Science and Society:
The New Biology and (Bio)medical Science of the 21st Century
The many scientific and associated ethical controversies in current biology are the stuff of daily newspaper headlines. Can we, and if yes, should we clone humans? How easy is it to manipulate development to create new species? Are GM foods really safe? To what extent are organisms the product of their environments and their parental endowments? What really is a gene? Where is the program that determines development? As we develop nano (and sub nano) technology like plasmon rulers to investigate life, are we in danger of losing sight of the still unspecified complex of chemical reactions which produce and sustain life?
It is, paradoxically, a complement to state that biology is in crisis. The word “crisis” in the philosophy of science literature is used to indicate that there is massive opportunity to clean up the MO of the discipline. We therefore start the course with analysis of what a “crisis” in science actually is, with particular reference to the Copernicus/Galileo affair. We then extend the analysis through brief consideration of Quantum mechanics and relativity before resuming the matter at hand; 21st century Biology.
We start the biology with analysis of transcriptional and translational issues in gene expression that, taken together, expose the over-simplifications of the Human Genome Project (HGP). This new level of complexity allows us to consider more correctly what the consequences are for medicine. Moreover, the biomedical model seems incomplete; its exclusion of social factors from an analysis of health seems incorrect. We give one example of experimental work that proves meditation frees up metabolic energy for the organism.
We end with a thorough analysis of current cutting-edge areas of biology, including ecosystems.
© 2009, 2016 Seán Ó Nualláin