WORKSHOP #1

WHAT IS SCIENCE & WHAT IS LIFE?


1.     A.   List (in order) and briefly define the steps of scientific method.

        B.    Put the following story about Edward Jenner into the steps of the scientific method.
 
Edward Jenner first developed the technique of vaccination in 1795.  This was the result of a 26-year study of two diseases, cowpox and smallpox.  Cowpox was known as vaccinae.  From this word evolved the present term vaccination and vaccine.  Jenner observed that milkmaids rarely became sick with smallpox, but they developed pocklike sores after milking cows infected with cowpox.  This led him to perform an experiment in which he transferred pusslike material from the cowpox to human skin.  Because the two disease organisms are so closely related, the person vaccinated with cowpox developed an immunity (resistance) to the smallpox virus.  The reaction to cowpox was minor in comparison to smallpox.  Public reaction was mixed.  Some people thought that vaccination was a work of the devil.  Thomas Jefferson had his family vaccinated.  In 1979, almost 200 years after Jenner developed his vaccination the Centers of Disease Control and the World Health Organization declared that smallpox was extinct.

2.    A philosopher once correctly stated that scientific knowledge is "what's left after you have demonstrated what cannot be true."  Explain what is meant by this statement considering what you know about the scientific method and how "hypotheses" become "theories."

3.     A.    What does "control" mean relative to a scientific experiment?

        B.    Design a CONTROLLED experiment to test any one of the following:
 
Effect of . . . 

Age of UM student on grade point average. 

Low dose radiation on development of human fetuses. 

Height of candidate on political success in the U.S.A. 

Malathion spray on aphid populations in Homestead orchards. 

Student ethnic group on transfer rate from community college to university. 

Saturated fat in the diet on development of heart disease.

4.    Science involves the construction of knowledge based on observation, testing, and measurement.  Such knowledge is termed EMPIRICAL.  Nonscience may involve a different type of knowledge which is based in faith and cannot be tested.  Identify each statement below as A if it is empirical or B if it is non-empirical.  Give a short explanation for each of your answers.
 
Leonardo da Vinci is a better painter than Picasso. 

Alcohol consumption by pregnant women causes retardation and other birth defects in babies. 

I know there is a God. 

The sun rises in the East every morning. 

Four out of five dentists recommend Crest. 

People born between July 23 and August 22 should be concerned about things going wrong today, however people born November 23 - December 21 will have a good day. 

Fetal tissue transplanted into the brains of patients with Parkinson's disease causes improvement in brain function in these patients. 

Tissue from fetuses should be used to aid Parkinson's patients. 

Tylenol is a better pain reliever than aspirin.

5.    You hypothesize that speeds over 65 mph do not increase highway fatalities.  You test and verify your hypothesis.  What further work could you do that would demonstrate that your science shows falsifiability?

6.     A.    What is a living thing? In other words, describe the characteristics that all living things have in common.

        B.    Are viruses alive? What about crystals? Why or why not?

7.    Below is an article by Leonard Pitts, Jr. that appeared in the Miami Herald on August 21, 1999.  After reading the column, answer the following questions.
 
 
Zealots make monkeys of 'creation science'

If I lived in Kansas, I'd be checking plane fares to anywhere right about now. I'd be out of there so fast my shadow would have to catch a later flight. 

Not to dump on Kansas. The Sunflower State has contributed much to this country. It has given us spicy jazz and amber waves of grain. Given us American icons like Amelia Earhart, Buster Keaton and Damon Runyon. 

Unfortunately, it just gave us something else -- a disturbing example of religious zealotry run amok. Meaning, of course, last week's decision by the state board of education to adopt classroom science standards that do not require the teaching of evolution. It seems the religious conservatives on the board are making an end run into Kansas classrooms. Having been told repeatedly by the courts that they cannot force schools to teach so-called ``creation science,'' the Christian right has chosen instead to effectively banish the opposition. 

The likely result is that a Kansas education in science will soon be worth about as much as an Iraqi education in diplomacy. 

And if this all sounds like a rerun to you, that's because it is. Nineteen twenty-five. The Scopes monkey trial. Clarence Darrow squaring off against William Jennings Bryan over the fate of a Tennessee educator arrested after he dared teach Charles Darwin's theory that humanity evolved from lower animals. 

Tennessee won in court, saw the decision reversed on appeal, and has since had to live with the historical black eye of being the state that arrested a science teacher for teaching science. You'd think the lesson would have thus been learned, but evidently they don't teach history so well in Kansas, either. Why else would we be stumbling down this road again toward an unnecessary and unproductive argument over how the world began? 
 

Put aside the fact that it makes the state seem positively medieval. Here's the thing I keep coming back to: Why are those who accept every Bible passage as literal truth so fanatical in their quest to make the rest of us nod assent? If you know what you know, why do you need to be seconded in that knowledge by anyone, much less an agency of the government? If you know what you know, it seems as if you would be serene in the celebration of it. 

But in the roughly 20 years since the Christian right coalesced as a political force, in all the time they've sought by hook and crook to make their beliefs the law of the land, serenity is an attribute they have seldom shown. Indeed, it's not too much to say that the characteristic that seems to mark them more, curiously enough, is an abiding lack of faith. 

No faith in their ability to survive unaided in the marketplace of ideas. No faith in what they say they know. No faith in their ability to pass that knowledge to their kids. No faith -- only the fear that conflicting ideas and competing beliefs pose imminent threat, that they and their children must be kept hermetically sealed, because exposure to opposing views, or even simple questions, is destructive to their convictions. 

For what it's worth, I've never perceived evolution theory as incompatible with religious faith. It contradicts the letter of Genesis, yes. But not the essence. For me, at least, it confirms the essence -- that we are not accidents, that there is an author to this work. 

Think about it. We're told that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor. We're told that before this there were dinosaurs and before that there were cellular creatures and before that, there was the primordial planet, formed from the debris of a massive explosion, a ``Big Bang'' that marked the birth of the universe. 

And I say, Fine. Who lit the fuse on the bang? What existed prior to the beginning? And what will be here after the end? 

Only one name suggests itself to me. 

Which leaves me marveling at the weak-kneed creed espoused by some, a belief so flimsy it totters and quails at the first gust of contradiction. Is their God so small that he can be threatened by Charles Darwin? 

Mine is not." 

Republished here with the permission of the Miami Herald. No further republication or redistribution is permitted without the written approval of The Miami Herald. 

    A.    How does Pitts define evolution?  What is your definition?

    B.    Does the term “creation science” seem contradictory?

    C.    Pitts feels that religious faith and evolution are compatible.  Do you agree?  Explain.

    D.    The reason the Kansas Board of Education ruled the teaching of evolution is not required in public schools is because evolution cannot be observed.  How would you argue against this ruling?