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Reading: What is Science?

Intro: What is Science?


And why should a Christian study it?

A little about myself


-BS in Biology
-MS in Physician Assistant Studies
-Have worked has a PA in family medicine, Allergy and Asthma, and Ear, Nose & Throat
specialties
-Have also taken time to raise my two daughters – who experiment with science all the time!

What is science?
Science is complex and multi-faceted, but the most important characteristics of science are
straightforward:
-Science focuses exclusively on the natural world, and does not deal with
supernatural explanations.
-Science is a way of learning about what is in the natural world, how the natural world works,
and how the natural world got to be the way it is. It is not simply a collection of facts; rather it is
a path to understanding.
-Scientists work in many different ways, but all science relies on testing ideas by figuring out
what expectations are generated by an idea and making observations to find out whether those
expectations hold true.
-Accepted scientific ideas are reliable because they have been subjected to rigorous testing,
but as new evidence is acquired and new perspectives emerge these ideas can be revised.
-Science is a community endeavor. It relies on a system of checks and balances, which helps
ensure that science moves in the direction of greater accuracy and understanding. This system
is facilitated by diversity within the scientific community, which offers a broad range of
perspectives on scientific ideas.

Science is…
-Science is both a body of knowledge and a process. In school, science may sometimes
seem like a collection of isolated and static facts listed in a textbook, but that's only a small part
of the story. Just as importantly, science is also a process of discovery that allows us to link
isolated facts into coherent and comprehensive understandings of the natural world.
-Science is exciting. Science is a way of discovering what's in the universe and how those
things work today, how they worked in the past, and how they are likely to work in the future.
Scientists are motivated by the thrill of seeing or figuring out something that no one has before.
-Science is useful. The knowledge generated by science is powerful and reliable. It can be
used to develop new technologies, treat diseases, and deal with many other sorts of problems.
-Science is ongoing. Science is continually refining and expanding our knowledge of the
universe, and as it does, it leads to new questions for future investigation. Science will never
be "finished."
Science cannot…
-Prove the existence of God
-Cannot be tested
-Make value judgments – what is beautiful art
-Make moral judgments – right vs wrong
-Tell you how to use your scientific knowledge – for example, to help or harm

Reading: Science and Christianity


This material is adapted from "The Natural Sciences at Wheaton College," written by the
natural sciences faculty at Wheaton College, a liberal arts school in Illinois.

WHAT IS SCIENCE?
In the contemporary academy, science represents a theoretical discipline that addresses
natural phenomena; by its accepted standards and procedures, it does not go beyond the
natural realm for explanations. The hypotheses and theories generated in scientific study are
based upon empirically measured phenomena. Like all endeavors of disclosing truth, including
theology, the practice of science is dynamic and the theories it generates are always in a state
of self-correction as new data are evaluated. Although science uses a naturalistic
methodology, the use of that methodology does not necessarily imply a metaphysical
naturalism (a philosophical commitment to the idea that the material world is all there is), nor
does it imply that the scientist who is a Christian believes that naturalistic factors can fully
explain all phenomena. The following analogy should make this clear.
A Christian physician may witness the dramatic and seemingly miraculous recovery of a patient
for whom many have been praying. Even while celebrating the unexpected but hoped-for
"miracle," that physician, whose profession focuses on cures for "natural" disease processes,
could and should explore whether there are "natural factors" (such as dietary changes, drug
interactions, environmental factors, or non-traditional treatments) that might have affected the
miraculous recovery. Such a search for natural explanations is by no means an indicator of any
lack of faith in the supernatural by the doctor. Instead, it reflects the physician's respect for the
physical processes affecting human health, which are created and sustained by God; it also
demonstrates intellectual and professional curiosity.
Along with the Christ-centered medical practitioner, Wheaton faculty members reject the idea
that we live in a closed universe, devoid of miraculous phenomena. Indeed, on the basis of
Scripture, we affirm the mysterious manifestations of both divine and demonic realities in the
created realm, acknowledging that many of these phenomena do not easily lend themselves to
empirical analysis. We affirm that at least some aspects of the supernatural are
understandable to humanity through divine revelation and through careful rational reflection,
intuition, and other ways of human knowing.
One final but important point must be noted about science in relation to mathematics. As do the
Christian natural scientists, the Christian mathematicians view the creative God as the source
of knowledge in their studies. The way of knowing called mathematics develops its results
differently from natural sciences. While the topics and results of mathematics are often
motivated by the study of natural phenomena, mathematics may also be developed as an
abstraction apart from the observable world. Its results are verified by logical axiomatic
arguments, and are not subject to change unless the underlying axioms are modified. One of
the wonders of mathematics is its effectiveness as a tool in modeling and understanding
natural and social phenomena.

SCIENCE AS A LIMITED HUMAN ENTERPRISE


Modern Science emerged in the seventeenth century and has been in rapid development up to
the present time. Aristotle is sometimes considered the founder of modern science, since he
advocated the careful study of what is, of the observable physical world, and because he
developed a comprehensive system of understanding ultimate reality (metaphysics). Only in
hindsight have scholars recognized how profoundly Aristotle's prior philosophical commitments
shaped and limited his science, despite his brilliance in observation. In the period preceding
what was later called the Renaissance, Christian theologians and scholars began questioning
the Aristotelian framework. Descriptive practices gave way to empirical observations, coupled
with the logical process of induction for theory formation. Objectivity was strengthened by a
strong process of questioning and challenging presuppositions, as well as a priori constraints.
This was a period of explosive growth in scientific knowledge that later came to be called the
Scientific Revolution. The best modern scholarship (e.g., John H. Brooke, Science and
Religion, 1991) establishes that Christian theology was integral in these developments, serving
as fertile ground for the advancement of science. It is no coincidence that modern science
developed most rapidly in Western Europe and America, where its assumptions formed an
ideal cultural framework in which science could develop.
The tremendous success of empirical investigation in discovering new truths about the physical
world (and the resulting technological advances in everything from engineering and
manufacturing to the discovery of new treatments for disease) led to growing support for ever-
wider application of scientific methods of knowing. The Enlightenment was characterized by a
confidence (even over-confidence) in the human mind's ability, often in a manner hostile to
Christianity. When disciplined to utilize scientific methodology and when freed from
constraining religious and philosophical beliefs, the mind was presumed to be able to discover
all truth and to advance the cause of human welfare. Out of these developments, a movement
declaring science and religion to be at war with one another began in the late nineteenth
century, and it gathered momentum after the famous Scopes trial. Positivism, which reached
its zenith in the mid-twentieth century, was one of the most extreme of these influential
Enlightenment movements. Positivism explicitly denied the usefulness of any mode of human
thought, outside of scientific empirical inquiry and formal logic, to discover or apprehend truth.
The new conceptual framework of the Enlightenment, one in which all beliefs were expected to
have empirical grounding, eroded religious belief systems and undermined the authority of the
Church. Philosophy, religion, and metaphysical phenomena were discounted in light of the
empiricist requirements for understanding reality.
Positivism has been in decline for fifty years or more. Most importantly, the movement lost
credence due to an internal contradiction - the universal claim that "all valid knowledge is a
product of empirical scientific study." Such a claim, ironically, cannot be conclusively shown
through empirical scientific study. Therefore, by its own standard, it is neither true nor false.
Moreover, for scientists interested in theory formation and those who wished to do comparative
studies on certain phenomena of the universe, such as in verifiability of only one "universe,"
there were no bases for empirical comparison and/or controls. As a result, positivism went
through decline as an effective means of explanation for natural phenomena once the
challenges to the verifiability principle ensued. It must be noted that some positivist approaches
are still practiced and a small number of positivist adherents still write in the twenty-first
century.
There are two additional reasons why Christians must reject the positivist view of science.
First, Christians must acknowledge that those doing science are limited and fallible human
beings. We serve an omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), and perfectly rational
God. We, in contrast, can know, but we can never know all. Likewise, we have power, but our
power is always limited and partial. And we possess rational minds, but they are less than
perfect. In short, we are human; our Creator is God. Therefore, the positivists' aspirations for
near universal and perfect knowledge are unrealistic and out of keeping with biblical
Christianity.
In addition, we recognize that humans are sinful and fallen. Where positivists promoted an
ideal of human scientific rationality that was disconnected from and unaffected by human
foibles, we recognize the effects of humankind's disobedience on all of our being, including our
rational, scientific capacities. Insofar as the Fall also affects the power of intellect, especially by
turning our knowledge and/or our own minds into idols, we acknowledge the corrupting
influences of sin on our ability to see the world as it is. The struggle of scientific inquiry to
discern something of the nature of the creation requires that we remain humble, conscious of
the fallible outcomes of our efforts and of our tendencies to sinfully distort all of our knowledge
(Proverbs 9:10; 11:2).
Many scientists in the larger science academy have philosophical commitments to
metaphysical materialism. Proponents of this view assert that physical reality is the only reality,
and they espouse the view that all things can be explained in terms of physical matter and
phenomena alone. Needless to say, metaphysical materialism is not compatible with the views
that Wheaton affirms. Some materialists go as far as to say that science rightly supplants the
traditional role of religious beliefs, given that it fully answers humanity's ultimate questions
about existence. We counter such overtly materialistic accounts of reality on several grounds:
first, with the reality of God's own existence (since God exists, materialism is simply wrong);
second, with the growing realization among many scientists that neither the existence of the
universe nor of life explain themselves; and third, with the confidence that comes from knowing
that God is working in creation through the laws He designed and created. We are convinced
that God is active in His creation and in the work of providence; He is not just a "mystery
variable," plugging a gap in the knowledge that is undemonstrated by scientific means. His
purposes in creation remain clear and His direction of the cosmos, including phenomena and
living creatures, is governed by His wise and holy providence.
As teachers of natural science, we train students at Wheaton College, acquainting them not
only with the practice and presuppositions of science, but also with the history and philosophy
of science, highlighting the points of intersection between Christian worldviews and scientific
practice. With this type of training, students are prepared to see scientific excellence as fully
compatible with devout, biblically-grounded Christian faith. Clearly then, we believe that
science and Christian faith are not at war. The facts speak for themselves: among world-
renowned scientists of the past and present, Christians represent a significant number.
Notwithstanding, some continue to promote the erroneous notion that science and religion are
at war, including those who object on scientific grounds to the claims of Young Earth
Creationism, and those who use science to advance the case for metaphysical materialism
(discussed above). But because advances in science have been repeatedly interpreted by
philosophical materialists (who believe that nature - the natural world - is all that exists) to
undermine Christian faith, it is insufficient to merely note that we dispute and reject the notion
of warfare between science and Christian faith. We encourage scientific excellence among
believing Christians so our lives can present a living witness to the truth that science and
Christian faith, when properly construed, are not at war.
Furthermore, we can serve the Church by developing positive rationales for how accomplished
scientists who understand the remarkable advances and findings of the sciences can still
enthusiastically embrace biblical faith. Hence we encourage Christian students at Wheaton
College to consider the possible "call" to serve as scientists. In so doing, we provide solid
moral and ethical guidance for the application of scientific findings to establish standards of
honesty, charity, and other Christian virtues in the pursuit of truth in the created order. We also
encourage students to pursue the types of humanitarian goals demanded by a Christian
worldview and establish alternative theoretical paradigms to the prevailing naturalistic ones. In
this context, we urge students to examine new empirical research programs and conceptual
frameworks for interpreting the results of scientific investigation.

CHRISTIAN FOUNDATIONS FOR THE STUDY OF SCIENCE


The goal of scientific inquiry, from a Christian perspective, is to explore and understand what
we can of God's creation, particularly the entities, powers, processes, underlying structures,
relations, and mechanisms of the natural world. God has made humanity such that we are able
to grow in this type of knowledge through our rational encounters with the created world.
This temporal world, given to us by Christ, bears the marks of its Creator; consequently, some
knowledge of the Creator God can come from the study of the good world that He has created.
This type of knowledge of God, described by the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:18-20), has been
called God's "general revelation" in His creation. The existence of such revelation means that
we, as believers, can enhance our opportunities to worship and enjoy our Redeemer forever,
through the study and understanding of His creative handiwork. Our knowledge of the creation
provides an occasion to acknowledge, to thank, to praise, and to worship the Creator. The
world was created and is sustained by Jesus Christ, who has all knowledge and power, and we
acknowledge that the full scope and complexity of creation far exceeds the limits of human
understanding. The sciences are ultimately grounded in the final authority of Scripture. As
Christians engaging in the study of science, we are committed to discerning truth wherever it
may be found, including God's general revelation in creation.
We cannot, however, only celebrate the created order as good. We also recognize the effects
of the disobedience of humankind, both in the world around us and upon the human race. Even
our own capacities to know truth have been adversely affected. We learn in Scripture that the
creation groans in brokenness and decay (Romans 8:22-25) and awaits, just as we do as
broken human beings, the final redemption, the ultimate healing of all that is wrong.
Nevertheless, in this post-Fall context, we are to do our best in faithfulness to God to care for
the physical world as its God-appointed stewards. The faithful steward does the work of his or
her Master. Still, the effects of the Fall on the cosmos and our commitment to its renewal
instruct our view of this work of stewardship (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:18-23; Revelation
21:1-5; Revelation 22:1-5). We expectantly work as stewards of the land, and representatives
of the Lord, who have received the blessing in creation and the command to rule it (Genesis
1:28 and Psalm 8:6-8), but insofar as the Fall also affects the power of intellect, we
acknowledge the corrupting influences of sin on our ability to see the world as it is. At times,
even our knowledge and our own minds can become idols. The struggle to discern something
of the nature of creation, through scientific inquiry, requires us to remain humble and conscious
of the fallible outcome of our efforts (Proverbs 9:10; 11:2).

SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY AS WORSHIP


An important goal of Christians in science is to comprehend what can be learned about God's
creation, particularly the entities, powers, processes, underlying structures, relations, and
mechanisms of the natural world. As those whose hearts have been illumined by the Holy
Spirit, we recognize the created world as the "theater of God's glory" (John Calvin), and we see
evidence of His majesty and power all around us (Psalm 19). Knowledge of God that results
from reflection on the creation complements our knowledge of God that comes through His
special revelation of Himself and our experiential knowledge of Him. Through prayer, reflection,
and careful study of God's creation, we can come to know Him more fully and praise Him more
worthily. As stated previously, our knowledge of the creation provides an occasion to
acknowledge, to thank, to praise, and to worship the Creator. Our world was created and is
sustained by Him who possesses exceedingly great knowledge and power. Therefore, we
realize that the full scope and complexity of creation far exceeds the limits of human
understanding.
For serious students, an in-depth study of science provides insight into the invisible qualities of
God, including His eternal power and divine nature. All creation speaks of His glory. In addition,
the study of science provides occasions for thanksgiving, for praise, and for worship of the
Creator. Considering our faculty's dedication to the Word of God and their ongoing application
of scriptural truth to their disciplines, they have regular occasions to share spiritual reflections
with students, who are also seeking to increase their knowledge of God.Through contemporary
scientific approaches, we are privileged to study and comprehend the creation to a degree
unfathomable to previous generations. We also are thankful for this unique and privileged
glimpse into the creation. Science has allowed us to understand more and more about God's
creation. And with such a tremendous increase in knowledge, compared to that of previous
generations, we should be even more enthusiastic in directing our praise to God. Through the
eyes of faith, scientists who are Christians can understand and appreciate different aspects of
the creation from those outside the faith; as a result, they can affirm God's handiwork. Most of
us can see the beauty of a sunset, but not many get the opportunity to marvel at the
mechanism that produces the proteolytic cleavage of proteins. Science makes that knowledge
possible.
Study of the physical universe gives us a more profound understanding of our frame, that we
are indeed made up of dust (natural elements) and that we will one day return to dust. Despite
our finite, physical frame, as Christians we live by faith and are confident of the blessed hope
of the resurrection leading to everlasting life and fellowship with God. The uniqueness of being
human and being made in the image of God places us in special relationship with the Creator
and assigns us special value. If we can begin to comprehend this profound truth, then it will
affect how we relate to others, to the creation, and to our God.

Reading: The Scientific Method


Science: A way of gaining knowledge about the natural world by asking questions and using
evidence and logic to find the answers.
Observation: Something we detect with out senses
Scientific Investigation: A plan for answering a scientific question and testing possible
answers.
Hypothesis: A possible answer to a scientific question that can be tested (to be either true or
false).
Evidence: Data that supports/disproves a statement.
Experiment: A special type of scientific investigation performed under controlled conditions.
Dependent Variable: Variable in a scientific experiment that is being affected by another
variable (the independent variable).
Independent Variable: Variable in a scientific experiment that is manipulated to investigate its
affect on another variable (the dependent variable).
Model: Representation of part of the real world.
Scientific Theory: A broad explanation of why something happens in nature that is widely
accepted as true because it is supported by a great deal of evidence.
Scientific Law: Describe event that always happen under certain circumstances in nature.
Reading: The Study of Biology
Four Unifying Principles
-Evolution
-Free Energy (including homeostasis)
-Information (gene theory)
-Systems (cell theory)

Vocab
Cell: The basic unit of structure and function of all living organisms.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): Double-stranded nucleic acid that composes genes
and Chromosomes: the hereditary material.
Evolution: The change in the characteristics of living organisms over time; the change in
species over time.
Gene: A segment of DNA that contains information to encode an RNA molecule or a single
polypeptide.
Homeostasis: The process of maintaining a stable environment inside a cell or an entire
organism.
Natural selection: Evolutionary process by which certain beneficial traits becomes more
common within a population, changing the characteristics (traits) of a species over time
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<&1(+>+49+>
Scientific Methods - Advanced

Douglas Wilkin, Ph.D.


Niamh Gray-Wilson

Say Thanks to the Authors


Click http://www.ck12.org/saythanks
(No sign in required)
AUTHORS
Douglas Wilkin, Ph.D.
To access a customizable version of this book, as well as other
Niamh Gray-Wilson
interactive content, visit www.ck12.org

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Except as otherwise noted, all CK-12 Content (including CK-12


Curriculum Material) is made available to Users in accordance
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mons from time to time (the “CC License”), which is incorporated
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www.ck12.org Chapter 1. Scientific Methods - Advanced

C HAPTER
1 Scientific Methods -
Advanced
• Order the general steps of a scientific method.
• Outline a set of steps that are used in the scientific method of investigating a problem.
• Define hypothesis.
• Explain the importance of a hypothesis being falsifiable.
• Describe why a control group is used in an experiment.

What is the method of science?


How is science "done?" It can be difficult sometimes to define research methods in a way that will clearly distinguish
science from non-science. However, there is a set of core principles that make up the “bones” of scientific research.
These principles are widely accepted within the scientific community. Although there is no fixed set of steps that
scientists always follow during an investigation, and there is no single path that leads scientists to knowledge, there
are certain features of science that give it a distinct way of investigating.

Scientific Methods

Scientific investigations examine, gain new knowledge, or build on previous knowledge about phenomena. A
phenomenon, is any occurrence that is observable. It can be simply a burning match shown in the Figure 1.1,

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as well as the structure of a cell and the prey of a lion. A phenomenon may be a feature of matter, energy, or
time. For example, Isaac Newton made observations of the phenomenon of the moon’s orbit, Galileo Galilei
made observations of phenomena related to swinging pendulums and Charles Darwin made observations of unique
plant and animal species. Although procedures vary from one field of scientific inquiry to another, certain features
distinguish scientific inquiry from other types of knowledge. Scientific methods are based on gathering observable,
empirical (produced by experiment or observation), and measurable evidence that is critically evaluated.

FIGURE 1.1
The combustion of this match is an
observable event and therefore a phe-
nomenon.

The Scientific Method Video can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVfI1wat2y8 (4:25).

MEDIA
Click image to the left or use the URL below.
URL: http://www.ck12.org/flx/render/embeddedobject/151878

Scientific Investigations

The scientific method is not a step by step, linear process. It is a way of learning about the world through the
application of knowledge. Scientists must be able to have an idea of what the answer to an investigation should
be. In order for scientists to make educated guesses about the answers, they will base their guesses on previous
knowledge, with the notion of extending that knowledge. Scientists will often make an observation and then form
a hypothesis to explain why a phenomenon occurred. They use all of their knowledge and a bit of imagination in
their journey of discovery.
A hypothesis is a suggested explanation of a question or problem, based on evidence that can be tested by observation
or experimentation. A hypothesis absolutely must be testable– it gains credibility by being tested over and over
again, and by surviving attempts to prove it wrong. Scientists may test and reject several hypotheses before solving
a problem.
Scientific investigations involve the collection of data through observation, the formation and testing of hypotheses

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by experimentation, and analysis of the results that involves reasoning. Scientific investigations begin with observa-
tions that lead to questions.
We will use an everyday example to show what makes up a scientific investigation. Imagine that you walk into a
room, and the room is dark.

• You observe that the room appears dark, and you question why the room is dark.
• In an attempt to find explanations to this phenomenon, you develop several different hypotheses. One hypoth-
esis might be that the room does not have a light source at all. Another hypothesis might be that the lights are
turned off. Still, another might be that the light bulb has burnt out. Worse yet, you could be going blind.
• To discover the answer, you experiment. You feel your way around the room and find a light switch and turn
it on. No light. You repeat the experiment, flicking the switch back and forth; still nothing.
• This means your first two hypotheses, that the room is dark because (1) it does not have a light source; and (2)
the lights are off, have been disproved.
• You think of more experiments to test your hypotheses, such as switching on a flashlight to prove that you are
not blind.
• In order to accept your last remaining hypothesis as the answer, you could predict that changing the light
bulb will fix the problem. If your predictions about this hypothesis succeed (changing the light bulb fixes the
problem), the original hypothesis is valid and is accepted.
• However, in some cases, your predictions will not succeed (changing the light bulb does not fix the problem),
and you will have to start over again with a new hypothesis. Perhaps there is a short circuit somewhere in the
house, or the power might be out.

The general process of a scientific investigation is summed up in Figure 1.3.

TABLE 1.1: Common Terms Used in Scientific Investigations


Term Definition
Scientific Method The process of scientific investigation.
Observation The act of noting or detecting phenomenon by the
senses. For example, taking measurements is a form
of observation.
Hypotheses A suggested explanation based on evidence that can be
tested by observation or experimentation.
Scientific Reasoning The process of looking for scientific reasons for obser-
vations.
Experiment A test that is used to rule out a hypothesis or validate
something already known.
Rejected Hypothesis An explanation that is ruled out by experimentation.
Confirmed Hypothesis An explanation that is not ruled out by repeated exper-
imentation, and makes predictions that are shown to be
true.
Inference Developing new knowledge based upon old knowledge.
Theory A widely accepted hypothesis that stands the test of
time. Theories are often tested, and usually not re-
jected.

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FIGURE 1.2
The general pathway of a scientific inves-
tigation. A scientific investigation typically
has these steps, though the pathway is
often modified for a specific scientific in-
vestigation.

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www.ck12.org Chapter 1. Scientific Methods - Advanced

FIGURE 1.3
The general process of scientific inves-
tigations. This diagram illustrates how
scientific investigations move from obser-
vation of phenomenon to a theory. The
progress is not as straightforward as it
looks in this diagram. Many times the
hypothesis is falsified, which means the
investigator will have to redevelop/revise
a hypothesis.

5
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The Scientific Method Made Easy explains the scientific method: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcavPAFiG14
(9:55).

MEDIA
Click image to the left or use the URL below.
URL: http://www.ck12.org/flx/render/embeddedobject/149

Making Observations

Scientists first make observations that raise questions. An observation is the act of noting or detecting phenomenon
through the senses. For example, noting that a room is dark is an observation made through sight.

Developing Hypotheses

In order to explain the observed phenomenon, scientists develop a number of possible explanations, or hypotheses.
A hypothesis is a suggested explanation for a phenomenon or a suggested explanation for a relationship between
many phenomena. Hypotheses are always based on evidence that can be tested by observation or experimentation.
Scientific investigations are required to test hypotheses. Scientists mostly base hypotheses on prior observations or
on extensions of existing scientific explanations.
Though many people describe a hypothesis as an "educated guess," that definition is not scientifically accurate.
To define a hypothesis as "an educated guess" is like calling a tricycle a "vehicle with three." This definition of a
tricycle leaves out its most important and characteristic feature: its wheels. The "educated guess" definition of a
hypothesis also leaves out the concept’s most important and characteristic feature: the purpose of the hypotheses.
People generate hypotheses as early attempts to explain patterns observed in nature or to predict the outcomes of
experiments. For example, in science, one could correctly call the following statement a hypothesis: identical twins
can have different personalities because environment influences personality.

Evaluating Hypotheses

Scientific methods require hypotheses that are falsifiable, that is, they must be framed in a way that allows other
scientists to prove them false. Proving a hypothesis to be false is usually done by observation and experimentation.
However, confirming or failing to falsify a hypothesis does not necessarily mean the hypothesis is true.
For example, a person comes to a new country and observes only white sheep. This person might form the
hypothesis: “All sheep in this country are white.” This statement can be called a hypothesis, because it is falsifiable
- it can be tested and proved wrong; anyone could falsify the hypothesis by observing a single black sheep, shown
in Figure 1.4. If the experimental uncertainties remain small (could the person reliably distinguish the observed
black sheep from a goat or a small horse), and if the experimenter has correctly interpreted the hypothesis, finding a
black sheep falsifies the "only white sheep" hypothesis. However, you cannot call a failure to find non-white sheep
as proof that no non-white sheep exist.

Vocabulary

• evidence: Any type of data that may be used to test a hypothesis.

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www.ck12.org Chapter 1. Scientific Methods - Advanced

FIGURE 1.4
The statement “there are only white
sheep in this country” is a hypothesis
because it is open to being falsified. How-
ever, failure to see a black sheep does not
necessarily falsify the hypothesis. A bet-
ter scientific hypothesis may be that "only
white sheep can survive in this country
because of the existing ecosystems."

• experiment: A test that is used to rule out a hypothesis or validate something already known; a test that is
used to eliminate one or more of the possible hypotheses until one hypothesis remains.
• falsifiable: Can be proved false.
• hypothesis (plural, hypotheses): A suggested explanation based on evidence that can be tested by observation
or experimentation.
• observation: The act of noting or detecting phenomenon through the senses.
• phenomenon: Any occurrence that is observable.
• scientific investigation: A plan for asking questions and testing possible answers.
• scientific methods: Procedures based on gathering observable, empirical (produced by experiment or obser-
vation) and measurable evidence that is critically evaluated.

Summary

• Scientific investigations involve the collection of data through observation, the formation and testing of
hypotheses by experimentation, and analysis of the results that involves reasoning.

Review

1. Describe the scientific method.


2. What is an hypothesis?
3. How is a hypothesis developed and evaluated?
4. What is meant by falsifiable?
5. What happens if a hypothesis is false?

References

1. Jeff Turner. The combustion of this match is an observable event and therefore a phenomenon . CC BY 2.0
2. Hana Zavadska. A simple summary of the steps of a scientific investigation . CC BY-NC 3.0
3. Laura Guerin. A broader summary of how scientific investigations move from observation of a phenomena to
a theory . CC BY-NC 3.0

7
www.ck12.org

4. David Schiersner. http://www.flickr.com/photos/freaky_designz/8732089237 . CC BY 2.0

8
Unifying Principles of Biology
- Advanced

Douglas Wilkin, Ph.D.


Niamh Gray-Wilson

Say Thanks to the Authors


Click http://www.ck12.org/saythanks
(No sign in required)
AUTHORS
Douglas Wilkin, Ph.D.
To access a customizable version of this book, as well as other
Niamh Gray-Wilson
interactive content, visit www.ck12.org

CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to


reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in
the U.S. and worldwide. Using an open-source, collaborative, and
web-based compilation model, CK-12 pioneers and promotes the
creation and distribution of high-quality, adaptive online textbooks
that can be mixed, modified and printed (i.e., the FlexBook®
textbooks).

Copyright © 2015 CK-12 Foundation, www.ck12.org

The names “CK-12” and “CK12” and associated logos and the
terms “FlexBook®” and “FlexBook Platform®” (collectively
“CK-12 Marks”) are trademarks and service marks of CK-12
Foundation and are protected by federal, state, and international
laws.

Any form of reproduction of this book in any format or medium,


in whole or in sections must include the referral attribution link
http://www.ck12.org/saythanks (placed in a visible location) in
addition to the following terms.

Except as otherwise noted, all CK-12 Content (including CK-12


Curriculum Material) is made available to Users in accordance
with the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 3.0
Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0) License (http://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-nc/3.0/), as amended and updated by Creative Com-
mons from time to time (the “CC License”), which is incorporated
herein by this reference.

Complete terms can be found at http://www.ck12.org/about/


terms-of-use.

Printed: June 13, 2015


www.ck12.org Chapter 1. Unifying Principles of Biology - Advanced

C HAPTER
1 Unifying Principles of
Biology - Advanced
• Identify and explain the four unifying principles of modern biology.
• Briefly explain the cell theory and the gene theory.
• Explain homeostasis.
• Define evolution and natural selection.

What is a biological principle?


The word principle can be defined as "a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system
of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning." A principle of biology is a fundamental concept that is just as true
for a bee or a sunflower as it is for us. All life, including that sunflower and bee, is made of at least one cell. The
traits of a particular organism are embedded within its genes, that organism must maintain homeostasis to survive,
and that organism has evolved from previously existing species.

Unifying Principles of Biology

There are four unifying principles of biology that are important to all life and form the foundation of modern biology.
These are:

1. the cell theory,


2. the gene theory,
3. homeostasis,
4. evolutionary theory.

The Cell Theory

The cell is the basic unit of structure and function of all organisms. The Cell Theory states that all living things are
made of one or more cells, or the secretions of those cells, such as the organisms shown in Figure 1.1. For example,

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shell and bone are built by cells from substances that they secrete into their surroundings. Cells come from cells that
already exist, that is, they do not suddenly appear from nowhere. In organisms that are made of many cells (called
multicellular organisms), every cell in the organism’s body derives from the single cell that results from a fertilized
egg. You will learn more about cells and the Cell Theory in Cells: The Cell Theory (Advanced) concept.

FIGURE 1.1
Tiny diatoms and whale sharks are all
made of cells. Diatoms are about 20 µm
in diameter and are made up of one cell,
whereas whale sharks can measure up to
12 meters in length, and are made up of
billions of cells.

Gene Theory

An organism’s traits are encoded in their DNA, the large molecule, or macromolecule, that holds the instructions
needed to build cells and organisms. DNA makes up the genes of an organism. Traits are passed on from one
generation to the next by way of these genes. Information for how the organism appears and how its cells work
come from the organism’s genes. Although the appearance and cell function of the organism may change due to
the organism’s environment, the environment does not change its genes. The only way that genes can change in
response to a particular environment is through the process of evolution in populations of organisms. You will learn
more about DNA and genes in Concept Molecular Biology (Advanced).

Homeostasis

Homeostasis is the ability of an organism to control its body functions in order to uphold a stable internal environ-
ment even when its external environment changes. All living organisms perform homeostasis. For example, cells
maintain a stable internal acidity (pH); and warm-blooded animals maintain a constant body temperature. You will
learn more about homeostasis in the The Human Body: Homeostasis (Advanced) concept.
Homeostasis is a term that is also used when talking about the environment. For example, the atmospheric con-
centration of carbon dioxide on Earth has been regulated by the concentration of plant life on Earth, because plants
remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the daylight hours than they emit to the atmosphere at
night.

Evolution

Evolution by natural selection, is the theory that maintains that a population’s inherited traits change over time,
and that all known organisms have a common origin. This theory, initially described by Charles Darwin, describes
why organisms must adapt to their environments. Evolutionary theory can explain how specialized features, such as
the geckos sticky foot pads shown in Figure 1.2, develop in different species. More about evolution is discussed in
Concept Evolution (Advanced).

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www.ck12.org Chapter 1. Unifying Principles of Biology - Advanced

FIGURE 1.2
A Tokay Gecko. The pads at the tip of the
Tokay gecko’s foot are covered in micro-
scopic hairs, each split into hundreds of
tips that measure about 200 nanometers
in diameter. By using these tiny hairs
that can cling to smooth surfaces, the
geckos are able to support their entire
body weight while climbing walls This is
evidence of a product of evolution.

KQED: Bio-Inspiration: Nature as Muse

For hundreds of years, scientists have been using design ideas from structures in nature. Now, biologists and
engineers at the University of California, Berkeley are working together to design a broad range of new products,
such as life-saving milli-robots modeled on the way cockroaches run and adhesives based on the amazing design
of a geckos foot. This process starts with making observations of nature, which lead to asking questions and to the
additional aspects of the scientific process. Bio-Inspiration: Nature as Muse can be observed at http://www.kqed.
org/quest/television/bioinspiration-nature-as-muse (11:01).

MEDIA
Click image to the left or use the URL below.
URL: http://www.ck12.org/flx/render/embeddedobject/430

Vocabulary

• cell: The basic unit of structure and function of all living organisms.
• DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): Double-stranded nucleic acid that composes genes and chromosomes; the
hereditary material.
• evolution: The change in the characteristics of living organisms over time; the change in species over time.
• gene: A segment of DNA that contains information to encode an RNA molecule or a single polypeptide.
• homeostasis: The process of maintaining a stable environment inside a cell or an entire organism.
• natural selection: Evolutionary process by which certain beneficial traits becomes more common within a
population, changing the characteristics (traits) of a species over time.

Summary

• Four unifying principles form the foundation of modern biology: cell theory, evolutionary theory, the gene
theory and the principle of homeostasis. These four principles are important to each and every field of biology.

3
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Explore More

Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

• http://www.hippocampus.org/Biology . → Non-Majors Biology → Search: Cell Theory

1. What is the Cell Theory?


2. What are the three basic tenets of the Cell Theory?
3. Describe the findings of Schwann, Schleiden, and Virchow.
4. What has led to the "modernization" of the Cell Theory?
5. What are the main differences between the classic cell theory and the modern cell theory?

Review

1. Identify and describe the four unifying principles of modern biology.


2. Why do you believe the four unifying principles of modern biology form the foundation of modern biology.

References

1. (a) Mary Ann Tiffany, San Diego State University; (b) Flickr: istolethetv. (a) http://commons.wikimedia.org
/wiki/File:Diatoms.png; (b) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whale_Shark_diagonal.jpg . (a) CC BY
2.5; (b) CC BY 2.0
2. Tokay gecko: Nick Hobgood; Tokay foot: User:Shimbathesnake/Wikipedia. Tokay gecko: http://commons.
wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tokay.jpg; Tokay foot: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tokay_foot.jpg .
Tokay gecko: CC BY 2.0; Tokay foot: Public Domain