What is Biology?
How can there be seedless grapes, and how do they reproduce? Why is carbon monoxide extremely poisonous? Why can't you tickle yourself? What causes the smell after rain? How do vitamins work? What's all this fuss about stem cells? What makes us yawn? Why are frogs growing extra legs out of their legs? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Biology is the study of living things and their vital processes. Because biology covers such a broad area, it has been traditional to separate the study of plants (botany) from that of animals (zoology), and the study of structure of organisms (morphology) from that of function (physiology). Despite their apparent differences, all the subdivisions are interrelated by basic principles, so current practice tends to investigate those biological phenomena that all living things have in common. The advancement of knowledge and technology has resulted in further categorizations that include, but are far from restricted to: cell biology, population biology, ecology, genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, and physical anthropology.
The number of different animal and plant species on earth is estimated at between 2 million and 4.5 million. We are presently killing off species through human action at a faster rate than at any other time, but we are also discovering new oceanic species at an increasing rate.
It is not known when the study of biology originated, but it can be safely assumed that early humanoids had some experimental knowledge of the animals and plants around them. One's very survival relied on the recognition of poisonous plants and on the basic understanding of the habits of predators. Many of the earliest records of biology come from the bas-reliefs left behind by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Papyrus and artifacts found in tombs and pyramids indicate that the Egyptians possessed considerable, albeit archaic by today's standards, medical knowledge. There is growing evidence from China and India as early as 2500 BC that there were general practices of therapeutic healing, silkworm use to produce silk, biological control of crops ,and agricultural cultivation.
With the arrival of Greek civilization, the study of biology shifted dramatically to a belief that every event has a cause and that a particular cause produces a particular effect. These philosophers of science assumed the existence of a natural law governing the universe; a law that can be comprehended by man through his use of observation and deduction. Although they established the science of biology, their greatest contribution to science was the idea of rational thought.
Skipping forward through the rapid evolution of biological advancements to today, recent discoveries concerning hereditary mechanisms and genetic engineering have raised ethical issues beyond our previous imagination, and have potential ramifications that could affect the very existence of life itself. It will be interesting to see what is to come in the future!
With over 7 billion humans on Earth today, and growing explosively. We are rapidly stretching the limits of our planet to sustain life as we know it. Global warming, depleted food sources, desertification, weather pattern changes, shrinking ozone layers, and rising ocean levels are warning signs of these stresses.
This is where you can get involved! Whether you enter the doors of biological science or sit on the outside, become informed of the advancements in biology. Make educated choices to support or be critics. Become informed!
Biology Courses are currently offered at Kwantlen on the Surrey, Langley and Richmond Campuses. Check out these offerings in the Calendar. If you need science or Q credits for your non-science degree, have a look at our Biology Today (BIOL 1112) course. It's interesting and it will inform you on the most recent contemporary biological topics in the news.