It would seem fairly obvious that biology is important. As the study of life, an understanding of biology is critical to many areas of our lives including our health and well-being. In addition to this, understanding biology allows us to appreciate what Richard Dawkins calls “the greatest show on Earth:” evolution. In addition to some standard reasons for studying biology I want to examine some other values that biology helps to foster.’
Health: A common argument for studying biology is that it helps us understand how to improve our health and diet. No doubt this is a good reason and the most practical one to examine. What could be more important as a basis for living a good life that to be reasonably healthy? A good understanding of biology provides clear insights into the importance of vitamins and minerals to the basic functions of life and the need to insure an adequate intake of these through a combination of diet and supplements.
Interdependence: Life on Earth is interdependent in many different ways from predator and prey to symbiosis. Predators depend on prey. Herbeviores depend on plants. We depend on plants and animals for food, clothing, and shelter. Studying biology places us firmly into this interdependent web of life.
Ingenuity: The demands of survival in the wild lead to some pretty ingenious habits in plants and animals. Not only are these amazing and interesting to learn about but can potentially provide inspiration for human problem solving as well.
Endurance: Life thrives in the most unlikely places from deep in the ocean, hidden in dark caves, freezing and near boiling water. All demonstrate the endurance of life. As the Jeff Goldblum character in Jurassic Park said, “life finds a way.” Again, not only is this immensely interesting to learn about, it can be inspirational as well. No matter how difficult our lives seem and how insurmountable our problems appear, there is always a way to endure and prevail.
Evolution: One of the most important, not to mention well tested and observed theories in science is the theory of evolution by natural selection. Understanding this theory is a major step in anyone’s education as it is often counter intuitive and not immediately obvious or easily observable on the short time span of a human life. But, understanding it ought to be a major goal of the study of biology and is a rewarding pursuit.
As Darwin recognized, “There is grandeur in this view of life.” What better argument for studying biology than the appreciation of such grandeur and an understanding of our place in it.