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The American Association for the Advancement of Science's report on Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education suggests that instructors "can no longer rely solely on trying to cover a syllabus packed with topics" but rather should "introduce fewer concepts but present them in greater depth." They further suggest that the principles embodied in a set of core concepts and competencies should be the basis for all undergraduate biology courses, including those designed for nonmajors.
The theme of Tools for Critical Thinking in Biology will be the first and most fundamental of these competencies: the ability to apply the process of science. Biology courses and curricula must engage students in how scientific inquiry is conducted, including evaluating and interpreting scientific explanations of the natural world. Tools for Critical Thinking in Biology uses diverse examples to illustrate how experiments work, how hypotheses can be tested by systematic and comparative observations when experiments aren't possible, how models are useful in science, and how sound decisions can be based on the weight of evidence even when uncertainty remains. These are fundamental issues in the process of science that are important for everyone to understand, whether they pursue careers in science or not.
Where other introductory biology textbooks are organized scientific concepts, Tools for Critical Thinking in Biology will instead show how methods can be used to test hypotheses in fields as different as ecology and medicine, using contemporary case studies. Tools for Critical Thinking in Biology will provide students with a deeper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of such methods for answering new questions, and will thereby change the way they think about the fundamentals of biology.
1. Discovery and Causation
2. Observations as Evidence
3. From Observations to Data
4. Experiments: The Gold Standard for Research
5. Correlations, Comparisons, and Causation
6. The Diverse Use of Models in Biology
7. Genes, Environments, and the Complexity of Causation
8. From Causes to Consequences: Considering the Weight of Evidence
9. Science as a Social Process
10. Critical Thinking about Climate Change
Appendix 1. Units of Measurement Used in This Book
Appendix 2. How Does Evolution Work?
Appendix 3. Sensory Worlds of Humans and Other Animals
Appendix 4. Global Climate Change: How Can Amateurs Comprehend Complex Models?
Appendix 5. The Mystery of Missing Heritability
Appendix 6. Mapping Arguments to Aid Critical Thinking About the Weight of Evidence
Appendix 7. What are the Benefits of Organic Farming? The Weight of Evidence
Appendix 8. Global Climate Change: Evaluating Expert Opinion
Stephen H. Jenkins is Emeritus Professor of Biology at the University of Nevada. He is the author of How Science Works: Evaluating Evidence in Biology and Medicine (Oxford University Press, 2004).
"Steve Jenkins has done it again! An expert biologist and wonderful teacher who cares deeply about his students – and now about us, his audience – Steve has the knack of a science journalist to turn scientific investigation into a series of fascinating stories. In the process of reading about research into the amazing behaviors of a variety of critters, the genetic basis of diseases, and much else, we almost painlessly learn to think critically about claims, evidence, and argument. What emerges is the realization that we don't have to be experts in order to ask intelligent, probing questions."
– Thomas Nickles, University of Nevada Reno