Catalog Description—GSTR 332: Scientific Origins. Prerequisite: Practical Reasoning with Quantitative Emphasis (PRQ) and sophomore standing. Offered: Typically Fall and Spring terms (first offered Fall 2017). This course invites students to examine the nature of the physical and biological universe, including modern scientific theories of its origin, formation, and evolution. Emphasis is on the nature of science and scientific ways of knowing, including the historical development of laws, models, and theories.
Students will begin to understand their place in nature and the similarities which they share with all forms of life and matter. Each section of the course will include an opportunity for students to participate in significant scientific inquiry.
Student Learning Outcomes for GSTR 332
A student successfully completing GSTR 332 will:
- Understand that the nature of the physical and biological universe is one of change, that these changes occur over timescales of millions to billions of years, and that we can come to understand and explain these changes using the methods of science.
- Understand the dynamic nature of science, and the role of new evidence in establishing more refined models, laws, hypotheses, and theories that better explain and predict natural phenomena;
- Understand the roles of critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and creativity in scientific inquiry, as well as the logic of scientific thinking and the role of evidence in constructing scientific knowledge;
- Demonstrate knowledge of specific natural science content presented within the context of the course.
NOTE: Below are section descriptions for all instructors who regularly teach GSTR 332. Not all of these instructors listed here teach the course each term. Please refer to the schedule of classes for the term in question to see which instructors will be offering the course.
GSTTR 332- Adams, Christopher A.: Conservation Science: Protecting Ecosystems and Species in Peril. With the many threats to stable global ecosystems (particularly, global climate change), the professional research output within the sub-discipline of conservation science has increased dramatically over the last few years. Thus, it is a very timely and necessary course for students who want to be good stewards of our natural resources, as well as help protect species in peril. Also, conservation science is one of the few biological sub-disciplines that regularly intersects with other knowledge areas, such as philosophy, sociology, economics, political science, etc. This course is one of the few science courses within our curriculum that allows students to thoroughly explore how their primary discipline of study is informed by, integrated with, and impacts other distinct knowledge bases. Conservation biology is the scientific study of the phenomena that affect the loss, restoration, and maintenance of biological diversity. Topics covered include: 1) the impacts of species invasions, habitat destruction and climate change on biodiversity, 2) conservation strategies developed to combat these threats, 3) how healthy, biologically diverse systems and biodiversity loss impact the human species and 4) a consideration of key economic and ethical tradeoffs of conservation practices. Special attention will be paid to current debate and controversy within this rapidly emerging field of study. The conservation science emphasis, in terms of content and activities, would meet several curriculum goals. These include, but are not limited to, (a) understanding fundamental concepts in biology and environmental science, (b) evaluating, interpreting, and communicating scientific information, (c) increasing scientific literacy, and (d) enhancing the application of knowledge and development of career skills.
GSTR 332- Baptiste, Quinn: World Science, an Animal Perspective. This course will focus on an examination of the immediate and more distant world environment that animals have been exposed to throughout the ages. The evolving environments and the challenges that are placed upon animal anatomy and physiology will be explored. The resultant effects of anatomical and physiological modifications on behavioral responses of animals will also be examined. Consequently, the course will provide students with opportunities to explore natural science disciplines (biology, chemistry, earth sciences, astronomy, and physics). These disciplines will be explored through an integrative approach, with the aim of providing students with a basic understanding of how scientific knowledge and inquiry applies to the existence of animals within contemporary environments. Students’ acquisition of pertinent scientific knowledge and skills will be facilitated through their engagement in inquiry based learning experiences.
GSTR 332- Berheide, Michael: Things You Should Know — and How We Know Them. Do you feel left out of the conversation when your fishing buddies are talking about adenosine triphosphate? Have you recently misspelled “megaparsec” on a job application? Are you embarrassed at cocktail parties when everyone else is talking about H. ergaster and you can think of nothing witty to say? Then this is the course for you! We are going to spend the entire semester learning basic facts about the natural world that any educated college graduate should know, and, more importantly, the fascinating ways in which these things have come to be learned. Never be intimidated again!
GSTR 332- Birner, Suzanne: The Sixth Extinction. Why is it important for a graduate of a liberal arts college to understand science? In other words, why do we require Berea students to take GSTR 332 or a selection of other science classes? In a decade where science and technology are changing the world around us at an unprecedented pace, which aspects of science are important for being able to think critically and understand the nuance of this ever-changing landscape, and which feel like obscure, useless trivia to be memorized and then forgotten? (I’m looking at you, mitochondria…) In this course, we’ll discuss not only what we know, but also how we know it. These topics will be addressed through the lens of one of the most pressing questions in science: Is our planet currently experiencing the sixth major mass extinction event in Earth history? And if so, are humans to blame? Rather than memorizing a set of facts about this topic, we’ll focus on scientific process, which amounts primarily to curiosity, asking questions, and figuring out clever ways to poke and prod at the things around us. What can we learn about our past and our future simply by looking at the rocks under our feet? What can we learn from previous mass extinctions? For instance, why did the dinosaurs go extinct and how do we know this? Why is Kentucky, a landlocked state, abundant in fossilized seashells, many from species that went extinct over 200 million years ago? These are just a few of the questions we’ll explore as we investigate the past, present, and future habitability of our planet.
GSTR 332- Douglas, Neil: Survey of Human Evolution. Students will explore the many steps in hominid evolution that have ultimately resulted in our species, Homo sapiens sapiens. A survey of human and ancestral species key to our current understanding will involve interpretation of important fossil evidence. The influence of environmental factors such as paleogeography and climate during critical evolutionary stages will be analyzed. Through basic experimental anthropology/archaeology we will evaluate and use different materials and methods to generate fire, knap flint, and manufacture other stone tools. Additional activities will examine and interpret human cultural and behavioral adaptations. As a result, students should expect to engage in some demanding physical activity. When coupled, classroom and laboratory experiences together will provide students with a rich understanding of important human physical and cultural developments as we adapted to different environments and spread across the globe.
GSTR 332- Garrett, Mary Robert: The aim of this course is to enhance your understanding of several major areas of the natural sciences (astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and geology) and how they work together. Additionally, we will investigate the methodology of scientific inquiry, the power of quantifying scientific observations, and the role of instrumentation in modern science. As science is a means of acquiring human knowledge of the natural world, its relevance and impact on our daily lives will be emphasized throughout the semester.
GSTR 332- Hodge, Tracy: The History of Earth. This course focuses on the origin and evolution of Earth, including its physical, chemical and biological history. Our emphasis will be on understanding the physical and geological evidence of large-scale, global changes and whether the modern earth may or may not be following historic patterns. Are we in a the midst of a new geological age, the Anthropocene, in which global environments are driven by human activity? We only have one home, and to make intelligent decisions about our future we need to understand how it works.
GSTR 332- Hoffman, Megan: Your Inner Fish. How did a reptile jawbone end up in your middle ear? Why do whales swim with the same movement as a running dog? What can modern-day finches in the Galapagos Islands tell us about the evolution of life on earth? In this course, we’ll investigate some of these questions and explore how geology, chemistry, and biology intertwine with the structure, function, and evolution of living things. We will carry out laboratory and field investigations to complement our classroom work and readings. Join us to discover your inner fish.
GSTR 332- Kovacevic, Anes: Chemistry and the Modern World. The purpose of this course is to provide students with an appreciation for the applications and importance of chemistry in our society and to enhance your understanding of the scientific method and important concepts from major areas of other natural sciences (biology, chemistry, geology, and physics). We will explore science through the eyes of scientists and non-scientists alike.
GSTR 332- Messer, Wayne: We are evolved biological beings, and the imprint of that phylogenetic legacy is present in everything we think, feel, and do. While we may have evolved to be maximally responsive to socio-cultural and environmental conditions, those conditions must stretch and modify the innately prepared circuits constrained and enabled by our genes, but they can also serve as pressures that shape the further evolution of those genes. Rather than having stopped at the Agricultural Revolution and the development of cities 10-12,000 years ago, evolution may have actually been accelerated as regards changes in the human genome.
While our sensory, cognitive, and behavioral biological gadgetry evolved to enable us to perceive and interact with the physical world, they did this more in order to promote our successful survival, mate-selection, and reproduction, and not necessarily to perceive that physical world as accurately or as truthfully as possible. Hence, errors, biases, and uncritical adaptations can exist throughout all our systems as long as they can continue to promote those goals adequately enough. The development of scientific methodologies, however, makes possible more accurate approximations of truth and reality than our evolutionarily-evolved systems alone are capable of. While contemporary social sciences and the humanities appear to have swung hard towards a social-constructivist or “blank slate” view of human behavior and sexuality, researches into the genome, historical and anthropological investigations, fossil evidence, etc. have continued to support the constraints and predispositions imposed upon and afforded by our biology.
We will begin with an exploration of the life and work of Charles Darwin (Charles Darwin by T. Berra, 2009), while at the same time reviewing basic scientific discoveries in biology and geology that allow us to achieve better scientific literacy and more completely understand what influenced him (Science Matters by R. Hazen and J. Trefil, 2009). We will then move into examining how our phylogenetic legacy can provide important lessons in how we might better sleep, eat, sit, exercise, and run (The Story of the Human Body by D. Lieberman, 2013). As time allows, greater focus will be given near the end of the course on theories exploring the evolutionary and biological underpinnings that structure many of our mating and reproductive behaviors with selections from among Sex at Dawn, When Men Behave Badly, Sperm Wars, and The Sex Contract.
GSTR 332- Messina, Troy: Energy, Environment, and Climate. The planet Earth has two primary sources of energy: one source is geological, and the other is solar.
These two sources of energy make life possible. Humans have discovered and developed methods to extract such energy for technological advancements that improve our standard of living. However, these advancements come at a cost. It is currently the scientific consensus that climate change is the dominant energy-related environmental issue of the twenty-first century. This course will explore energy sources and the technologies they have lead to. We will compare energy production and usage in various technologies such as wind, water, solar, nuclear, and fossil fuels. We will also compare their impacts on our environment and climate.
GSTR 332- Saderholm, Jon: Multiple times throughout the history of humankind, the way we perceive the natural world has been radically transformed. During this course, we will explore some of the important paradigm shifts in diverse fields of science by developing an understanding of what people thought beforehand, the nature of the observations motivating the new perspective, and how the new paradigm opened new and surprising lines of reasoning.
GSTR 332- Scudder-Davis, Roy: The Science of Dinosaurs. This section of GSTR 332 will use the life and times of dinosaurs as vehicles for understanding the nature of scientific inquiry and knowledge. Dinosaurs were once thought to be slow, lumbering, dull-witted giants that were eventually out-competed by the more progressive mammals. Recent discoveries along with new interpretations of old material have revealed that dinosaurs were highly active, “warm-blooded” creatures that were highly intelligent as evidenced by a variety of social behaviors including parental care of the young. The “Science of Dinosaurs” will not only explore what we know about the lives of dinosaurs, but will also explore the chemical, physical, geological, and cosmological factors that influenced their lives and the environment in which they lived and died.
GSTR 332- Strange, Jason: We’ve botched high school science education in this country. When students are exposed to science at all, it’s often just a face-full of useless facts, boring numbers, and confusing rules. Science begins to seem like something lifeless and far away from the things you care about. This is tragic in many ways – for example, by limiting young people’s career prospects or leaving us incapable of addressing issues like global warming. But in the broadest terms, it’s tragic because science is our best attempt to unravel the mysteries of this universe. The questions it tackles are not far away at all; in fact, they couldn’t be more intimate. What kind of reality do we inhabit? Why does life exist? Where do we come from? Why do we have feelings? What is consciousness? What is death? Are we alone in the universe, or does it, perhaps, teem with life? Science education should be nothing less than a face-full of mind-bending facts, jaw-dropping ideas, bizarre and heroic characters, and profound unsolved riddles. It had better be fun – because your life depends upon it.
GSTR 332- Veillette, Martin: Life in the universe. As of 30 years ago, every known planet in the universe was orbiting the Sun. Now, after an intense research effort, we have confirmed the existence of more than a thousand planets outside the Solar system and the number keeps climbing. In addition, a remarkable convergence of astronomy, biology, geology, and other recent discoveries have made the search for extraterrestrial life at the forefront of research. However, the scientific discoveries in this field are moving much more quickly than innovations in education. As a result, most people have had little opportunity to learn about this remarkable scientific adventure that can possibly answer fundamental questions about life beyond Earth. This course aims to help improve this situation by offering an introduction to the search for life in the universe in a way that is fairly comprehensive, but still accessible to students with little or no scientific training.