2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue
PHIL2611 How Biology Works
10 creditsClass Size: 150
Module manager: Greg Radick
Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable
Year running 2020/21
Pre-requisite qualificationsA-level Biology or equivalent
This module is mutually exclusive with
|HPSC5400M||Hist & Philosophy of Biology|
|PHIL2600||Philosophical Issues in Biology|
|PHIL3320||Philosophy of Biology|
This module is approved as a discovery module
Module summaryBiology has been the most rapidly expanding and evolving field in recent years. Many of its practitioners are becomingly increasingly specialised. Big-picture, synthesizing perspectives on how it is all supposed to hang together are needed more than ever.This course offers some tools to help us gain that broader perspective – to think critically about how the ways in which biology is done affects the answers that it provides and about how those answers sit alongside some of our wider views about the world and our place in it.Anyone interested in getting past the textbook answers to think deeply about how biology works will enjoy this module. Biologists will gain some general critical thinking skills as well as some tools to critically evaluate the theory and practice of biological science. Philosophers will be introduced to a remarkable and vital set of questions in need of attention.
ObjectivesThe module is designed to teach students how to analyse and critically assess a variety of key concepts and explanations in biological science, so that they can think critically about how biological knowledge is accumulated and what that body of knowledge has to tell us about our world and our place in it.
On successful completion of this module students should
• have knowledge of some current and important conceptual issues associated with the theory and practice of biological science; and
• be able to accomplish some evaluation and adjudication of those issues.
Ability to apply philosophical methods to specific science
The aim of this module is to examine key concepts and explanations in modern biology. We will scrutinise the theoretical role(s) played by concepts such as ‘gene’, ‘organism’, ‘human nature’, ‘data’, ‘species’, ‘function’, ‘development’ and ‘disease’. The module will include such topics as: How does natural selection explain the traits of organisms? How does the ‘scientific method’ support biological science’s success? What are the appropriate aims for conservation biology? What is the right role for modelling in biology? How is biology different from other sciences? How should we understand the interplay of multiple levels of explanation? How should we understand purported ‘challenges’ to the Modern Darwinian Synthesis, such as from evo-devo, niche-construction theory, and epigenetics? Do some things have more right to be called ‘organisms’ than others? Is there an objective class of conditions that qualify as ‘disease’? Are there laws of evolution; and if not, is evolutionary biology a science?
|Delivery type||Number||Length hours||Student hours|
|Private study hours||84.00|
|Total Contact hours||16.00|
|Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)||100.00|
Private studyWriting up and re-reading lecture notes: 11 x 1 hours
Preparation for seminars: 5 x 6 hours
Preparation for presentation: 6 hours
Essay preparation: 36 hours
Opportunities for Formative FeedbackFormative feedback will be available during seminars and during office hours, feedback will be provided for the presentation/report, and one session will be spent providing feedback for essay plans ahead of the final deadline.
Methods of assessment
|Assessment type||Notes||% of formal assessment|
|Essay||1500 Word Essay||70.00|
|Presentation||Summary/evaluation of set reading in seminar OR 500-word report||30.00|
|Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)||100.00|
The verbal presentation will be optional. Students can choose to give a presentation or write a 500-word report for 30% of their grade. The resit for this part of the assessment will take the form of a 500-word report.
Reading listThe reading list is available from the Library website
Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:44:11
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