Biology 103 2001 Forum


Welcome to the course Forum Area for Biology 103, Fall 2001 at Bryn Mawr College.

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

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Welcome
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-09-01 16:18:26
Link to this Comment: 25

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.


Scientific Approach
Name: sana dada
Date: 2001-09-04 17:24:36
Link to this Comment: 49

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.


science as opposed to what
Name: Rianna
Date: 2001-09-04 19:58:13
Link to this Comment: 53

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.


getting it 'less wrong'
Name: Julie Wise
Date: 2001-09-05 10:02:10
Link to this Comment: 56

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.


Science in Life....
Name: Sarah Ster
Date: 2001-09-05 15:09:08
Link to this Comment: 57

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.


I love this class
Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2001-09-05 23:29:28
Link to this Comment: 61

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.


Hypothesis
Name: Joelle A W
Date: 2001-09-05 23:40:10
Link to this Comment: 62

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.


underway ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-09-06 08:17:00
Link to this Comment: 63

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 Wan
Date: 2001-09-06 21:06:41
Link to this Comment: 67

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.


The "Scientific" Life
Name: Savithri E
Date: 2001-09-06 21:29:23
Link to this Comment: 69

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.


science and life
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2001-09-06 22:03:55
Link to this Comment: 70

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?


thoughts
Name: Samantha C
Date: 2001-09-06 22:14:09
Link to this Comment: 71

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.


some ideas
Name: viv
Date: 2001-09-07 10:44:22
Link to this Comment: 73

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.


Change
Name: Ilana Moye
Date: 2001-09-07 16:38:14
Link to this Comment: 74

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.


Scientific Method
Name: Emi Arima
Date: 2001-09-08 17:08:03
Link to this Comment: 75

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?


science and life
Name: Margaret P
Date: 2001-09-08 20:15:43
Link to this Comment: 76

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.


scientific method
Name: christy
Date: 2001-09-09 16:01:17
Link to this Comment: 77

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?


life, science, truth, etc
Name: Tua
Date: 2001-09-09 16:20:09
Link to this Comment: 78

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.


ah, the nature of life. and such.
Name: kat
Date: 2001-09-09 19:36:24
Link to this Comment: 79

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?


science = life?
Name: Rachel Mol
Date: 2001-09-09 20:05:37
Link to this Comment: 80

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?


Life.... without a description
Name: Sarah Ster
Date: 2001-09-09 20:08:34
Link to this Comment: 81

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.


life on other planets
Name: Leah Rayne
Date: 2001-09-09 20:19:43
Link to this Comment: 82

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.


Thoughts on "life"
Name: A.B.
Date: 2001-09-10 00:04:11
Link to this Comment: 85

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.


relative?
Name: Heather Sh
Date: 2001-09-10 09:25:19
Link to this Comment: 86

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”?


"life"
Name: Julie
Date: 2001-09-10 10:17:27
Link to this Comment: 88

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
Date: 2001-09-10 10:40:57
Link to this Comment: 89

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.


definition of life and classification/taxonomy
Name: Claudia Gi
Date: 2001-09-10 14:45:09
Link to this Comment: 90

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.


life versus science
Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2001-09-11 23:58:14
Link to this Comment: 98

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.


life versus science
Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2001-09-12 00:00:34
Link to this Comment: 99

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.


Life?
Name: Jessica Bl
Date: 2001-09-12 23:58:29
Link to this Comment: 107

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...


science/history/life
Name: Julie Wise
Date: 2001-09-13 14:52:33
Link to this Comment: 131

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.


definitions of life
Name: Rianna
Date: 2001-09-13 18:48:13
Link to this Comment: 138

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.


finding a path
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-09-14 10:26:01
Link to this Comment: 142

The world has changed, as of this past Tuesday, 11 September, 2001. And it is not less important but even more important now to talk about what life is and should be, to tell and listen to stories about it, to share thoughts, to together try and get it less wrong. In what ways might things we have begun talking about help to make sense of where we find ourselves? In what ways might recent events contribute to our understandings and explorations of life?


Life
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2001-09-14 10:33:30
Link to this Comment: 143

Life can be sometimes thought of as the science of biology. When I think about what life means I usually do not think about the biological entities and what characteristics they share to allow us to be able to distinguish them from non-living things. I usually just think about our everday activities and how if we are active and breathing, then therefore we must be living--very simplistic. Here is an interesting site about life:
http://home1.gte.net/lindanic/9801/life.htm


organizing life
Name: Claudia Gi
Date: 2001-09-14 13:57:27
Link to this Comment: 147

Contemporary taxonomy, according to our textbook, is primarily focused on establishing how closely various species are related -- how much of their genetic inheritance they share with one another. Why, I wonder, is that so important to us? Why do we seem driven to classify things according to how like or unlike us they are?

One model of macroevolution proposes that a successful species in evolutionary terms is one from which numerous other species evolve. But I have to admit that it sort of creeps me out to think about other species evolving from ours. I suppose I want to think that our species is uniquely equipped, with its big brain, to use tools to adapt to a changing environment without having to change itself in a fundamental way.

We've talked about how "mistakes" -- observations that don't fit into the accepted summary -- provoke the profound changes in science. In our analogy between science and life, the mistakes that provoke evolutionary leaps could be mutations, i.e., errors in the replication of genes. But I imagine that mutations that lead to structural changes in the human organism are unlikely to be welcomed by existing humans. Such a mutation in the developed world would likely be subject to gene therapy. Do we reduce our chances of evolutionary "success" by restricting what it means to be human and then assuming that humanity is the desired state?


Human Nature
Name: Joelle Web
Date: 2001-09-15 12:35:37
Link to this Comment: 156

The previous posting asks why humans are driven to classify things according to how they relate to themselves. I ask: "How can we avoid this tendency?" At this point in our history as humans we are learning more and more about ourselves on the atomic and genetic levels. This may seem egotistical or porideful but there are no other organisms like us on the earth or that we know of in the rest of the universe. We acknowledge our differences by comparing oursleves to each other as humans and recognizing the idiosyncrasies of our species in comparison to other living beings.


what is a probable assembly?
Name: Christy Co
Date: 2001-09-15 16:35:12
Link to this Comment: 161

This is just a (somewhat trivial) side note, but it recently occurred to me that while it seems we can very easily recognize an "improbable assembly," what would we recognize as a probable assembly? I think this can be answered by making some sort of observations reguarding chaos versus order, however the very idea can also be argued against using the parts-of-me-in-a-bag illustration. If I put all of my parts in a bag and spill them out, odds are not good that I will get me on the floor. But if I spill them out once (in what might seem a chaotic and probable assembly), aren't the odds equally slim that I will ever get that "probable" assembly again?



Name: viv
Date: 2001-09-16 16:55:22
Link to this Comment: 166

after talking about the characteristics of a living organism, ie resperation, growth etc we began looking at life on a broader level, as made up of interactions. this aspect of life became strikingly clear in light of tuesdays events. in europe they mourned as we did here, one lady from france stating, "today we are all americans,"and here blood banks were full after months and months of shortage and calls for donation. the social characteristic of banding together in stress is not a human one. this kind of response is mirrored in other species. it is intersting to note that an injured water buffalo, hunted by a pride of lions, recieves protection from fellow buffalos that encircle him and display they're horns.



Name: Emi
Date: 2001-09-16 20:45:03
Link to this Comment: 169

I think the main thing we can learn from recent occurances and our studies is the importance of life. Life may be an organized improbable system, but there has to be something more...something that gives "life" (the phenomenon). I remember the first time I learned about cellular organization and the cell parts, and how on the smallest level, everything was made out of the same non-living molecules. I remember contemplating this and being just horrified that I was made up of all these non-living parts and I couldn't figure out how the non-living molecules were making a living me. Where was the line that differentiated these chemicals and the living cells I was composed of?

I think a danger is that my previous biology classes seemed so distant from life. They were a study of things and of images from books. I think that this separation happens in a lot of classes, as well as daily life, and it can be dangerous. People get caught up studying theories and models or they get caught up in their own work and chores, and they forget about the life aspect. Life may go on after tragedies, but the value of that specific life (its stories and information) are gone. Science, and biology especially, aren't just about classifying things, but connecting and interacting with other living organisms.


biology and tragedy
Name: Rebekah Ro
Date: 2001-09-16 21:07:57
Link to this Comment: 171

In light of last week's events, I have thought a lot about how biology has related to all the horrendous things that have occured. Wasn't it bad enough that someone, or a group of people did such a horrible thing to our country? But no, now Americans have retaliated against who they think to be the culprits. In our class, we have learned that in order for our lives to go on, we need diversity throughout our biosphere. Yet, here we are trying to destroy something different from us, just because we don't know all the facts. If only we, as a country, could realize just how precious diversity is to us.



Name: A.B.
Date: 2001-09-16 21:55:54
Link to this Comment: 172

We've been discussing evolution (on some level) and diversity with regard to bio. Prof. Grobstein brought up a very interesting point that we are not "better" evolved than any other species. The very same thought occured to me when reading about tiny bacteria that can survive extreme heat and extreme cold. Humans, for all their "brain power" and complexities, are no better (perhaps even worse) at surviving than these tiny bacteria. Too often, we seem to consider ourselves the final, perfect product of evolution. This thought led to another, more pessimistic thought (I'm sorry; I don't usually think this way). In the wake of all this tragedy it occured to me that perhaps humans are WORSE off than other species. After all, what other species kills its own kind out of something other than need; what other species has created things like discrimination and racial hatred; what other species has invented "tools" that serve no purpose other than to hurt others? It makes me wonder how and why we became this way? Is it a genetic development? A behavior we learned and passed down from generation to generation? A combination?


Life
Name: Jennifer T
Date: 2001-09-16 22:15:13
Link to this Comment: 173

One thing that I find very interesting is the fact that last Tuesday's events have heightened the America's (if not the whole world's) awareness of life. When we feel safe, we do not think about our existence. Instead, we focus on what we "need" get done in the time we have. Most people do not stop to think about life itself; it is the most precious gift we have, because NOTHING can replace it once taken away. Last Tuesday's tragedies have made people aware of the fact that life is more than just an improbable assembly of scientifically named parts - it includes emotional, spiritual, complicated states of BEING that in many ways cannot be explained. It is these incredible phenomena that come together to create life.


evolution
Name: charlotte
Date: 2001-09-16 22:54:09
Link to this Comment: 175

I feel insensitively intellectual in trying to understand Tuesday's tragedy as part of the human evolutionary process. If evolution implies advancement, then it would seem that any and everything that occurs in our world somehow betters it. Explaining terrorist attacks or any violence as part of a natural pattern of advancement seems to justify it. How does free will fit into evolution? Perhaps it is not a qualitative question of bettering or making worse, but instead an observation of the interaction between improbable assemblies. A popular maxim of Ben Franklin states, "Nothing is either good or bad. It's thinking that makes it so." Are human actions wrong from an evolutionary standpoint? Is evolution not about advancement, but instead just about change? Evolving from monkeys is definitely an advancement in being able to manipulate our surroundings. How has Tuesday's tradgedy advanced us? What role will it play in our evolution?


Mortality
Name: Sasha
Date: 2001-09-17 02:24:54
Link to this Comment: 176

I think part of our definion of life may need to include the fact that it is irreplacable. Starfish can re-grow limbs, some lizards can regenerate their tails, plants can grow a new flower if one gets plucked. But if you remove life from a living organism, that can't be given back or replaced. And, to relate this to the recent tradgedy, no matter what actions this country takes against anyone now, the lives lost can't be replaced. Killing people can't be taken back, because life is that aspect of an organism which can't be regenerated or replaced.


Perfection.....
Name: Sarah Ster
Date: 2001-09-17 10:40:45
Link to this Comment: 180

What Sasha says in "Mortality" makes a lot of sense. It has never been quite so clear how certain aspects of life can be taken away and will come back (like tails, flowers), but how life in general can never be re-established once it is completely gone. After talking in class about the organization of life from microscopic size to blue whales, it seems like when I think of life I forget how complex we are. It is our complexity that is so hard to regenerate. Every part of life from the physical to the emotional would have to re-established to perfection in order for life to be fully regenerated. We are not perfect, but life can appear that way at times.


Life
Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2001-09-17 20:37:52
Link to this Comment: 191

Unfortunately, last tuesday's event has made us realize how precison and dear life is. if we take one life away, then we are killing millions of cells. Cells are a part of scinece and a big part of who we are. life is soemthing that should be cherished and dear to our hertas. If two hundred people in Bosnis died last month due toa bomb, we americans will give a remorse to their families . But our lives will still go on. Due to tuesday's incident, Americans are hit very hard beacuse the attack was in their home; "the home of the free and the brave". This is human instincts and it is ashmed that it took last weeks attack to make us realize how precious life is.
My motto is "carpe diem"-seize the day. You never know when your life will suddenly end.


life
Name: Margaret P
Date: 2001-09-17 21:42:36
Link to this Comment: 192

Tuesday's events are a reminder of one of life's themes that people are sometimes unwilling to rememeber, that life is not static, it is ever-changing. These events will no doubt dramatically change the political aspect of our society, if not the world, and these changes will simply become part of what we describe our lives to be. Humans will adapt to these changes, and thus evolve into different beings than they were before.


supression/alteration of evolution?
Name: Julie Wise
Date: 2001-09-18 14:43:52
Link to this Comment: 207

A number of the above comments were discussing evolution and I began to think about how, in today's technological age, we have a great deal of power over evolution. With the onset of genetic enginering we have the ability to supress evolution and/or mold it into our notions of what should evolve. Who are we to make those decisions and will these alterations prove to have a detramental effect on the survival and progression of our species? It's frightening to me to think that a species that has so much power while, at the same time, being so ignorant of the larger scheme in life and the consequences that the actions taken now will affect the future.


human evolution
Name: Rianna
Date: 2001-09-18 17:06:26
Link to this Comment: 216

One thing we must endevor not to forget is that we are still in the process of evolving. Only now, we are overriding natural selection, with our technology, our medical practices, and method of caring for our young, old, and injured. We are not the end, nor is our current state the end, either. I think it extremely important for us to recognize what we may become, and how the consequences of our actions may have an effect on that. An interesting fiction novel on these matters is "Galapagos" by Kurt Vonnegut.


Shanah Tovah
Name: Rachel Mol
Date: 2001-09-18 20:16:04
Link to this Comment: 220

Every blade of grass lives and dies, just as we do. We are overwhelmed by the violence and senselessness of humanity, and it IS overwhelming and scary, and complicated, and hard to deal with. But think what a small part of the universe humanity is, heck, think what a small part even of this Earth humanity is. In case anyone's forgotten, let me remind you of the huge world that we share with the all the animals and plants and trees and bugs and oceans and deserts. And of how old the earth is, and how much things change. Today was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. In Hebrew school they told us that this day was the world's birthday. In the big scheme of things, our lives seem to mean as much as those of goldfish, or of oak leaves. After all, dinosaurs once filled the earth, and who thinks of them now but five-year-old boys? I'm getting bogged down in all this philosophical thought, while the deer in the woods don't even have the slightest idea of what has happened, and their lives go on unaffected. Life goes on. What will this year be like? Eons from now, will anyone remember us? And what will they remember? Happy Birthday, world. Shanah Tovah.


life.....
Name: Monica Bha
Date: 2001-09-19 00:44:53
Link to this Comment: 222

After today's lab where we categorized plants based on appearance...I thought about how this happens in our society. As quickly as we grouped the plants by appearance...society works exactly the same way...for example this tragedy..the terrorist attack caused a huge loss of life...many Americans were able to unite...to cope with the tragedy..yet..as quick as I was able to group plants today in categories ..people were quick enough to place me under the category of being a threat to the US...since all they can see is my brown skin...


Monica
Name:
Date: 2001-09-20 14:09:23
Link to this Comment: 242

That's not all I see.


L'Shana Tova u'metukah
Name: Jessica Bl
Date: 2001-09-21 00:30:48
Link to this Comment: 246

I'm going to take up part of Rachel's theme of the new year and go sorta spiritual for a moment. Please forgive me if this offends anyone, but I've got the new year on my mind, so I'm going to take the theme and run with it. In the high holiday litrugy there's a passage about how at this time of year it is decided who will die, and who will be born, shall live and who shall die, who shall live out the length of his days and who shall not, who dies by fire and who by water, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by plague, who by strangulation, who by stoning, who will have rest and who will wander, who shall live in harmony and who shall be harried, who shall live in tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted. What was the point of that very long run-on sentence? We're not in control of everything. Therefore we should cherish "life" and live it to the fullest, for we may never know when our time comes to leave this world. I guess the fallout from the whole WTC thing has 2 aspects for me: 1) every sermon I've heard had to incorporate it somehow, and 2) it's made me appreciate "life" more, especially my friendships. I think "life" is more than just biology. Although that's probably the main part of "life" that we'll be studying in this class, I think it's important that we don't forget that there are other aspects, too.


evolution
Name: celina
Date: 2001-09-21 00:46:35
Link to this Comment: 247

As a forum virgin, I would first like to apologize for reading all your ideas these past weeks and only participating now... sorry.

I've always thought of evolution as life getting better.
Prof. Grobstein said this week that evolution is exploration. Life’s exploration…
In my anthropology course this week, Prof. Davis insisted that evolution is "not goal oriented but circumstantial" and that it is in no way "directed towards perfection."
This has made me reconsider many things...
Darwin's natural selection theory claims that species change to adapt to their environment.
I feel that humans are terribly amazing improbable assemblies. However I wonder if we are not altering our environment much faster than we can adapt to it?

Is traveling to a different place and expecting your body to adapt to a very different climate just plain crazy?
Will humans evolve to be able to deal with a variety of different climates because of our tendency to move around?

Someone spoke of genetic engineering… these modern technologies are frightening to me. Humans have been breeding humans, animals and plants for desired traits for some time now. My concern is that searching to perfect species has a tendency to eliminate diversity...
I believe the survival of humans in the game of life depends on the mixing of cultures and races. Oops, maybe I’m not supposed to go there?

In view of these past two weeks’ events I’d like to say that I am not proud to be American, but that I am proud to be a thinking and feeling being that grows within this world and shares this world with so many different people.


"Life's exploration"?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-09-22 10:45:52
Link to this Comment: 253

I've archived earlier comments, but kept some recent ones that seemed already to be moving in an interesting direction for this week. You're free this week, as always, to write about whatever seemed significant to you this week. Here, though, is a question to get you started if you need one:

The "clumpiness" of the diversity of life is an important set of observations which the notion of "evolution" was developed to to make sense of, a set of observations which is it is harder to understand using earlier stories of where life comes from (and where its going). What other sets of observations might be better understood using the notion of "evolution"? What other differences in how one perceives life are there when one uses the notion of evolution, rather than earlier stories, to try and make sense of it?


evolution
Name: charlotte
Date: 2001-09-22 16:55:41
Link to this Comment: 258

Which human traits will survive and which will evolve? Which inherited characteristics are most suitable to our environment? Are humans a "dead-end" species? Our textbook paraphrases Darwin's second inference: "Survival in the struggle for existence is not random, but depends in part on the hereditary constitution of the surviving individuals. Those individuals whose inherited characteristics best fit them to their environment are likely to leave more offspring than less-fit individuals." (p 420) How does this apply to the human species? Does it apply to individuals, or cultures, or only to the human race in its entirety? It isn't logical to call a mother of 10 better adapted than an infertile woman, is it?


Thoughts on Evolution
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2001-09-23 17:09:26
Link to this Comment: 262

Evolution is a very useful tool in making sense of human behavior that is otherwise not explainable. Evolution can get you to the highest possible level of truth outside of the physical sciences. Every phenomenon of human behavior has multifaceted causes and using any simple cause and effect formula is oversimplistic. But, evolution can be a substantial, if not overwhelming factor in the causation of many human behaviors. The problems of multiple causation are somewhat diminished in many animal species which lack the cognition and ability to change their environment or behavior through free will that humans possess. Insect behavior is probably almost entirely predetermined by evolution and evolution is a useful tool to explain many life systems. While it is easy to find counterexamples of evolutionary theory in everyday human behavior the overwhelming role evolution plays in explaining non-human animal behavior coupled with the number of examples of human behavior that are consistent with evolutionary theory make evolution a viable tool in explaining the diversity of life.


Understanding time......
Name: Sarah Ster
Date: 2001-09-23 19:27:23
Link to this Comment: 263

We finished class in Friday with a comment on how in order to understand life, we must first understand time. Our conversation was based around how growth and evolution is all relative to time. Thinking back to our discussions on distance,(astronomically) it occured to me that perhaps part of the reason why we still do not have the ability to conceive how far away stars, planets, fellow galaxies, and perhaps other forms of life are, is due to the fact that we continually are confused with time. Our measurements of distance in light-YEARS is one example of this. It just goes to show that we assume without understanding and then cannot understand other assumptions.


time
Name: Emi Arima
Date: 2001-09-23 19:29:27
Link to this Comment: 264

We were told to think about life in the context of time over the weekend...and I was thinking that it never seems like such a big shock to people that geologists can go and study rocks and find the layers from the different eras. They can characterize certain aspects of the earth centuries ago by the differences in the rock. But when we think about rocks we think about them as being strong and steadfast; they are not alive; they don't die and decompose. They are part of the earth and remain through the ages showing the marks of time.

And then I thought about life in respect to time; we were told that it cannot make sense without time being a factor. You can look at a person's face and you can get an idea of what her ethnic background is. Although I don't look it with skin tone or hair color, I still have people acknowledge my Japanese heritage by the shape of my face and my bone structure. The physical traits of a person show the culmination of traits of her ancestors.

When looking at the big picture, we tend to look at life as insignificant - we are so small compared to the cosmos and our lives are so short compared to eternity. We do live and die, and yet we don't. Maybe we won't be remembered within a few centuries, but isn't it amazing to think that the people we see now are show some of the history of the human race through their physiology and that we may perhaps someday have offspring who will in turn give some part of us to future generations?



Name: Leah Rayne
Date: 2001-09-23 21:59:25
Link to this Comment: 265

It's interesting to think about the way in which we categorize things. Most people's inclination in lab was to categorize plant life by size. What would it mean to our society if instead of classifying people by skin color we were to classify people by height? Would we then be able to say that all of those under a certain height are children, those between two heights are teenagers, and those above a certain height are adults? That would certainly rid society of racism. However, it obviously wouldn't work for a variety of reasons. The heights chosen would not define the stage of growth for everyone because people grow at different rates. Likewise, the categories of race that society has defined are arbitrary in the same way as categorizing people by height.

As there are more and more discoveries scientific categories evolve. As different races of people in the United States learn more about those with skin color that differs from their own their definitions of race evolve. I wonder how much scientific observation it will take until our society realizes that skin color is not an adequate way to classify.



Name: viv
Date: 2001-09-23 22:03:02
Link to this Comment: 266

when i first thought about the concept of nature's "clumpiness," i accepted the idea with certainity; we can all agree that there are imaginable species, not existent in our world, that could smooth out this "clumpiness"? thinking back to a documentary i saw on deep sea exploration made me question such easy acceptance. biologists discovered several new species on the ocean floor. these animals were like nothing i had seen before, a fish-like creature with visible vestigial structures, another with protruding teeth the size of its body length that looked as though it had crawled out of the paleozoic era. every day scientists, with the aid of technological advancements, are unearthing new species. will these 'missing links' help to smooth out some of nature's "clumpiness"?



Name: Sasha
Date: 2001-09-24 01:00:11
Link to this Comment: 267

We don't think of cats as clumped together, but we don't think of them as seperate either. Cats have variations (some have no tails, some have longer fur, and almost all of them have different patterns.) When there are diifferences between species we are astonished by the similarity. When there are differences within other species, we are impressed by the variety. In our own species we seem to either hate variety and supess it, or to ignore it so we can all be the same. I think we should be impressed with similarities and differences all the time.


Life...?
Name: Jennifer T
Date: 2001-09-24 01:18:54
Link to this Comment: 268

I particularly enjoyed our discussion this week about life on different scales. I've always found it interesting that astronomy seems to study things bigger than the Earth, and Biology seems to study things that are smaller than it. Firstly, I'm happy to see that we're including in our study of life the POSSIBILITY of life. I also find it fascinating that while we seem to be looking at both ends of the spectrum, we know much more about the small end. I believe there is life in other galaxies, if not somewhere in our own. I find it fascinating that we can take pictures of distant galaxies, yet we will never be able to explore them because they are so far away. (It's amazing to think that even at light speed it would take billions of years to get to many of these places.) So while the immense amount of space leaves infinite amounts to be discovered, it is also extremely limiting BECAUSE it's so vast. Very paradoxical...


Evolution and diversity
Name: Tua
Date: 2001-09-24 03:15:16
Link to this Comment: 269

In the late Victorian Era, when Darwin's theories were being applied to everything, those who thought it fashionable to study them, biologically classified the "poor" as another race which was prone to alchaholism, criminal natures, and poverty--as if these were heriditary traits. We have taken "survival of the fittest" to mean the same thing as "the best man wins' which is not true. What it means in nature is the continued reproduction of the group, species, etc that has been able to adapt to a changing environment. What may be useful in one environment may be absolutely useless in another. It all depends on if you can adjust, change, mold yourself to fit the environment in which you end up.

For lack of a better system, we define things by comparison to other things. Humans are all part of the same kingdom, the same species, the same phylum, the same family, yet we insist on further separating ourselves in different races, classes, and even colors. As we said in class, we are all unlikely assemblies that just happened to come out of the bag. We could have just as easily turned out to be someone else. But, biologically, it wouldn't matter because we would still be unlikely. The fact that we are so similar and yet different in so many tiny ways is amazing.

Sasha commented how we either suppress or ignore our variety. I agree that we don't appreciate the small differences that we do have. Biologically, we aren't all that diverse because we haven't given evolution a chance to experiment. For the most part, we find others similar to oursleves and huddle together in small groups. On Friday, we began to think about what effect time might have on this whole process. Just as with diversity, many people ignore and suppress change. I wonder, as a species which doesn't like change or diversity, what, in evolutionary terms, are our chances of survival over time?



Name: Claudia
Date: 2001-09-24 09:09:39
Link to this Comment: 270

We sometimes speak of adaptive "strategies," as if the organisms that evolved from other organisms intentionally changed themselves. Clearly, that's not how evolution works, but when I look at our species in the context of geological time, I wonder if we should consider the technologies we've developed as part of the evolutionary process. Or perhaps they will ultimately have the effect of retarding the evolutionary process, since one of the things we try to do with them is to alter our environment to suit us. Apparently, we have unintentionally altered our environment (through the porduction of greenhouse gases) to the extent that it threatens to become unfit for us.



Name: Lydie
Date: 2001-09-25 00:14:59
Link to this Comment: 281

We adapt to live within certain contexts, adapting to the environment in which we live. Yet at the same time we have the ability to shape our own environment and thus affect our own adaptibility. It's a bit bizzare right?! We are constantly adapting to changing times, changes that have been brought on by our own species. Such changes begin by social and culture norms, just think about how much women and men have changed because of changes in societal ideals. But all in all things don't change that much, things might appear structurally different, but in terms of emotional wiring all people share the same dreams, thoughts and desires.


size and time
Name: Rianna
Date: 2001-09-25 09:57:36
Link to this Comment: 282

When we were talking about size and time scales in class, it all appeared very impressive. The concept of measuring distances in light years and time in millions of years can be difficult to fathom when somedays just walking the mile to the grocery store seems like a long haul and waiting two hours for class to be over an eternity. When considering these vast time spans, we can notice that the human race hasn't been around for very long. And yet it is fascinating; we are still infants timewise and already we have come up with (or at least think we have) explanations for our existance, our planet's existance, and have even ventured a guess for the existance of the universe. But when dealing with time in clumps of millions of years, is it not possible that our existance (as intrigued with it as we are) could just wink out like that of so many other creatures without so much as a by your leave?


race
Name: celina
Date: 2001-09-25 20:07:10
Link to this Comment: 294

We have already established that humans have a need to categorize and that we do this through the clumpiness we observe in life...
Why does this need to differentiate living things lead to placing higher value on certain things? What criteria are we using to determine the value of one thing versus another?
What happens when we try to categorize things that have no clumpiness? However people try to define human races no clumpiness appears. There are so many more people in between categories than there are people in those categories….


Evolution and Time
Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2001-09-25 21:23:11
Link to this Comment: 295

In classss we wre talking about evolution and gow it relates to time. The concept of evolution puts time as a time perimertre of biological system.we are continous in time both past and present. About 65 million years ago dinaosurs romaed the earth nd all the continents were connected. but over a period of time, the dinosaurs extinct and the continents shifted from eachother.The world is still evolving. i think that the sad part about dying is not being able to experience change;in technology and society.


In my middle school science class, I was taught that humans evoloved from homosapiens over a period of time. But in church, I was tuaght that God created the universal sepically humans. These stories give account to the diversity but the don't provide explanations for the clumpy diversity. The Milky Way is clumpy and it consist of stars and plantets all clump ito together but why is that so? If i was to tarvel out of space, I would see only vast space but if i traveled a billion light years, i will see the a lot of stars. Stars have life span and evolve overtime. It amazes me to know that I will not be existing in ythis world if it wasn't for the sun to generate hydrogen atom. evoltion is good and though it will take the sun a billion more years till it dies out, time is essential to my life.


Animal Classification
Name: Joelle Web
Date: 2001-09-25 23:47:27
Link to this Comment: 296

Taxonomy has always been a puzzling and yet intriguing topic for me. The validity and necessity of the process of classification in and of itself has already been questioned. The perplexing part of the Taxonomic system that still remains for me is the almost arbitrary means by which we group animals. Let us think about this logically for a second: we have a targeted set of rules for defining a species, the basis of our taxonomical system, but the other divisions and groupings have no such structure. When we were discussing the various animals on that website and the characteristics that define each group all of the criteria seemed unrelated to me. However, at this point I will refrain from criticizing the system any further for I can offer no alternate.


the big experiment
Name: debbie wan
Date: 2001-09-26 04:57:00
Link to this Comment: 297

Many have mentioned the connection between evolution and adaptability. This brings us back to our version of the scientific method. Adaptability is just an ever changing series of observations and implications "resulting" (never really a result) in many summaries that still work and summaries that still need replacement. Is evolution just one huge scientific question being applied to the scientific method?


what adapts to what?
Name: Jessica Bl
Date: 2001-09-26 13:45:14
Link to this Comment: 300

I found today's class interesting, especially the point about how we change our environment just as much as the environment changes us. I never thought of it that way before. If simpler organisms could change the environment, doesn't that drastically change the whole evolution theory? At least then it makes more sense. I'm amazed at how we're still trying to figure out how life got here in the first place (from a scientific standpoint)...


Darwinism
Name: Neema
Date: 2001-09-27 00:07:16
Link to this Comment: 316

Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory was indeed a powerful breakthrough in evolution. However, one of the negative effects of this theory was that supremacists twisted Darwin's theory into a theory they called "Social Darwinism." This theory perpetuated stereotypes and negatively characterized people of lower socio-economic status. In fact, Social Darwinism was used as a justification for British Imperialism. It's incredible how a theory can be completely taken out of context and have disastrous effects for humankind.


evolution and life
Name: Margaret P
Date: 2001-09-27 21:11:54
Link to this Comment: 322

What strikes me about science and humankind is how even the most noble of intentions often results in dramatic tragedies. Through science and other disciplines, humans have been able to form more of a complete picture of life and what it means to be a human living on the Earth and with all these other life forms. However, the methods that we have used to gain this understanding are often used to impose control over situations that are uncontrollable. Several people have metioned genetic engineering in animals and the prospect of doing so in humans, and this is where, once agina, the best of intentions goes awry. Genetic engineering is a way to produce hearty crops that will be able to feed humanity and the animals that we depend on, but when it is appled to humans, it becomes a method of controlling evolution, which is something that is incontrollable, and this exactly why we try to control it. I wonder what further disasters will occur in our attempts at control.


death of stars=life on earth
Name: Julie Wise
Date: 2001-09-28 10:13:43
Link to this Comment: 323

I just wanted to comment on how fascinating I found class the other day when we discussing the formation of our universe and the likelihood that life on earth evolved from the deaths of surrounding stars. In light of that deduction, I find it even more unlikely that we are the only forms of "life" in the universe and in galaxies beyond. I must also note that I absolutely love the picture taken from Hubble that shows many glaxies out in space. It boggles my mind that that is both a picture of a vast distance, and it is also a picture of TIME, of the past...of the entire history of the universe!! In one picture!!



Name: Ilana Moye
Date: 2001-09-28 18:45:32
Link to this Comment: 328

Today someone brought to my attention that in biology one cannot study life without studying time. We use time as a categorization to "smooth out" the "clumpiness" of life and create a pattern through which we can follow life and evolution. In class we talked about the error in describing evolution as things getting better or more adaptive over time, since the original organisms still exist on earth. Evolution is not moving towards perfection but exists in a state of exploration, generating and trying out new things over time. The concept of time is generally associated with scales and improvement, or change continuing in a certain direction. For once, we must disassociate evolution with time; it seems they have no correlation in the direction of growth patterns. Life does not evolve on the straight path of time. It is difficult for me to understand time without the notion of a pattern. Where is life going? Is it going forward, backward or staying in the same place?


this week ... and on
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-09-29 12:04:38
Link to this Comment: 329

Does seem that this week has been about what happens when we add the time dimension to our thinking about what life is (see archive for earlier thoughts about diversity/"clumpiness"/evolution). So, you're free as always to write about whatever struck you as interesting this week, but if you need something to get you started:

What DOES knowing something about life's past suggest about its future? About the future of parts of it, like humans?


complexity
Name: Claudia
Date: 2001-09-29 20:56:06
Link to this Comment: 336

Our history of life is often a story of ever-increasing complexity. This increase in complexity begins with life's prehistory: hydrogen atoms are compressed into more-complex helium atoms as suns form, helium molecules become more-complex atoms of heavier elements including carbon when suns die; carbon atoms become parts of huge, complex organic molecules. Then we go from prokaryotic life to eukaryotic life to multicellular organisms and so on, building organizations of organizations, with complexity always increasing. And the possibilities of diversity increase with complexity. Of course, the reverse process is going on all the time -- things are constantly decomposing and breaking down into less complex components -- but that narrative doesn't seem so compelling. Perhaps that's because it seems so much more probable.

But the process of thought sometimes seems to be more nearly analogous to the deomposition process. We feel that we have understood something only when we have taken it apart into its constituent parts -- the simpler (and thus less diverse) the basic components, the better our analysis has been. Then we feel that we have achieved order.

I found that after the lab in which we counted and categorized types of plants, I was much more apt to notice the diversity of plant life all over campus. I noticed that plant life on campus has become considerably more diverse since the Grounds Department started going "green" and stopped using herbicides, and it occurred to me that it's typical of traditional landscaping to equate order with sameness. A standard lawn ideally has one type of grass (with perhaps a few other kinds of plants restricted to their particular places). The more diverse any group of things, the less predictable their behavior is -- and the more difficult it is to control.



Name: A.B.
Date: 2001-09-30 12:12:59
Link to this Comment: 339

The last few classes have raised a rather interesting paradox for me. As we talked about time and how OUR history (the history of humans or even the history of multicellular organisms) occupies such a very small percentage of time as a whole, it made me feel rather insignificant. On the other hand, the more we study how "improbable" our assemblies are, the more I'm struck by how amazing it is that we're here thinking, feeling, and acting. It's strange to feel so trivial on one hand, and yet so unique on the other hand.


more thoughts
Name: Jessica Ki
Date: 2001-09-30 19:52:59
Link to this Comment: 340

Another wild thought, while we are thinking of the vastness of it all, is that somewhere in those dust clouds, if the statement that matter can not be created or destroyed, were parts of ourselves, since everything we're made up of has always been around. this has always been a philosophical thought that I have liked, in this vastness it seems like we are so small, but we have been around too, just in diffrent forms. I also have thought a lot about improbable assemblies and the lack of natural probable ones, aren't improbable assemblies then probable, because they are what actually happens, unlike probable assemblies which are artificial?? someone else may have discussed this before, but it's just been a thought thats been lurking in my brain.


Is there faith in science?
Name: Millicent
Date: 2001-09-30 22:51:50
Link to this Comment: 342

During a recent C-Sem class discussion my professor mentioned how old the text we were reading was. While Herodotus’ Histories are extremely old compared to what we can conceive, I couldn’t help but think of the age of “life as we know it”. Considering the age of life the text is quite new. My problem with this idea is that I can’t even begin to imagine anything before human life. This incomprehensible quality of science has always bothered me. How do I get beyond having little faith in science because there are so many questions and very few answers? We can continue to come up with hypotheses for what the earth was like before our time but we will never really know.



Name: viv
Date: 2001-09-30 23:05:16
Link to this Comment: 343

its hard to think of oneself as an evolving species. as humans, we detatch ourselves from the process or believe we have mastered it through technological advancement. it is only when we realize that this ongoing process of exploration will continue as long as life does that we see the lack of control we have over it. it is strange to think that like whales that "are believed to be descended from terrestrial, 4 legged animals," we too exhibit signs of an evolving species. Our pinky toes are slowly shrinking, and more and more people have wisdom teeth that never grow out of the gums; it makes you wonder what kinds of adaptations we as a species will exhibit in the future.


Thoughts
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2001-10-01 00:10:00
Link to this Comment: 344

Evolution is an ongoing process. It is an experiment that replicates itself countless times even during ones lifetime. Therefore, the behaviors that seem prevelant in humans are likely to appear in successive generations. Even a significant number of human generations are small amounts of time in terms of evolution. Therefore, human behavior over the past couple of hundred or thousand years may be strong indicators of present or future human behavior. The biological makeup of human beings has not been altered to a significant extent in the last couple of thousand years and beause the humans of today are genetically and biologically similar to their ancestors, they are subjects of the same evolutionary forces that guided human evolution in the past.


Time spans
Name: Sasha
Date: 2001-10-01 01:13:46
Link to this Comment: 345

I thought what Viv said was very intersting. We know that we have evolved, and that we are in theory still evolving, but we seldom look at ourselves as compared to previous generations to watch evolution take place. This brings back the question of time spans. We have trouble even conceiving of time spans in terms of our generations to witness evolution. Another question is that of how long a generation is. People are living longer and longer. Will this slow down our evolution? Will it make us more able, over time, to witness evolution of species around us?


Darwin& life now and then
Name: Sarah Ster
Date: 2001-10-02 15:20:26
Link to this Comment: 362

In The Origin of Species Darwin writes, "On the theory of natural selection, the extinction of old forms and the production of new and improved forms are intimately connected together". After considering this and also what we've been talking about in class, it became suddenly clear to me the way in which knowing and comprehending the past is important in understanding the present. It's interesting how little I've realized before how change is constant in life and things not only become more complex and diverse, but NEED to change in order for the evolutionary process to continue. I always looked at pass happenings and thought little about how greatly they really do impact who we have become. As far as the evolution of people (which in class felt like a topic that few wished to discuss) I think that not only will we continue to evolve, but also that perhaps our intellectual progress could actually slow our natural, physical evolutionary process. It just seems that since we have so many machines and gadgets to do things for us, our bodies may not evolve to the potential that they were originally meant to. Though this thought reminds me of what was said in class about how life itself doesn't choose the direction it goes. Thus, this brings me back to my original thought of how understanding the past is important in comprehending the future: Perhaps we just don't know enough about the past yet to do so.


just musing
Name: kat
Date: 2001-10-02 23:27:13
Link to this Comment: 371

wondering.
in a previous post, someone posits that our intellectual growth will hinder the process of our evolution. is our intellectual growth not, in fact, an EFFECT of our evolution? i, personally, see the world as it is (our societies, our streets, our buildings, our institutions, our relationships, our jobs and our factories etc) to be part of our evolutionary process--we created these things as we evolved intellectually enough to conceive of them, plan them, and carry through with them. progress in our intellect leads to progress in societal growth, so claiming a "hindrance" to our evolution seems counterproductive, yes?

just musing, of course.


patterns
Name: Rianna
Date: 2001-10-03 09:52:52
Link to this Comment: 376

I think that knowing the past of our planet is much like knowing our own social history (things like wars, inventions, philosophy, etc). We say that when we forget our history we are "doomed to repeat it" and we say this because our history is full of patterns and similarities which aid us in understanding how and why we act the way we do in the present. Trying to discover the history of our planet and our species may show us patterns that will help us understand where we as a species may be going, and how our earth is changing around us.


genes
Name: charlotte
Date: 2001-10-03 17:57:55
Link to this Comment: 383

In researching for my paper, I've come across a basic genetic theory that I'd never fully digested--the idea that every life begins as a single cell. Each of us is carrying around itsy bitsy genetic templates which have the capacity to produce hundreds of generations. My possible great-great-great grandaughter is in my body inside a tiny strand. I feel like I should take better care of myself.


Darwin
Name: Debbie Wan
Date: 2001-10-04 03:00:27
Link to this Comment: 391

The Darwin quote in one of the web postings earlier referred to "new and improved forms" replacing old species. I wonder what did Darwin have in mind when saying "improved". Improvement in this case, is an adaptation to the changing environment. What forms of improvement did Darwin imagine? Physical adaptation? Increase in intellectual and thought processes? We say that we learn from the past, but evolution takes place through such long, unfathomable time periods, how would we be able to discern its lessons? It seems unrealistic to think that we would be able to see from an unfathomable past, some indisputable lesson to guide us to the unfathomable future.


evolution
Name: Jessica Bl
Date: 2001-10-05 10:46:12
Link to this Comment: 398

I think the problem with discussing evolution is that we have so many 'missing links'. There's the jump from ape to man, but what about from single-celled organisms to multi-celled organisms? Or even worse, we noted in class that we don't even know where single-celled organisms came from. I wish we knew at least a little more because for now it seems that everything spontaneously appeared, which is the sort of the science likes to explain.


atoms, molecules ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-10-05 11:10:11
Link to this Comment: 400

Last weeks thoughts have been archived. For this week, as usual, write about whatever you thought interesting/significant/questionable. Here's a question to get you started if you need one:


What is your reaction to the idea that living organisms are made of the same constituents (atoms) as non-living things? That differences between living organisms are not a consequence of differences in the kinds of atoms of which they are made? How good is the evidence for these conclusions? What are their implications for making sense of life?



Name: Rebekah Ro
Date: 2001-10-07 22:17:18
Link to this Comment: 411

thinking about how few "things" make up all the thousands and thousands of "things" in our world today, just simply blows my mind. it brings us back to the whole diversity question...we need diversity in our lives, yet, once we break it down, we truly are all the same--we are made from the same basic elements. amazing.


Atoms and Molecules
Name: Jennifer T
Date: 2001-10-08 03:37:06
Link to this Comment: 412

I've read that very few atoms either escape or enter Earth's atmosphere, and when they do, they're usually hydrogen atoms. This means that in the history of the Earth, everything that has existed has been made out of the same atoms. It's amazing to think that the atoms in my body could once have been parts of rock, air, or dinosaurs. It's incredible that we're made up of the same components as everything else on Earth. In another way, though, it does seem to explain why we have the same atoms and molecules as rocks, air, and dinosaurs...


the stuffs of life
Name: emi
Date: 2001-10-08 19:17:26
Link to this Comment: 415

So we're talking about the stuff that makes up life--isn't it amazing that we are all made out of the same things? If some of the stuff we have learned about the history of life hasn't inspired any awe from your perspective, then this has got to. I mean, think how complex things must be that we can all be made out of the same non-living particles. I am made out of the same types of atoms in my pencil or in my coffee mug, and yet here I sit breathing and typing at my computer and I'm alive. Who would think that you could make something living out of something that isn't...

This idea seems like it could basically single-handedly challenge our ideas about life or at least help redefine them. We assume that there is a major distinction between the living and non living things and there is from our perspective, but when you go to the basic stuff that makes us up...there's not much difference. In class Professor Grobstein made some statement along the lines of, "Life consists of a very large amount of continually occurring chemical reactions." So we have all these molecules and compounds being built for the purpose of tearing them down to make something else. It seems like the cycle just goes on forever; its a constant matter of building- and why to you build?- to tear down and rebuild it again. So on that level, is there such thing as "progress" in life? because it seems to me that all the energy is being expended to no end because it just keeps going back through the circle (sort of like the ATP cycle for example) and yet I know that without these reactions I would not be alive...


comments
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2001-10-09 00:22:39
Link to this Comment: 417

While it may be true that all living organisms and non-living things are made from the same basic matter, there is such great diversity in forms of life and in the scope of non-living things. Because of the overwhelming possible variations in how these elements can combine it makes sense that life has developed in divergent ways. An inanimate object and a human are very different despite the similarity in their biochemical composition. Because biochemisty has created organisms capable of reproduction and other higher functions, such organisms have an existence which diverges significantly from the existence of inanimate objects. The similarity in composition between humans and inanimate objects takes on diminshed importance once these variations in biochemistry occur over time. These biochemical variations create a reality for humans and living organims which so diverges from that of inamimate objects that the similarity in our origin becomes an intriguing fact.


buillding blocks
Name: Julie Wise
Date: 2001-10-09 16:27:54
Link to this Comment: 418

I too am in awe of the concept that we, along with rocks, trees, and coffee mugs, are made up of the same basic building blocks! Keeping this in mind when thinking of diversity when it comes to ourselves, vegetation, and other galaxies - talk about improbable assemblies!!
I also find it fascinating to think about the atoms and molecules that comprise living and non-living things are always in motion with space between them. How strange for that to be known but we don't observe things as constantly changing and we still classify things as solids! How is anything solid?


atoms
Name: Rianna
Date: 2001-10-09 17:29:54
Link to this Comment: 427

I'm seeing a pattern here: out of randomness, the order of atomic structure (which in itself can be considered random-electron clouds!), and from that order an infinite number of possibilities which are random in their ability to be manifested, which then create organisms that depend on the order of their parts to live. I find that I can "understand" the reasons given in classes, but when I sit down and think about the basic, atomic reasons for existing (whether living or non-living) I soon lose sense of my individual person and start thinking that everything is merely a different form of everything else, due to the rules that govern atomical interactions.



Name: Debbie
Date: 2001-10-09 21:17:44
Link to this Comment: 428

It is interesting how much easier it is for us to differentiate rather than realize the characteristics that show similarities. Many seem to be amazed in contemplating the commonalities of things around us- living and unliving. I think that in order to better understand the differences around us, we first need to observe and recognize the similarities.


Difference
Name: Heather Sh
Date: 2001-10-10 02:07:11
Link to this Comment: 436

Even if we avoid any discussion about atoms, I think that if we stopped and thought about any two things that are fundamentally different, it would be possible to identify at least one thing that they have in common. It is completely amazing that at the base of all of it....everything is made up of similar compontents. But when we are surprised by this idea, what does that tell us about how we define our identity. Why is difference so important? Is it because our culture stresses labels, categories, individuation, and recognition? Or does the problem surround how we understand things that are "different"? Often, I think that difference is interpreted to presuppose distance, and I'm not sure if I see the need to alienate somthing in order to understand it. When we learn to see something that is different, I really think that some people accidently fall into methodology of redefining themselves against the object of difference, (ie. this shrub is short and I am tall). Sometimes I wonder about what we are really doing when we reaffirm the necessity for difference; whether or not we are utilizing a strategy of isolation in order to reinforce our own conceptual notions of superiority. Who are we if we are made out of the same atoms as a rock? Here, difference can be skewed to justify supremacy. Rocks, like humans, are an improbable assembly. Why does the idea have to be so shocking to us?



Name: Claudia
Date: 2001-10-11 17:13:16
Link to this Comment: 467

Rocks, like humans, are improbable assemblies, but humans are vastly more improbable. What I've read in our textbook about the complexity of, for instance, proteins, just floors me. And how many different kinds of them are there in one human? Each protein, theoretically, is encoded by one gene. A Web site I looked at recently says that one human gene contains about 35,000 kb of information. And there are 3,500,000,000 genes in the human genome! Holy cannoli! The exquisitely timed cooperation of these genes to build a living organism -- a prokaryote, even, let alone a human -- makes the most exalted achievements of high-tech engineering look like a couple of lines scrawled in the mud with a stick! And all this came out of a bunch of simple atoms randomly bumping into each other? It sometimes seems nuts even to believe we all exist. As I said today in class, perhaps a chemist can make any organic molecule in the lab, but a chemist is a living system. Somebody still made the molecule; it didn't occur randomly.

Don't worry; I'm not going all creationist on you. But understanding more about the complexity of life has challenged me. One of the most interesting things I came upon while I was trawling the Web for my paper (I'm too old for surfing; I trawl) was an article by one of these systems-theory guys. It's related to the little computer game on the class Web site -- it's about self-organizing systems. Apparently, complex networks of circuits, connected randomly but operating under simple "assembly rules," tend, in certain circumstances, to organize themselves into ordered states. It happens over and over and over again, just as the "life" in the game repeatedly reaches an ordered state. In a fully chaotic system, small perturbations anywhere in the system would result in wild fluctuations throughout the whole system, but ordered systems tend to recover. Those that are poised on the edge of chaos reach order again, but the order changes. It's sort of like evolution -- the computer networks model genomes. Isn't that cool?

I wish I could understand it better, but I can't quite grasp the math, so I'm actually thinking of taking a math course at some point. Now that is vastly improbable. See what science can do?


Universal similarities
Name:
Date: 2001-10-12 03:03:49
Link to this Comment: 472

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been concentrating on classification of organisms by their differences, and how evolution is not necessairly a progression from one thing to another, but a series of explorations which leads to small differences and creates new species. What amazed me, though, in our discussions this past week, is how much everything in the universe is interconnected. All improbable assemblies are made of the same basic building blocks, they are just put together differently. In terms of size, we've learned that if you get too high up or too far down on the scale, you are left with small clusters of improbable assemblies and lots of empty space. Everything is connected through food chains, habitats, basic make-up, and basic rules of existence. The same patterns repeat themselves over and over again in the universe. So when a rainforest is destroyed in Brazil, when a volcanoe erupts under the ocean, or when people kill each other over "irrepareable differences", no matter where in the world we locate or identify ourselves, we all are affected. Before we go about harping about our differences, we should remember that at one point in time, we were all nothing more than the bits and debris of exploded stars.


Universal similarities
Name: Tua
Date: 2001-10-12 03:04:21
Link to this Comment: 473

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been concentrating on classification of organisms by their differences, and how evolution is not necessairly a progression from one thing to another, but a series of explorations which leads to small differences and creates new species. What amazed me, though, in our discussions this past week, is how much everything in the universe is interconnected. All improbable assemblies are made of the same basic building blocks, they are just put together differently. In terms of size, we've learned that if you get too high up or too far down on the scale, you are left with small clusters of improbable assemblies and lots of empty space. Everything is connected through food chains, habitats, basic make-up, and basic rules of existence. The same patterns repeat themselves over and over again in the universe. So when a rainforest is destroyed in Brazil, when a volcanoe erupts under the ocean, or when people kill each other over "irrepareable differences", no matter where in the world we locate or identify ourselves, we all are affected. Before we go about harping about our differences, we should remember that at one point in time, we were all nothing more than the bits and debris of exploded stars.


Class
Name: Jessica Bl
Date: 2001-10-12 10:48:24
Link to this Comment: 474

I've really enjoyed the past few classes. The whole evolution/improbable assemblies thing is very interesting and I loved the game of life. Learning in Bio 103 is so much better than my old science classes. I'm understanding things quicker and enjoying the learning process more.


correction
Name: Claudia
Date: 2001-10-19 12:52:05
Link to this Comment: 488

Amendment to earlier posting: a Web site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Human Genome Program says the human genome is estimated to contain between 30,000 and 40,000 genes. That's a whole lot less than 3,500,000,000, which is what another Web site said. THe DOE site sais that the number of nitrogenous base pairs in the human genome is roughly 3 billion, so maybe that's where the inflated number came from.


..
Name: Monica
Date: 2001-10-19 18:47:56
Link to this Comment: 489

I have found the last few discussions in class very interesting because we are able to think about the interconnectedness (if thats a word) of a wide range of organisms, living and non-living. And there are so many different levels by which we can connect with something else. i think humans too often focus on differences in order to create identities rather than find similarities with one another. The interconnectedness should be acknowledged and valued.


To live, or not to live...
Name: Sarah Ster
Date: 2001-10-21 17:14:38
Link to this Comment: 491

When I think about living organisms being made up of the same atoms as non-living organisms, I'm surprised, but when I really think about it, it makes a lot of sense. It seems more believable to me to think that everything is made up of the same things -- rather than having every organism made up of it's own "special" atoms. Living organisms being made up of the same atoms as non-living organisms also seems to make living things extra special. It's as if we were lucky enough for our atoms to be randomly put together in just the right way to make us living, and create us.


identity
Name: Margaret P
Date: 2001-10-21 21:12:36
Link to this Comment: 492

A trend that I have noticed in science and in class discussions deal with human identity. When we studied classification, the question arose of why humans feel the need to classify all living species; and now, we have the question of differences between living and non-living things. Since all things are made up of the same atoms, where does this put humans? Are we as special as we like to think that we are? Sure, we are 'improbable assemblies', yet how are we distinct from other highly evolved animals? Why do we try to prove ourselves as distinct or as 'improbable assemblies'? Why are we so intent on creating an identity for ourselves?


Human Identity
Name: Neema Sara
Date: 2001-10-22 03:47:29
Link to this Comment: 493

As far as "human identity" and the need or rather desire to differentiate ourselves from one another, can be seen on many levels in our society. Humans differentiate themselves from other living-beings, then from animals, and finally, humans differentiate each other from one another. Needless to say, this differentiation can, and often does, lead to human disaster. This constant and seemingly inherent need to differentiate, I think, may be a way of finding our own legitimacy in our "improbable assembly"


Complex Molecules
Name: Joelle Web
Date: 2001-10-22 13:08:28
Link to this Comment: 494

The topics of discussion in our class are becoming increasingly detailed. Now, we are in the process of describing complex proteins and the structures of our own life forms: DNA and RNA. Even this would require more detail, i would appreciate it if we discussed the physical aspects of how all of these items actually work together. Otherwise a complex protein does not really relate that much to my life.


DNA Replications
Name: Debbie Wan
Date: 2001-10-26 03:33:43
Link to this Comment: 538

Being that I used to think that I wanted to be a geneticist in high school, I like many have found these past classes on DNA & RNA fascinating. Having a better understanding of DNA replication, it makes me think about the whole cloning phenomenon going on with Dollie the cloned sheep and the ethical/political controversies surrounding human cloning...and in thinking about human cloning, it leads me to wonder about the parts-of-me-in-a-bag example and about how this affects (or doesn't affect) our ideas on the improbable assembly (solely biologically speaking) of ourselves.


nature vs. nurture
Name: Charlotte
Date: 2001-10-28 22:05:07
Link to this Comment: 539

I was fascinated by the link in our lecture notes to low cholesterol levels' correlation with violent behavior, and by a classmate's suggestion that this could help explain violent behavior in "developing" nations. It's never as simple as nature or nurture; they both inform each other--but how much control do we have over our actions/reactions? To what extent do our genes/diet/chemical reactions determine our behavior? From a biological standpont, where does free will enter the picture? Can free will be explained bio-chemically?


Cholesterol
Name: Jessica Bl
Date: 2001-10-29 10:19:40
Link to this Comment: 541

I found the "cholesterol's effect on violent behavior discussion" interesting, but rather disturbing. I wish I knew more about it. For example, are we talking about HDL, LDL, or both? I know there's more to it than we can cover in class if we want to stay on track. That's the one thing I hate about this class! We find such interesting stuff along the way, but most of it we can't investigate in-depth because it's not the focus of the course. Ah well, it's still fun to learn.



Name: samantha c
Date: 2001-10-29 10:42:39
Link to this Comment: 542

I also find it interesting and enlightening that all earthly objects are made of the same matter. In fact, I think that this is such an important idea that it should get more publicity! If everyone were aware of all of our similarities and commonalities, perhaps the history of mankind would be different. The future still can be different if we use science to promote these good ideas. There are little discoveries by science every day that abolish stereotypes that we have lived with for centuries (for example that race determines personality traits). If these discoveries got as much publicity as, say, the newest John Travolta movie, would society be different?


Just a thought...
Name: Sarah Ster
Date: 2001-10-29 13:00:36
Link to this Comment: 543

As far as diffusion is concerned... do people diffuse in the same way? Will we all eventually become equally spaced throughout the planet (give or take the areas of water)? How strange will it be when highly populated areas have the same number of people as once unpopulated areas. Eventually we (and our waste) will take over the world until it is populated beyond the point where life is able to exist. Which is more likely: That the sun will "burn out" or that we will in one way or another create our own extinction?


diffusion
Name: Julie
Date: 2001-10-29 19:43:03
Link to this Comment: 544

I was thinking about the same thing as Sarah - diffusion of people. In the context of incidents such as the events on Sept. 11, I think this diffusion of the American population would be conciderably more probable. With the advances made, and continuing to be made, in technology, there is really little reason for 1000's of people to be in those high-rise office buildings like the World Trade Centers. You could be white-water rafting in Idaho and send your work electronically to the city. I think, then, that it's possible for the distribution of our nation's population to take on a more diffused or uniform appearance. I wonder if historic migration patterns illustrate this? ...or if the collective community tendency of humans/animals inhibits diffusion.



Name: viv
Date: 2001-10-30 21:49:25
Link to this Comment: 545

we know that the human population is growing at an increasing rate.(exponentially?) this increase is then adding to the number of highly ordered cells or organized systems in our universe thereby, to some extent, decreasing entropy. At the same time an increasing population also spells an increase in conversions of usable energy to heat released into the universe. clearly, for the second law of thermodynamics to hold, more of the second is occurring than the first. what i find intriguing or think should be considered is the rate at which entropy is increasing. can the rate be quantified? what kind of impact do increasingly organized systems have on the rate at which the entropy or disorder of their surroundings increases? could disorder be increasing alongside our population at a faster and faster rate?



Name: A.B.
Date: 2001-10-31 02:17:01
Link to this Comment: 546

This idea is still kind of rough in my mind so bear with me, but: in class we've talked about patterns of movement: how life seems to be moving towards more and more "improbable" assemblies and how all the energy in the universe is moving towards more "probable" states. All this movement appears to be linear in some way and (to me at least) implies a finite end (either theoretically or in reality). My question is then: can the progression of life, energy, the universe, or even time itself ever be considered cyclic rather than linear?



Name: Savithri
Date: 2001-10-31 19:16:28
Link to this Comment: 547

In the last few classes we have been learning how all matter,including living systems are in constant random motion and states of fluctuation.In that sense,nothing appears to be stable or fixed,but a continuous flow of breaking up and rebuilding(???) to create improbabilites which in turn create more improbabilties.Does that mean nothing is stable??? If so,why do we humans crave so much to cling to things(living and non lving) and desire permanence and stability?


probability and complexity
Name: Claudia
Date: 2001-11-02 18:33:59
Link to this Comment: 549

I'm having trouble understanding the concept of "probability" as we're using it in relation to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. On one hand, if we think of an event's probability as the likelihood that it will happen (in the future), it seems pretty much tautological to phrase the Second Law as "the overall direction of change in the universe is always from a less probable to a more probable state." That doesn't really say anything unless we make clear what the more probable state is. As I understand it, the least probable state is the one in which energy is most concentrated. But is concentration of energy the same as complexity? What is the relationship of complexity to energy, probability and the Second Law?

One diagram we saw shows energy coming "downhill" from the sun and then powering a series of transactions, each of which must be result in a state less improbable than the form of energy that powered it. The sun, at the top of the energy hill, represents the least probable state affairs. The sun is clearly less probable than the entire sum of life on earth in terms of the total amount of energy concentrated in each. But structurally, it is significantly less complex. Didn't we say it's made up of nothing but a whole bunch of hydrogen and helium atoms, the simplest atoms on the chart? And we know that there are billions and billions of stars, but we don't have any way of knowing how many planets support life. So how can we make any statements about how probable life is?


molecules ... and beyond
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-11-04 10:08:12
Link to this Comment: 551

Claudia has her finger on a key question not only to her (and to me) but to lots of active inquiries (cf Complexity, Complex Systems, and Chaos Theory ... Complexity and Artificial Life ... Measures of Complexity): what IS "complexity/organization"?


Yes, the sun is "simple" (not "complex") in some important ways but is also, as Claudia says, "highly improbable", so clearly "complexity/organization" is not the same thing as "improbability". The second law says that the universe as a whole moves from less probable to more probable states (both the dissipation of energy from the sun and catabolic processes in biological systems reflect this), and this is a reasonably well defined idea (akin to our mixing parts in a bag, pouring them out, and seeing how many times the resultant does or doesn't display a particular property, such as "being alive"). And that does seem to mean that, over very extended times, all parts would be found in "random" relationships to one another, ie in disorganized/non-complex configurations.


The key point (at least for us) is that, along the way, there can be and are "eddies", places where the movement towards probable states itself creates improbable states (ourselves and, in general, the anabolic part of living systems). These are not only "improbable" (in reasonably well-defined ways, see above) but ALSO "complex/organized". The difficult and unresolved issue is ... what exactly do we MEAN by THAT? The sun and we are both "improbable" in reasonably well-defined ways, but the two also quite different in (at least to us) important ways. The formal characterization of that difference is important (since, among other things, it bears on whether life is "improbable" in a different sense ... whether it will be found elsewhere in the universe) but remains to be satisfyingly achieved.


Happy to have others take a crack at this in the forum this week. Alternatively (perhaps more manageably), here's a different question to get you thinking (if you need one; as always you're free to write about whatever is on your mind):


We've spent the last little while looking at molecules, macromolecules, and chemical reactions, and are about to move on to cells. How has your conception of life been affected by our discussions of things at the level of organization of atoms and molecules? What aspects of life has it helped to make sense of? What aspects of life has it not helped with? What things does it now appear need to be accounted for at higher levels of organization?


bringing it all together
Name: emi
Date: 2001-11-04 13:49:27
Link to this Comment: 552

We've investigated all of these ideas about atoms up to macromolecules, and we've seen how everything is connected-- such as how the decomposition of energy contributes to the making of glucose and the necessity of the decomposition of glucose to create ATP (which happens to be made of a phosphates, a sugar, and a nucleotide) which in turns is necessary to fuel other chemical reation in a living system.

However, we've still have so far to go until it all makes sense. Even with all of this new understanding, I still can't necessarily find where life comes in--at what point do all of these reactions combine to make a LIVING cell. How do these cells interact to make up a person? How are emotions, ideas, and personality accounted for with these chemical reactions? Any ideas?


chemical personality
Name: Rianna
Date: 2001-11-04 15:45:35
Link to this Comment: 553

Sometimes I find that when thinking about cells and macromolecules it is easy to break it down into very small components such as cell organs down to plain molecules and atoms. When considering an organism, it is easy to think of it merely in terms of organ systems interdependent to create the organism. For me, the difficulty lies in trying to retrieve concepts such as emotion, personality, and/or unique thinking from organ systems. I'm sure that we are starting to explain (or already have???)how one gets from neurons firing to modern art, but I'm not sure if I understand it. It seems to be a rather touchy subject; the idea that one's thoughts, feelings, and unique mental traits could be considered to be just chemical reactions.


Thoughts
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2001-11-04 19:30:33
Link to this Comment: 555

Human behavior or differences cannot be explained by biochemical compounds alone. We need to understand why given the same chemical compositions we are still different. Life reproduces with variation. If given the same ingredients, we can even make two completely different foods. There are many combinations--DNA strands.


creating improbability
Name: Charlotte
Date: 2001-11-05 10:52:20
Link to this Comment: 556

So: systems create order/improbability by transforming the energy expended during the breakdown of improbable systems into probable ones. These transformations occur at both molecular and cultural levels. How are these transformations similar, and how do they differ? Are the chemical reactions that cause molecules to create improbability similar to the chemical reactions that cause humans to build dams?

Also: how is our energy transformed when we die? Where does it go? Obviously we break down--we become more probable--but is it more complex than that? This ties in with the question of what differentiates 'conscious' organisms from 'unconcious' ones. What is that 'conciousness' energy, and how is it transformed?



Name: kat
Date: 2001-11-05 23:35:01
Link to this Comment: 557

I've actually been doing some extracurricular reading lately. It's been a long long while since I've been able to convince myself that such endeavors are necessary, but in doing so this time, I stumbled upon a little piece of prose which seems to fit rather nicely into the flow of this class right now. I find it a stunning, beautiful way of relating science to life in general.

"Molecular docking is a serious challenge for bio-chemists. There are many ways to fit molecules together but only a few juxtapositions that bring them close enough to bond. On a molecular level success may mean discovering what synthetic structure, what chemical, will form a union with, say the protein shape on a tumour cell. If you make this high-risk jigsaw work you may have found a cure for carcinoma. But molecules and the human beings they are a part of exist in a universe of possibility. We touch one another, bond and break, drift away on force-fields we don't understand."

-Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body


Space particles
Name: Sarah Ster
Date: 2001-11-06 16:48:58
Link to this Comment: 568

There are moments during our discussions in which I realize that if it weren't for so many of the things that I never really think about, like atoms and molecules, I wouldn't be alive. All of our talks make me realize how much it takes just to make me work in the way I do. I can't imagine what the unknown particles in this universe are like if these microscopic particles are so significant and so close to us and are very rarely acknowledged in everyday life.


from life to death
Name: Tua
Date: 2001-11-09 02:03:39
Link to this Comment: 583

You often hear how someone died of "natural causes." Why is it that at some point , even if a living organism has functioned and is functioning relatively well, it breaks down to such a probable state that it can no longer function as a living organism? It seems that this mechanism to break down is built into all living systems. Is it just following the way the universe works in terms of the laws of thermodynamics? This whole idea that we start out at a highly improbable state and from then on begin to become more and more probable until we can no longer be distinguished from non living things, is really intruguing when considered next to all of the social and cultural discourses on getting old, aging, dying. Why are we programed to be mortal and where does the left over energy go at the end of the living process?


getting to cells and ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-11-09 10:55:38
Link to this Comment: 584

Please write, as always, about whatever has been on your mind this week. But, if you need something to get you started:

We've been seeing that interacting sets of macromolecular assemblies within cells can yield both adaptive responses to things outside and autonomous "choices". How far does this take us to understanding similar phenomena in the kinds of organisms we normally observe, including ourselves? Are there things yet to be accounted for? How might one imagine doing so?


Attack of the cells!
Name: Rachel Mol
Date: 2001-11-11 18:49:49
Link to this Comment: 586

It's weird to think of all this stuff -- chemical reactions, macromolecules, little cells running around doing their thing -- going on IN ME right now. Sci-fi/Twilight Zone type questions coming up here: what if the tiny little cells we all depend on somehow...I don't know...revolted? This is coming back to the discussion we had a while back about whether or not crayfish have personalities -- we thought that probably weird little unicellular organisms didn't have personalities or souls -- but what if they do? And suppose they have unpleasant and mean personalities! Think of The Birds! Second dumb/metaphysical thought: are we the "cells" of another, much larger, thing or system? If cells, besides being alive, can THINK, do they know what they're part of and what they're doing? Do you think they have their own versions of this forum whre they can ask each other "What if we're just tiny parts of a plant that's about to get cut by a lawnmower?"


dog thoughts
Name: Rianna
Date: 2001-11-11 22:08:33
Link to this Comment: 587

As Rachel said, it is interesting to think about the rammifications of cells having personalities and/or the ability to think independently. Humans seems to have pretty much decided that it takes a complicated brain to have emotions and an even more complex one to "think" in a way that we can't explain via instinct. Consider the question of whether or not animals such as dogs could have emotions. Having a dog myself (vive chocolate labs!), I am inclind to say that they do, however there are hundreds of people who will be willing to argue that they do not. Are we as human beings deathly afraid that other creatures are capable of thinking and feeling in ways like us (or even more potentially frightening, not like us)? And why is it that a lot of us feel that we must reserve this privilage for our species alone?



Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2001-11-13 00:58:03
Link to this Comment: 589

I really enjoyed last week's fly labs because gentics is such a cool topic. We should talk more about this in class.


The color spectrum...
Name: Sarah Ster
Date: 2001-11-15 13:40:37
Link to this Comment: 613

The color spectrum has been explained to me many times yet I still find myself refusing to believe that when I look at something and see for instance blue, it is only light being reflected back to me. How is it that so many people are sure that my blue is the same as someone else's and not their red? I know all about the aspects of colorblindness but what is it that makes us all know we are seeing the same thing?


Love and Science
Name: Millicent
Date: 2001-11-15 23:57:00
Link to this Comment: 615

After our discussion about free will and control in cells I began to wonder about our own free will. To what extent are the choices we make scientific? For example some people believe that love is a figment of our imaginations based on science. Pheromones might lead to an attraction between two people, which may eventually lead to “love”. I really don’t believe this theory but it is something to think about.


Perception of Color
Name: Joelle Web
Date: 2001-11-16 00:05:17
Link to this Comment: 616

Color perception is a very hard concept to understand. I share Sarah's confusion and have also asked the same questions she has posed. How do I know that my perception of blue is analagous to what you are seeing? After thinking about it for a while I decided that perception is evrything to us as humans. When talking about colors and using words like "lighter" and "darker" we trust that our audience is having the same experience. Words like "bluish" or "greenish" definitely cause sonfusion for colorblind people and may also be different for each of us. Other relative ways of describing things include references to size, smell and texture. How reliable are our senses and are they objective enough to make us have similar experiences as humans?


autonomous choices
Name: Charlotte
Date: 2001-11-16 10:42:30
Link to this Comment: 617

Cells may "choose" to move in certain directions, but these choices aren't conscious. The cell is not imposing its will on its environment; its components (over which the cell has no control or choice) react to changes in its environment (over which the cell has no control or choice). The cell is genetically programmed to react in certain ways in order to survive. Similarly, humans have no choice over their genetic make-up or much or what happens in their environment. Humans are shaped and controlled by culture, their need for companionship, laws, their up-bringing, their language and their biological impulses. Do humans have free will, or like cells, are they reacting to their environments in ways which they have been programmed to? Free implies autonomy--independent choice--but nothing in the world's biological web is completely autonomous.
We have will, but it isn't free. Perhaps cells have choices, but they aren't autonomous.


free will?
Name: Julie
Date: 2001-11-16 17:24:03
Link to this Comment: 618

I share the sentiments stated earlier about questioning free will and I am also perplexed by the idea of (seemingly) inanimate objects having 'feelings.' You would all love my CSem - "Ways of knowing, modes of Acting" with Peter Beckmann (physics). You may also be interested in some of the materials that we've read in class such as "Descartes' Error" by A. Damasio (talks about the mind/body relationship and in his second book he talks about feelings and emotions. You may also enjoy some of Ursula LeGuin's short stories. Really interesting stuff!!


Complexity and Evolution
Name: A.B.
Date: 2001-11-18 13:33:53
Link to this Comment: 619

I was thinking about everything we've been discussing in class and how it might relate to my web paper topic (evolution). I am in awe of how efficient and complex organisms appear to be even on a cellular level. We're all such complex beings (highly improbable assemblies) that it amazes me that we all could have arisen out of chance genetic mutations. I guess though, that some people would argue that we DIDN'T arise out of chance genetic mutations. Thoughts?



Name: Emi
Date: 2001-11-18 17:02:18
Link to this Comment: 620

This will probably end up sounding rather odd. However, we've been talking so much about how organsims live, and what chemical reactions and proteins and compounds are essential to life. It occurred to me the other day that when we were talking about cellular respiration and how this is essential for them to work and live that the cells not only live, they die too. Now I know that cells have a mortality rate--i mean think of winter when everyone is applying lotion because all of the dead skin cells are flaking and stuff. However, with all of our talk about living things I just seemed to forget that cells die.

Now we're made of cells, and these cells reproduce and die (profound thought huh?). But admitting that this is true, means that we have "died" and been "recreated" repeatedly through life because our cells are constantly dying on us and we are replacing them with new ones. So we can literally say that, "I'm not the same person I used to be." How does that make you feel?



Name: Leah Rayne
Date: 2001-11-18 19:10:57
Link to this Comment: 621

The idea in science that we may not all be seeing the same color when looking at an object has always made me a little bit uncomfortable. It was always pretty obvious to me why that made me uncomfortable...It's just kind of beyond my ability to comprehend. However, I now realize that this concept of seeing the same thing very differently from the person sitting next to me has very significant relevance to my own life. While I have been at college I have met people with all different values, and at times it is very difficult for even my closest friends and I to see eye to eye. Even when we are "looking" at the same situation we are "seeing" a very different picture.


web
Name: Margaret P
Date: 2001-11-18 22:06:17
Link to this Comment: 622

In response to Rianna's comment, it is clear that humans are deathly afraid of other living things being able to think like us, or to be able to think in a way that we do not understand. Just look at the plots of any basic horror/sci-fi film, some animal or other being terrorizes humans, and it seems to have an ability to think as well as humans, or above and beyond our capabilities.
It all relates to humans wanting to feel that we are unique creatures, capable of thinking for ourselves and relying on our own ingenuity for survival (like the hero of the film), without realizing that this ingenuity and thought has been formed with our interactions with societal institutions and culture. In this respect we are like cells, as they are able to affect their surroundings and be affected by them; as culture and societal institutions affect us, we affect them.



Name: viv
Date: 2001-11-18 22:46:11
Link to this Comment: 623

to what extent can autonomous "choices" and adaptive responses overlap? could they be one in the same at times? if a man is stabbed his body will adapt to the change and respond with a slowed heart rate, slowed breath and blood clotting. simultaneously the body is adapting to an external stimulus and autonomously doing so. i thought a relatively recent study was intersting and pertaining to these two concepts. it showed that the human body is sometimes better off healing itself than it is at responding to external treatments and in some cases will even reject such medical stimulus i.e. inducing a heart beat through shock. to what extent is modern technology really helping if the body is already attempting to heal itself through autonomous "choices" and adaptive responses?


Color
Name: Jennifer T
Date: 2001-11-19 01:29:05
Link to this Comment: 624

A friend of mine owns mostly green clothes and green colored things in his room, which other people seem to be able to see. He, however, thought that many of his clothes were brown or a shade of blue when he bought them. Clearly he is color blind, which after the discussions in class led me to think about a somewhat biological yet mostly social problem. If everyone is not seeing colors in the same way, it is disconcerting to think that we are so quick to label color distinctions on one another. Especially when 99.9% of humans have the EXACT SAME genetic make up! The level of melanin in a given person's skin has received quite an unproportionate amount of attention throughout human history. While sight may be our most reliable sense, the similiarities in humans often cannot be seen.


web papers-good job
Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2001-11-19 21:14:54
Link to this Comment: 625

i just want to say that today's class was really good because we got to here about people's web paper. Everyone did a tremendous job and a learned alot of use information.I can't wait to read the papers after they get posted on the web.
thanks


color perception, consciousness
Name: Claudia
Date: 2001-11-26 16:40:30
Link to this Comment: 626

Our examination of living organisms, beginning at the molecular level, has really brought it home to me that there is no such thing as direct experience of the object of perception. The body itself is a medium of communication — or, more accurately, a multimedia interactive system of communication. Before I have a recognizable experience of any stimulus, external or internal, an intricate series of chemical reactions occurs. Given the complexity of these series, there are innumerable points on the pathway to each sensation where the system might break down, and it's remarkable that our sense perception is as reliable as it appears to be.

But I still have the sense, most of the time, that there is a more or less coherent receiver of such sensations, the entity I define as myself. Is that perception merely an artifact of my individualistic culture? Or is consciousness an emergent property of a certain level of neural organization?


Identity
Name: Heather Sh
Date: 2001-11-27 19:15:36
Link to this Comment: 634

I’m still thinking about Emi Arima’s posting about the mortality of cells. She mentions the idea of how cells die and brings up what implications this occurrence has on how we perceive our own identities. Emi’s idea, that on a cellular level we have died and been recreated multiple times (and because of that we can actually say that we’re not the same person anymore), is something that definitely makes me think about conceptions of identity in both non living and living systems. If you have a wooden boat and each year you replace a plank until one by one all of the planks that were originally present are no longer part of the boat, do you still have the same boat? Some people would say no, that the essence of the boat was contained in the planks that it was built with then it was first made and when they are replaced you’re left with an entirely new boat. Can we consider human life in the same way? If not, what makes it different? One could also argue that we should forget about the body and look toward the brain to find out more about identity. It used to be popular belief that cells in the brain did not regenerate, but a recent study at the Salk institute shows that adult humans generate new neurons in their hippocampus. If brain cells are also regenerating, then isn’t your brain constantly changing too? I do not think that we die as soon as all of our original cells do. Our cellular structure is constantly changing, but I don’t know if that means that we are constantly dying and being reborn. What if we are always changing and emerging and in a way in which we’re never quite the same or distinctly different? Just a thought...


The cloning articles
Name: Jessica Bl
Date: 2001-11-30 08:30:13
Link to this Comment: 648

I found it seriously disturbing that we can clone human embryos, even if they don't live very long. It was actually kind of comforting to me that they died so early because that meant there is no chance (with this batch) to see a cloned human. I know cloning may have its benefits. But playing G-d is risky and scares me to no end. What if we destroy ourselves by damaging our genes? What if another crazy person tries to make a super-race? What do we do about the ethical issues involved here?


Cloning
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2001-12-02 15:51:55
Link to this Comment: 649

The entire issue of cloning is a controversial one. It involves social and scientific problems.


However, I feel that cloning might add to a greater understanding of genetics. It could be used for couples who risk passing a genetic defect to their child.


On the other hand, cloning might be used to create the 'perfect' individual. How would we react to this? What about the children knowing that they came from a clone? Could cloning interfere with evolution?


Hello Dolly
Name: Riana
Date: 2001-12-02 17:23:56
Link to this Comment: 650

As far as the cloning issue goes, I find it noteworthy that the embryos developed to a point of only 6 cells according to one of the news reports posted on our class webpage. 6 cells, while impressive, is a long way from a human being. Not only that, but the purpose should be considered; i.e., cloning for new organs, or cloning for new humans. It is my thought that humans as a species are having no trouble in the least reproducing. My other thought is what is the real issue? Is it that the embryo could be a person? That it would be a human as opposed to a sheep? Or is it religious reasons which vary from person to person and culture to culture (and here I would point out that under constitutional amendment church and state are separate)? Should we be forming laws based on certain dogmas? At any rate, I will be very interested in seeing what will become of it; if anything.


Cloning
Name: Neema
Date: 2001-12-02 17:27:33
Link to this Comment: 651

Cloning is a very frightening and dangerous concept. The idea that technology may get into ill-intentioned hands is one that no one wants to think about. At the same time, if humanity possesses the resources and technology to clone, it is inevitable that this will happen. The idea of a government banning such testing is futile. Rather, our efforts should be focused on understanding the benefits of cloning, as well as regulating testing as opposed to restricting it.
One can see parallels between cloning and nuclear technology in that both have extremely positive and extremely negative possibilities. The effort to restrict nuclear technology to a privileged group of 5 countries was a futile endeavor and we must understand that if an individual/nation possesses the capabilities to clone, it will happen. We just have to learn to deal with it.


cloning...
Name: monica
Date: 2001-12-02 17:42:08
Link to this Comment: 652

I've been thinking about the effects of human cloning..and although in a medical mind set, it is a great achivement, the norms of society will be further molded. A Brave New World is a great book that shows the effects of genetically engineered humans..and the societal constraints it puts on someone..as well as decreasing diversity among human beings..


Cloning vs. Abortion..
Name: Sarah Ster
Date: 2001-12-05 21:47:13
Link to this Comment: 657

I feel that as long as abortion is a debatable topic cloning will be too. It seems that whenever a discussion comes up about the destruction of an embryo (whether it be in the case of an abortion, or in cloning for organ and tissue use) the debate of whether or not this cell growth is considered a human being follows. While I represent a very pro-choice belief on the abortion issue, I am still split when it comes to cloning. I think that the thing about cloning that does me in revolves around the fact that I don't understand the means of creating in order to destroy. I think that if cloning of humans were being used for a family that wanted children made from "them" and could not naturally reproduce it would be okay. However, when I think about cloning for organ use there are both positive and negative aspects to be considered. On the positive side, a life could be saved without one being taken, but at the same time these people are making a replica of themselves, from themselves, and then destroying part of it. I think that it all seems quite unimaginable because it has yet to happen, but the debate will continue long after the first human is cloned, which I believe is not too far off from happening.


human cloning
Name: monica
Date: 2001-12-06 01:41:29
Link to this Comment: 661

In response to the last comment, I highly agree. Its a tough decision and the only solution to the issue would be regulation of human cloning whether it be state or national, yet more problems are created since private companies will take advantage of the situation. It is hard to justify when human cloning should be used and when it shouldnt, unless there is an indepth analyzation of whether humans can benefit. In such a materialistic society, many people would use it to their advantage.


Cloning
Name: Neema
Date: 2001-12-09 21:59:42
Link to this Comment: 672

Another issue regarding cloning is the fact that it may increase the divide between rich and poor. When there is a possibility to make large amounts of money, rest assured this will happen. Already, pharmaceutical companies in the United States charge exorbitant amounts for drugs that are made much more cheapy and effectively in other countries, such as India.
By introducing cloning as a way of replacing one's organs, will greatly benefit people of high socioeconomic status to benefit immensely. On the other hand, it is quite possible that those of a lower socioeconomic status could be relegated to the wait list that those in need of organs are placed on.


ew, cloning
Name: kat
Date: 2001-12-10 15:04:20
Link to this Comment: 673

i am concerned about cloning. it seems icky to me.

since we were tiny children, we have been told that what makes us special is that we are all so different from one another. we have grown up during a time when the whole of our society is making an effort towards the idea that difference is to be embraced. if we were to have a bunch of cloned "individuals" running around, what would our parents/rolemodels/teachers have to tell us then? we would no longer BE individuals. they could no longer say to us, "but honey, that's what makes you special, you are not LIKE everyone. it is important to be an individual." Speaking of dogmas and personal beliefs, that is mine. I embrace the idea that each of us, in our own way, is a freak.

"our individuality is all, ALL, that we have. there are those who barter it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures it and rides it, in grave and love and wit, from peculiar station to peculiar station along life's bittersweet route."
--tom robbins, jitterbug perfume


$$$
Name: Rianna
Date: 2001-12-11 17:46:01
Link to this Comment: 675

As Neema said, I, too, think that it will eventually become an issue of financial abilities, and that it will be those who can afford it that will receive the benefits (if we are able to achieve them in the first place). In that way, cloning could become one more health issue...can you imagine what kind of fun insurance companies would have with it?


cloning..
Name: monica
Date: 2001-12-11 17:59:39
Link to this Comment: 676

following up on the last few comments..i remember seeing an add in the newspaper for an egg donor..requirements being certain criteria such as high SAT scores..blonde hair..blue eyes..ivy league student..all of which fit the mold of perfection in american society..its sad this is where our society is heading..


Cloning
Name: Joelle
Date: 2001-12-11 21:56:12
Link to this Comment: 677

The thought that cloning might some day be a regularly used process scares me. Earlier on in the semester we talked about the increasing diversity of species and how this relates to evolution. Our cloning practices would reverse or seriously affect a process that has been going on for over a billion years. I believe in a higher power and that we should not be testing the universe's creative powers. Cloning should definitely be debated extensively before even any more testing is done. The biological benefits might be able to combat the moral issues.
In response to the comments before mine, Has anyone ever seen that episode of the Twilight Zone (a fabulous show) where all of the "ugly people" are considered beautiful and vice versa? That is a classic example of how the media shapes our vision of beauty and how the ideal woman does not exist. I focus on women because women's models are so much more often in magazines and on television. Good looks are the MOST superficial reasons for which someone might want to clone a baby.



Name: Leah Rayne
Date: 2001-12-12 13:16:54
Link to this Comment: 678

This idea that I am made up of more than one "self" is a very interesting one. It has been very obvious lately as I try to wake up in the morning for class and my body fights for just a few more minutes of sleep. I guess that many of my actions are really a compromise between my physical self and my mental/emotional self. My guess would be that the most content people in this world have found a way to satisfy both selves completely, to feed, exercise, and rest their bodies as well as their minds.



Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2001-12-13 10:46:03
Link to this Comment: 680

If we ever do clone humans, this will be a scientific break through. But if cloning is regulated by the govt. to making sure that cloning will not be used for "bad" intentions, I am all for it. We are in a a new millienium and science needs to shift its gear towards new and exciting innovations (as it is doing now).There are many benfits to cloning that can help science and I am all for it.


cloning
Name: monica
Date: 2001-12-15 11:03:30
Link to this Comment: 682

i agree with the last comment, if cloning can be regulated then it should be legalized...i was thinking about what kind of regulations they would establish and it seems really complicated..i don't know if America is ready for it yet..social strata would defn become more apparent...as well as making american society more materialistic as it is.


individuality
Name: Margaret P
Date: 2001-12-19 21:43:54
Link to this Comment: 685

I have been thinking about Heather and Kat's comments, and both arguments about the essence of an individual are based solely on the material body. Humans are obviously different creatures, we have the ability to transcend the body to explore the mind or the spiritual part of ourselves. To say that cloning would challenge our individuality assumes that physical characteristics are what determine the individuality of a person. A person's clone could never have the same experiences as the person, or react to them in the same way. Socialization of individuals is a strong determinant of personality, and if two genetically similar people were socialized differently, they would develop into two different people.


BIOLOGY AND LIFE
Name: jenny
Date: 2002-09-05 14:28:34
Link to this Comment: 2514

I have hated science since I was in 5th grade when I learned the scientific experiment and everything about a hypothesis and a control. I've been avoiding science since I started BMC, however...I think I am really going to start liking science. Just from class on wednesday I already am intrigued and anxious to experiment the way a scientist should. Observations are great- never right or wrong. And who knew that I wanted to prove my "observations" wrong?? Looking forward to a fun and challenging semester.


cloning...
Name: virginia
Date: 2002-09-08 10:40:51
Link to this Comment: 2545

this may seem like a stupid way to talk about cloning but did anyone ever see the movie gattaca? if i remember correctly the protagonist's parents wanted to avoid the whole freakish clone all our perfect children pheomenon so they decided to have a "natural" kid, and hte doctor advised them against it and all but they went for it, and it turns out he has a highish chance for heart disease so then in order to do the things in life that only priveleged "clones" could do he has to fake an identity and live all paranoid and crazy in fear of hte genetic police or whatever. and then there's "jurassic park" (im thinking of hte book not the movie) in which chaos completely takes over the "controlled" genetics project, with all-female populations unexpectedly mutating into coed ones: the point is, problems arise, serious ones, that we CANNOT control when we experiment with something as delicate as dna, and I htink that scientists lose track of hte importance that some things are actually better left undiscovered... many get too caught up in the ratrace for scientific 'progress' and it's a dangerous thing indeed!


luck or love?
Name: julie mcca
Date: 2002-10-29 11:55:55
Link to this Comment: 3411

i have always been proud to announce that somewhere on this tape i saw the twinkle in my daddie's eye and i have always allowed myself to be led by the nose- if you get my drift. However, recently i allowed myself to get up as close as i thought was possible. I then realized that there was an upside down golf ball hole and have since puzzled over how the hole could have been filledwithout me feeling the thud, it was then -just then, for honesty has always been my best policy, that i remembered the twinkle LOVER'S eye, and the soft, endless black velvet in my GUARDIAN'S eye, and the rain on the outside of someone else's windows.





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