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Why Biology Matters: Basic Concepts

Improve your understanding of the complex biology behind social issues that affect each of us and society.

2,465 enrolled on this course

Biology: hands manipulating test tubes in a laboratory
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Explore the biology behind the complex issues you read about in the news

To be able to properly engage with complex issues in today’s society we often need a basic knowledge of biology. Any consideration of issues like genetic determinism, cloning, genetic engineering, the fight against ageing, eugenics, artificial selection or intelligence inheritance requires an understanding of biology we might not all have.

This online biology course can help. You’ll get a basic introduction to the biology behind big issues - using lessons and interviews with experts - so that you can understand the implications of them for the fields of the social sciences and humanities.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Why do we age? Which is the role of genes in our behavior? Is hierarchy a cultural trait or are there biological bases? Altruism and cooperation exist in other species without our culture? Will we be able to engineer the humans of the future? To have a constructive discussion on these questions, no doubt, you need to have basic biology knowledge. This is what will make the difference between having an opinion and having criteria. Hello, I’m Jaume Bertranpetit, professor of Biology at Pompeu Fabra University.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds Even if “post-truth” was selected word of the 2016 year, in this course we will follow the opposite: how having a scientific and biological base may help us to understand how biology is important today, in what we are and in what we do; and how biotechnologies may develop in the future. A wide range of disciplines study the human condition from a very wide variety of views. But, have you ever though that at the end we are living beings and that this condition may be fundamental to interpret facets of human morphology, physiology but also many aspects of behavior that seldom are considered?

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds To which extent the fact that we are products of an evolutionary process may have had a footprint in our entity? And we, as organic beings, to which extent may we understand ourselves under a “simple” biological base?

Skip to 1 minute and 55 seconds Biology may be an old discipline, but the power and success of it came from the confluence of two recent events: 1- when we gained a vision of the organisms at the molecular level, in which it is possible to understand the most basic mechanisms that support the existence of complex living beings. One of the most fascinating revolutions came with the recognition of the role of DNA as the chemical base of heredity.

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 seconds and, 2- when we have had an evolutionary view of life, which, as stated in a famous quote: Evolution not only explains HOW things are, but also WHY they are the way they are. Let’s make an exercise. Let’s see the points that have direct biological implications of the news of a single day. Would you like to really understand these topics? Don’t you feel that you need to know better many topics before having a real and reliable judgment on them? Sign up on this course. Knowledge on biology is essential in thinking what kind of future awaits us, which will surely be driven by our ability on understanding and modifying the genetic systems; including our own.

What topics will you cover?

  • Life, the basics
  • DNA information for life
  • Genome in action
  • How evolution works
  • Humans in nature

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Apply scientific knowledge to the human being
  • Explain the implications of the fact that we are a biological species
  • Critically evaluate information that reaches us through the media
  • Develop a scientifically based criterion of aspects with a biological basis, avoiding misleading, unfounded opinions

Who is the course for?

This biology course is for people curious about science, students and professionals in the social sciences and humanities, who want to learn more about the scientific basis of humanity, people with a general interest in biology or the social sciences and humanities.

Who will you learn with?

Professor of Biology at the Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona). Group leader in the Evolutionary Biology and Complex Systems Program in the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (CEXS).

Who developed the course?

Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona

Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) is a public, international and research-intensive university in Barcelona. In just 25 years, it has earned a place for itself among the best universities in Europe.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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