scientific discovery of DNA, and Darwin's theory of evolution would not have been as widely accepted, nor perhaps even pursued were it not for the more materialistic atmosphere that resulted from the Protestant Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, and the spread of Socialism. These economic, religious, and scientific breakthroughs were all attempts to better describe the world we live in, and by using these better descriptions, we would be able to improve the state of the world.
Name:  christy
Username:  ccox@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  scientific method
Date:  2001-09-09 16:01:17
Message Id:  77
Comments:
I like Emi's musings about the necessity of "traditional science" to instruct children and build a foundation that will later be torn away as education progresses. I was wondering the same sort of thing during Friday's class, trying to imagine how the concept of "summaries of observations" could be presented in an elementary classroom. I think I've decided that "traditional science" is actually just easier for the teacher, which is probably why it is taught that way. I think we may underestimate children if we think they couldn't grasp the concept of expanding knowledge through experimentation (as opposed to finding it). After all, as previously discussed, in that way science is exactly like life, so it is something children are already involved in. However, wouldn't presenting truth as nonexistent (rather than as something unattianable through human thought) be a very dangerous thing in a classroom?
Name:  Tua
Username:  schaudhu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  life, science, truth, etc
Date:  2001-09-09 16:20:09
Message Id:  78
Comments:
As human beings, we search for ways to explain and feel in control of the world we live in. Science is one such series of discoveries, observations, and explanations. You could say that life is science on a larger scale. Things happen to us and we attempt to figure out why and how and what we can do to control it. As for truth, truth is what you have faith in without any need of tangible evidence or support. In this sense, scientists aren't in search of truth at all, because in science there has to be some sort of evidence--people have to be able to see, hear, taste, touch, smell, or somehow physically register the observations that are made.
Name:  kat
Username:  kfallon@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  ah, the nature of life. and such.
Date:  2001-09-09 19:36:24
Message Id:  79
Comments:
i find it helplessly depressing to think of life as a series of mistakes one after another. at the same time, that seems to be the class consensus, and perhaps it's my consensus, too.

when it comes down to it, the "less wrong" scientific method that professor g. proposed to us earlier in the week seems to be very much like the day-to-day process of living--both on a very basic level and on a more intellectual, dig-down-deep plane.

getting up in the morning, going through the daily rituals, and ending up asleep again at night, which is merely a transition, a rebuilding, before you wake up the next morning. and start all over. (!) (?)

so it's all about getting everything wrong so that eventually we'll get something right?


Name:  Rachel Moloshok
Username:  rmolosho@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  science = life?
Date:  2001-09-09 20:05:37
Message Id:  80
Comments:
Another thought on how science is like life.
I was looking through the book, and I saw how varied "life" was -- for example, they showed pictures of the molecules that make up chlorophyll, then they showed a chloroplast, then a single plant cell, then the tissue, then a single leaf, then a tree, then a forest, where all kinds of organisms interact. All of this, from the tiny cell to the huge forest, is life. In the same way, science encompasses a huge area. Science tries to make sense of the cosmos, of outer space, of the oceans, and also studies the tiniest molecules, splits atoms, tries to map genes. The small and the big all come together. Kinda cool, huh?
Name:  Sarah Sterling
Username:  ssterlin@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Life.... without a description
Date:  2001-09-09 20:08:34
Message Id:  81
Comments:
In class it seemed like when we were talking about "what is life" we were trying to be as scientific as possible. While the description of life if I were landing on Europa would have to be based around physical aspects, I think that what life actually is, is far more than what we made it in class. Life can be that short period of time between when something is born and when it dies, or it can be every single moment within that time. Sure, life can be motion, reproduction, growth, and interactions with the environment, but why can't it be memories, sights and emotions? I do not believe that life is something that can be defined until it is over. After all, something cannot live without later dying. Perhaps what all these scientists are trying to find and define is not something that can be taught. "Every so often this/ happens, by chance,/ or by circumstance/ beyond our control:/ we are astonished by the obvious,/ something astronomers/ couldn't teach us/ at school." (Phillip Sterling, Mutual Shores pg.11, poem entitled Astronomy). We ARE astonished by the obvious perhaps. After all, that's what life is all about.
Name:  Leah Rayner
Username:  lrayner@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  life on other planets
Date:  2001-09-09 20:19:43
Message Id:  82
Comments:
I was thinking about the discussion we had in class regarding life on other planets and how we would recognize it. Someone made a comment that we may not be able to recognize life on another planet based on the experience of our observations on earth. I felt like it was an interesting way to see how science and life are intertwined. We may find that our definition of life evolves as we explore through observation on other planets because just like anything else in science, we have defined life through a series of observations.
Name:  Alexis Baird
Username:  abaird@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Thoughts on "life"
Date:  2001-09-10 00:04:11
Message Id:  85
Comments:
I've been thinking about the question we discussed in class: How would you recognize life if it existed on Europa? I think it's rather conceded of us to think that "life" on another planet would have the same characteristics as what we call "life" on our own planet. Life on earth started through a variety of circumstances and then evolved in a certain direction based on many more different circumstances. What are the chances that another planet/moon would have the same exact circumstances and would produce the same type of life? Then what are the chances that such a planet/moon would exist in our solar system? Maybe it's much more possible than I think, but it seems to me that it would be a huge coincidence. What seems more likely would be that "life" (I guess we still haven't defined that word) on another planet would have evolved in a completely different direction and would therefore have different characteristics. Just because we can't imagine it, doesn't mean it couldn't exist.
Name:  Heather Shelton
Username:  hshelton@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  relative?
Date:  2001-09-10 09:25:19
Message Id:  86
Comments:
I was thinking about the relationship between science and life and I began to wonder why culture demands that science has all of the answers. Why do people expect the truth to come from science? Could it be because science in general is presented in such a way that people assume it is separated from culture? That we see science as investigating an area of reality that exists independently of humans? Yet when science tries to involve it self in Biology, the science “of life” how does it avoid it’s own cultural framework? As a class we had a hard time talking about life on Europa because all of our descriptions of what life might be like were initially human centered…It took us a while to figure out that something didn’t have to “move” in order to be alive. Can we see and understand life without being self-referential?

If we found a blade of grass on Europa would be disappointed that there wasn’t something more advanced like us? Something “more alive”?


Name:  Julie
Username:  jwise@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  "life"
Date:  2001-09-10 10:17:27
Message Id:  88
Comments:
I found it interesting the other day that, in the mid-1970's, NASA dected "life" on Mars when, in fact, the readings that their equiptment relayed were possible without the existence of a life form. What, then, would we use to detect life on Europa for example? It's so odd, isn't it, to think that our current grasp of life may only be a tiny fragment of what truly exists? That is such a perplexing question and I hope that we explore it further in class.
Name:  viv
Username:  vbishay@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2001-09-10 10:40:57
Message Id:  89
Comments:
In response to Alexis's comments, I'm not sure it is so much a matter of conceit as whats logical. Is it really conceit to think that a planet/moon, in our solar system, would display similar characteristics as our own planet when similar forces are probably at work on it? Perhaps life on other planets in our solar system has evolved in another direction, yet is it so far fetched to think that this direction in some way resembles our own to the extent that we would recognize the life or the make up of the life that came of it? Of course we can never discount the idea that, in our limited frame of reference, we are unable to recognize forms of life on other planets. Even so it seems logical that, in exploring planets of our solar system, those first attempts would be through that frame of reference.
Name:  Claudia Ginanni
Username:  cginanni@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  definition of life and classification/taxonomy
Date:  2001-09-10 14:45:09
Message Id:  90
Comments:
When we're discussing what life is and whether we would recognize it on Europa or elsewhere if it were radically different from life we've seen so far, it's important to keep in mind that human beings are always the ones who define life. The division of the universe into "living" and "nonliving" things is a purely human invention. We have decided to make the distinction between life and nonlife just as we have decided to distinguish humans from apes, mammals from reptiles, animals from plants and so on. Humans draw the definitional boundaries, and those categories do not exist without us.

If we argue about whether something we have found on Europa is "life," the argument is about 1) whether the thing we've found possesses those characteristics we've agreed upon as necessary for the thing to be described as "life" or 2) whether we want to change our definition to include the thing.

Perhaps the thing will have the essential characteristics and we'll be unable to detect them. In that case, our definition is not implicated -- just our ability to observe (which we're constantly expanding with technology).

Or perhaps it will be missing one characteristic we deem necessary to "life," but have another one that we feel strongly cannot exist in a nonliving thing, so that we decide to change our definition. Either way, it doesn't go into the category independently of us because we made up the category. Maybe we'll discover intelligent beings who have some kind of language but don't have a category analagous to "life." Maybe they'll have an analogous category that cuts out nine tenths of what ours includes.

Our textbook discusses some revisions in classification systems that seem to be motivated by observations only recently made possible -- i.e., observations about lineage made through analysis of DNA. Biologists thus seem to be moving away from a taxonomy based on anatomy and toward one based on heredity. I wonder how the discovery of life on Europa would affect that.


Name:  Akudo Ejelonu
Username:  aejelonu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  life versus science
Date:  2001-09-11 23:58:14
Message Id:  98
Comments:
We as human beings only define life from what we see everyday; as in the air we breath, the way we reproduce and our way of motion. In class we came up with a statement that "life is influenced by culture". This statement is ironic because we live in a world that has many different ethnicities, religions and sexualities. the human race has no say in what the set culture of life is. The word culture to me means a group of social behavior patterens and beliefs. The definition of culture to someone in Brazil maybe different to someone living in South Africa. since the human race has no firm definition for the word culture. the point that I am trying to make is that i do not have a conclusion on what i think that life in Europia should be.
Name:  Akudo Ejelonu
Username:  aejelonu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  life versus science
Date:  2001-09-12 00:00:34
Message Id:  99
Comments:
We as human beings only define life from what we see everyday; as in the air we breath, the way we reproduce and our way of motion. In class we came up with a statement that "life is influenced by culture". This statement is ironic because we live in a world that has many different ethnicities, religions and sexualities. the human race has no say in what the set culture of life is. The word culture to me means a group of social behavior patterens and beliefs. The definition of culture to someone in Brazil maybe different to someone living in South Africa. since the human race has no firm definition for the word culture. the point that I am trying to make is that i do not have a conclusion on what i think that life in Europia should be.
Name:  Jessica Blucher
Username:  jblucher@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Life?
Date:  2001-09-12 23:58:29
Message Id:  107
Comments:
I wonder how other societies define life? On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure how /I/ define life. We decided that science=life, more or less. That is somewhat helpful but also not entirely accurate. I don't remember who it was who said it, but she mentioned something about how life had experiences and memories or something. I think I'm gonna go for things that involve life in interesting ways. Life is a cereal. Whose idea was that, to name a cereal Life? What were they trying to say? Does it have any relevance to this forum? I'm just kinda rambling here...
Name:  Julie Wise
Username:  jwise@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  science/history/life
Date:  2001-09-13 14:52:33
Message Id:  131
Comments:
This afternoon in my history class we were discussing the means by which events become "history." It stuck me that that process is similar to the "less wrong" definition of the scientific method that we came up with in class whereby we have a summary of observations, we build on that summary with new obsevations and we then consider and examine the implications of those observations.
This caused me to think about Tuesday's events and how we will summarize them as "history" and what place they will occupy based on our prior summary of observations, the observations that we have attained in the past 72 hours, and how that summary will shape our future and define our past.
I guess this is just an observation of how science corresponds to life and to history and how none are completely isolated from one another.
Name:  Rianna
Username:  rouellet@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  definitions of life
Date:  2001-09-13 18:48:13
Message Id:  138
Comments:
You can look at life in a number of ways. There can be the strictest definition of life, the "highly improbable assembly", being bounded, energy dependent, semi-homeostatic, semi-autonomous, and having the potential of reproduction with variance. These qualities "make" their owner a "living" thing. But because we are being limited by language, life is not merely a quality, a state of being. It can be viewed in terms of what makes up a life: memories, perceptions, sensations, relations.
See Serendip's general Biology forum area for a contribution by a visitor from outside the class.


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