Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Two Things

In Friday's Grauniad, Oliver Burkeman was asking what the two things were to know in each subject. I thought this was a useful exercise, and might set it to my students as homework. What are the two main things to know about biology?

I'd be tempted to go with the following, borrowed from Theodosius Dobzhansky and Michael Lynch:

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."


"Nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of population genetics."

My students haven't really done population genetics (the A2s have done a bit, but they haven't really done it). So they might have less nuanced ideas about the "two things". Maybe to look at it in my own words I'd go for a slightly different approach.

Life is an exercise in reverse entropy.


All living organisms evolve, though the rate may vary.

What do you think about these "two things"? Would you choose different ones about biology or life sciences, or indeed the earth sciences, since I have a very earth sciencey view of biology!

1 comment:

  1. I really dislike the use of the phrase entropy in terms of biology. I admit I know absolutely zero about thermodynamics, but I'm not sure I buy life as something you can particularly call 'order'.

    The two things I'd use for my biology students (all under 10):

    1) living things have adapted to produce as many offspring as possible
    2) living things have adapted to stay alive long enough to do 1)


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