Science Showdown Biology Entries

The biology entries from the ‘Science Showdown’ competition.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, which science crowns them all?

By Bruno Martin

There seems to be a misguided notion in the world of academia that all scientific disciplines are of equal worth. The true scientist must be a polymath: well versed in the natural sciences, with a solid base in mathematics and a working knowledge of engineering and technology. Only through this interdisciplinary approach to learning may we decipher all of the Universe’s mysteries…

What utter rubbish! Any scientist observant enough to be worthy of the name will concede that one subject crowns them all, alone in its magnificence. It is the biggest, boldest, best and most beautiful of the sciences. It is, of course, biology.

What chance does any other discipline stand against the study of life? Life that brought you here, and life without which no science would exist. Is it not the noblest quest, to explore the intricate ways in which Mommy Nature has raised us to pose these very questions?

From a practical perspective, biology is the most crucial body of knowledge: without it there would be no medicine and no agriculture. Intellectually, it is the most stimulating: it addresses the burning question of our origin, the inner workings of our lives and the needed solutions for our future. How could anyone dismiss this as a hobby for plant-lovers? (Incidentally, if you don’t love plants, there is something seriously wrong with you.)

I’m not one to labour a point, but let me convince you –if you still need convincing– to drop your current studies and join the green side. Biology can make legs grow on a fly’s head. Can your subject do that? Biology can give us forensic tests. Biology can create you a spare bladder. Biology can stop a plague. Can your subject do any of those? Biology can explain why you like the smell of your partner’s clothes. Biology can design new animals.

I sense you are hooked. Come on – biology even taught us that daffodil genealogy can be traced back to ostrich genealogy! Convinced? Good. Leave your rocks, your crayons and your telescopes. Come to unravel the most elegant mystery of them all. Come to unravel life.

Why is your science degree superior?

By Milena Casey

Biology wasn’t cool at school. It didn’t mix well, preferring its own company to that of the boisterous sciences that flaunted their achievements and got top marks. “Wuss” was what they would call it, because it enjoyed spending its time in the park classifying insects, watching birds and drawing flowers rather than occupying itself with intelligent pastimes like calculus and counting valence shells. The intellectual awakening of its cousin, medicine, was no help. When it was younger, medicine was foolish and made countless mistakes, but now it is getting all the answers right and being taken seriously. More so, it was being hailed as valuable, whilst biology was considered inconsequential, even though they agreed on everything! The first time biology showcased its brains was when it discovered the theory of evolution. Alas, working out the reason life on earth exists as we know it succeeded in making our wuss more controversial than popular, and the sad soul plunged back into the shadows of contempt.

Despite poor A-levels and unfavourable predictions from its teachers, when the 20th century arrived, biology went to university. Without knowing it, biology’s life was about to change forever. The easy availability of laboratories, advanced X-Ray technology and help from an acquaintance called chemistry, allowed biology to make its greatest discovery yet: DNA. DNA provided the unthinkable possibility of manipulating, creating, curing and cloning all organisms on the planet. Finally, our underdog-science was getting the credit it deserved. Mathematics, geography, chemistry, physics and computer science lined up at its door to work with it. Systems biology, biophysics, biochemistry, biogeography and more all stemmed from that great collaboration. Biology is now referred to as biosciences, and is at the forefront of modern scientific research. Today, criminals are convicted with DNA evidence, previously incurable diseases are eradicated, our crops are being genetically remastered to be immune to infection and give a higher yield to feed the Earth’s exponentially increasing population, and biofuels are being developed to fight carbon emissions and combat climate change. Humans are using biosciences to reshape the world around us, all thanks to collaboration.

Biology has come far, indeed, but it would be naïve to claim that it is now the superior science. If there’s anything biology learnt from its unlikely path, it is that there is no superior science… until sciences work together. Only then, are they at their most superior.

Biology is the superior science subject.

By Joanna Janus

There is no doubt that biology is superior to all other science degrees. Those who study other sciences may deny this claim, however this is often because they feel inferior as a result knowing deep down that they study a lesser subject. Physicists and mathematicians in particular often fall into this category. I find that the best way to treat these people is to sympathetically listen to their bluffing, before gently reassuring them that their subjects are still very important in providing important tools and knowledge for biological research.

The non-biologists reading this may at first be sceptical about the claim that this subject is the greatest of all the sciences. Therefore I shall provide some of the reasoning by which I have come to this conclusion.

Firstly there is the simple fact that by studying biology you are studying life. What could be more important, when you yourself are a living organism and also (currently) depend on other living organisms to ensure your survival? Even if you wanted to survive independently off other organisms, you would first have to study them to see how you could achieve it- that’s biology.

Most people take life pretty seriously; if they get ill they would prefer to get better and continue to live happily, than to feel ill and potentially die. If we didn’t study how our bodies functioned then we wouldn’t have medicines, and the whole human race would suffer. Luckily the biologists are there to save the day and provide answers to these questions. As well as addressing the practicalities of ensuring the survival of our species and others (for it’s not just humans that are important), biology also allows us to research solutions to more philosophical questions. For example that old classic of how did life begin? Do we have souls? Do animals experience emotions? And so on.

Which brings me to another reason biology, and cell biology in particular, is by far the most amazing science to study. It is simply fascinating. You are an extraordinarily complicated machine consisting largely of structures made from individual cells, which must carry out a myriad of different functions every second. In the last minute you just produced 2 million new blood cells, and today you grew about 1.5 g of bone to replace that which you wore away. Who wouldn’t want to know how we do that?

Finally, I am not saying that other science subjects are not all interesting in their own right. But the fact is most are largely concerned with contributing directly or indirectly to the huge multidisciplinary field of biology, and rightly so. If you study a science subject that is not concerned with anything linked to living organisms, or providing tools for their study, then I am afraid that you are probably at the bottom of the science degree pile. But at least you didn’t choose English.

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