7-3 Short Answer: Important Answers

Your third and final project in this course is a presentation, and this activity is an opportunity to get comfortable working with presentation software, such as Prezi or PowerPoint. Feel free to use either software, but if you are unfamiliar with creating presentations, use the Presentation Supporting Resources document below to learn more before getting started. Create a slide that includes answers to the questions below and any graphics you feel would make the slide more eye-catching. You are required to submit a single slide, but you may create additional slides if you wish.
How does understanding the science behind the topic and research you have chosen benefit you? What is the advantage to you, and potentially those around you, of understanding the science behind the issue?
How might finding the answer to the specific question you posed in the question development worksheet in Project 2 affect others around you?
Once you have completed your slide, upload it here for instructor review.
You will answer closely related questions as part of Project 3, and your work in this learning block can be incorporated into your Project 3 presentation. Be sure to keep a record of your response to these questions for use in Project 3.
To complete this assignment, review the following:

Benefits of Scientific Study

In the previous modules, you learned how curiosity inspires scientific research. But what significance does this research have for those of us who are not scientists? Think about your normal daily routine. Do you watch television? Do you use your cell phone? Either by being plugged into an outlet or through batteries, you use electricity. Although humanity has known electricity existed for centuries, we did not learn ways to harness this unusual property until the nineteenth century. Without the work of British scientist Michael Faraday and others like him, we would not have many of these conveniences. Do you read books or newspapers? Then you have the mechanical advancement of Gutenberg’s printing press and possibly optical lenses [if you wear glasses] to thank for it. Have you ever suffered from mumps, measles, or polio? If not, it is probably because of vaccines originally developed by Louis Pasteur. Much of our modern quality of life exists because of developments in the natural sciences. The activities and readings in this module will help you understand how science has and will continue to improve our world. We will also see why this makes it important for all citizens to have a basic understanding of science.

Informed Citizens

Many people may believe that science is best left to the scientists. As citizens, however, it is important for all of us to be informed. What if a natural gas company plans on drilling in your community and using the controversial practice of fracking in its operations? Will this be a boon for the local economy or will it have negative impacts on the environment for years to come?

Perhaps you have to choose between two similar candidates in an election and one wants to add a local carbon tax for new businesses. What will that mean for your community? In order to make an intelligent decision on these issues, you need to be an informed citizen. Being an informed citizen can also include participating in science. Citizen science is a popular field in which volunteers collect data and conduct scientific investigations. This allows for more opportunities than ever to further research in the natural sciences. Through the activities and readings in this module, you will learn how everyday people can contribute to scientific knowledge and become more informed. You will also learn how being an informed citizen can also enable you to intelligently assess ethical issues in science.

Ethics in Science

Ethical issues are prevalent in science. Potter Stewart, a former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, once defined ethics as knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. How do you learn this difference? The key to understanding ethical issues in science is being able to foresee where research may lead. Should researchers be allowed to clone humans? If this is done, would the clones have the same rights as the original person or would they be property?

Right now, there is a lot of excitement with regard to the potential of humans colonizing other planets, particularly Mars. While this may seem harmless, colonization implies that these people will never return to Earth. What about their children? Do children born in space or on other planets have the same rights? Who protects their interests? Although their parents would choose to become colonists, the children would be given no choice. What about artificial life?

Through the activities and readings in this module, you will learn what ethical issues are present in science and how to assess them. You will also explore how these ethical issues can often turn into political issues and how politics can impact science.

Politics in Science

By way of the scientific process, scientists seek to find answers to their questions through research and experimentation. These answers are communicated to the public, and may or may not be impacted by bias in reporting or people’s personal beliefs or prior knowledge. Data collected from research can then be used to support or refute an idea. But what happens when scientific facts are put into the hands of non-scientists who are responsible for making big decisions using this information?

As addressed in the previous modules, policy and regulations generally seem to be made in response to a problem, not as a proactive course of action. What does this mean for the future of science in our modern world? Recently, we have seen such topics as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Rule, the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, and the ongoing debate over climate change polarize political sides here in the United States and, in turn, divide the opinions of the general public. In this module, you will have the opportunity to become familiar with the modern-day association between science and politics, as well as some of the major natural science issues involved in this relationship.

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