1. What Is Biology?




Foodborne Illness on the Rise

As Population Increases So Does Concern for Food Safery.

More than ever before, people around the world are worried about the safety of their food. Foodborne illnesses are diseases caused by infectious microbes (germs) or poisons that enter your body if you eat contaminated food. They result in sickness or death. The chemical contamination of baby formula made in China in 2008 was responsible for at least four infant deaths and over 53,000 illnesses. Everybody is at risk of foodborne illness. In fact, World Health Organization (WHO) scientists have stated that foodborne illnesses have become major problems in both developed and developing countries. Meats, vegetables, salads, snacks, fast food, vegetarian snacks, and even desserts have been found to be sources of foodborne illness. It is the variety of outbreaks that most troubles scientists and government health officials who are responsible for investigating and making recommendations for controlling outbreaks. WHO reported that the global incidence of death from diarrheal diseases caused by foodborne disease was 1.8 million. Diarrhea is a major cause of malnutrition in infants and young children. In the United States of America (USA), there are an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne diseases each year. These result in about 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Food contamination has huge social and economic consequences on communities and their healthcare systems.

·     How would a scientist approach the claim that the increase in foodborne illness is the result of a greater interest by consumers in eating fresh, uncooked foods?

·     How would scientists go about identifying the cause of a foodborne illness?

·     Should supersized food-processing companies be split into smaller, more easily regulated businesses?


ü  Background Check

Concepts you should already know to get the most out of this chapter:

At the beginning of each chapter, you will find a list of concepts or ideas that are helpful in understanding the content of the chapter. Since this is the first chapter, there is no special background required. However, you should:

•   Have an open mind

•   Be willing to learn


1.1. Why the Study of Biology Is Important


Many students question the need for science courses, such as biology, especially when their area of study is not science- related. However, it is becoming increasingly important for everyone to be able to recognize the power and limitations of science. I n a democracy, it is assumed that the public has gathered enough information to make intelligent decisions. This is why an understanding of the nature of science and fundamental biological concepts is so important for any person, regardless of his or her occupation. Concepts in Biology was written with this philosophy in mind. This book presents core concepts selected to help you become more aware of how biology influences nearly every aspect of your life.

Most of the important questions of today can be considered from philosophical, scientific, and social points of view. However, none of these approaches individually answers those questions. For example, it is a fact that the human population of the world is growing rapidly. Philosophically, we may all agree that the rate of population growth should be slowed. Science can provide information about how populations grow and which actions will be the most effective in slowing population growth. Science can also develop effective methods of birth control. Social leaders can suggest strategies for population control that are acceptable within a society. It is important to recognize that science does not have the answers to all of our problems. In this situation, society must make the fundamental philosophical decisions about reproductive rights and the morality of various control methods if human population growth is to be controlled.

While science may raise many questions that are difficult for society to answer, science can challenge humanity to re-examine long-held beliefs. As science reports facts and trends, this new information can force us to rethink our view of the world. One example of this is the idea of human race. Only recently have we been able to look at all the genetic information that makes up a human. Now, it is possible to determine the genetic differences between different races of humans. Interestingly, the genetic differences between individual people of the same race can be greater than the differences among individuals who were thought to be of different races. The reason for this is that the number of genes that we typically associate with racial differences is very small when compared to the number of genes needed to make a person (figure 1.1).



FIGURE 1.1. What's the Difference?

Despite superficial differences, different human races are overwhelmingly similar genetically.


Consider how this new information challenges the human perception of race. Humans define country borders and fight wars on the basis of race. This is true even though what makes up genetic differences between races is inconsequential to what makes us human.



1. Why is a basic understanding of science important for all citizens?

2. Describe two areas where scientific discoveries have caused us to rethink previously held beliefs.