Scientific and pseudoscientific explanations

Addresses course outcomes 1-4:

Recognize and explain how the scientific method is used to solve problems
make observations and discriminate between scientific and pseudoscientific explanations
weigh evidence and make decisions based on strengths and limitations of scientific knowledge and the scientific method
use knowledge of biological principles, the scientific method, and appropriate technologies to ask relevant questions, develop hypotheses, design and conduct experiments, interpret results, and draw conclusions
1. Select one of the topics listed below (a-e).

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2. Find at least three reliable information sources related to your chosen topic. You are encouraged to use the UMUC library in your search: http://libguides.umuc.edu/science.

3. Write a paper with title page, introduction, several paragraphs addressing the questions, conclusion and references. You must write in your own words and paraphrase information from the selected information sources, addressing each of the questions for your chosen topic. Your paper should consist of less than 10% direct quotes. Use APA style for references: https://www.umuc.edu/library/libhow/apa_tutorial.cfm

4. Submit your assignment to the Assignment folder by the due date listed in the course schedule.

a) Stem cells. Your friend has suffered a spinal cord injury after a bad car accident. The medical team has decided that he is a good candidate for a clinical trial using stem cell therapy. Your friend has not had a biology course since high school, so you decide to write him a letter sharing your knowledge of stem cells. Include in your letter a description of the biology of stem cells and how these cells are unique from other cells. Contrast the different types of stem cells, including pros and cons for each type. Explain how stems cells can be used to treat diseases and injury, with special focus on spinal cord injuries. Include information from at least one research study or clinical trial. Conclude with your own opinion.

b) Genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A friend tells you that she avoids foods containing GMOs because they are unhealthy. You decide to use the knowledge gained from your biology class and some additional research to form your own opinion on GMOs. Answer the following questions backed up by reliable information sources. What is the purpose of genetically engineering of crop plants? Include at least two specific examples of commonly grown GMO crops. How are GMOs created? Use the provided course materials and make a connection to the central dogma of molecular biology in your explanation. Which foods in your supermarket contain GMOs? Are foods that contain GMOs safe for human consumption? What types of regulations exist for these foods? Clearly explain your reasoning for each answer in your paper and conclude whether or not you agree with your friend.

c) Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) has been the most recent breakthrough discovery in bioengineering that enables scientists to edit DNA. Because you have studied biology in this course, you have volunteered at your niece’s Middle School Science Club to monitor a student debate about CRISPR. The students will be watching the following video before the discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=252&v=2pp17E4E-O8 and you need to be prepared in case there are any questions. Please research and write an answer to each of the following questions: What is “CRISPR”? What role does Cas9 play in the CRISPR process? How does the CRISPR-Cas9 system snip and replace any DNA sequence? What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of gene editing? Include specific examples. Do you believe that the inherent risks of modifying animal DNA is worth the rewards? Explain. Do you believe that it is ethical to genetically engineer humans and/or animals? Explain.

d) Vaccines. Your friend is worried about the many vaccines that his newborn son is scheduled to receive and asks you for advice since you are taking a biology course. Start with an explanation of how vaccines work. Briefly contrast the traditional methods used to create vaccines with more recently used biotechnology techniques. Then list some of the diseases that babies and children in the US are routinely vaccinated against. How has vaccinations impacted the frequency of these diseases over the past 100 years? Why are some people worried about giving their children vaccines? Is there scientific evidence to support these concerns? Conclude with advice to your friend in regard to getting the recommended vaccines based on what you learned from reliable information sources.

e) Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and tar sands (oil sands). With society’s dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels, the oil & gas industry is turning to hydraulic fracturing and tar (oil) sands to extract natural gas and oil. A friend asks you “What’s all this controversy in the news about fracking and tar sands?” Briefly explain to your friend how hydraulic fracturing and tar (oil) sands are used to obtain these fossil fuels. Then, in more detail, describe the environmental problems that may result from these processes and why they are controversial. Issues that should be addressed involves water, air and soil pollution with special focus on global climate change, effects on human health, and effects on other species and natural ecosystems. Finally, give your opinions on possible solutions to these environmental problems, with your reasoning backed by information from reliable information sources.

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