Science plays an ever increasing role in the decisions of all people as they go about their daily lives, and as they select representative leadership in a democracy. The class will teach a voter enough about modern biology to help make informed decisions about, but also how science works.
Biology, as all science, is a way of knowing, with knowledge emerging from experimental tests that winnow false ideas from those with predictive value. That said, Biology is unusual among the sciences in that there are few fundamental laws, and only three rise to the status of “law” (this course will teach all three). The Human Genome Project has brought biology to the personal level.All graduates of UC Berkeley can expect to have their complete DNA sequence read in the coming years and the information in that sequence used for many health-related activities. But the human genome sequence is just the beginning of a technological revolution that is remaking Biology, and bringing its impact to many of the pressing problems of our age.
How should one think about the controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms, including animals and even human cells? What is a rational reaction to the risks of new pandemic disease? What are the risks of being vaccinated vs choosing not to be? How does hunger lead to obesity, and how can we address the exploding health care costs that consume 16% of the nation’s GDP? What is the range of sexual behavior that biology offers? How can I see evolution happen right before my eyes? What causes massive extinctions and what are their impacts on the planet? If we found life on another planet, what could it be like? Will there be a cure for cancer? Will we defeat aging? These are some of the topics we will cover in this course.