General Studies Unit 1 Revision

Science and society

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  • General Studies
    • The Solar System
      • Copernican created a model of a sun-centered universe/solar system, in the 16th century
        • This was a new idea as previous theories had shown that all the other planets revolved around Earth, not the Sun.
      • It was thought that the sun and other heavenly bodies circled the earth (the geocentric theory), which meant that the accepted view was that the earth was at the centre of the universe. But this did not explain why the planets did not follow a seemingly circular pattern round us.
        • In the early 16th Century, Copernicus proposed a heliocentric theory, where the Sun was at the notional centre of the universe.  His explanation provided a far more accurate and logically acceptable explanation of planetary motions.
          • This was a new idea as previous theories had shown that all the other planets revolved around Earth, not the Sun.
    • Science
      • Key terms
        • Teleological = Teleology (from Greek telos, meaning end or purpose) is the philosophical study of nature by attempting to describe things in terms of their apparent purpose, directive principle, or goal. A purpose that is imposed by a human use, such as that of a fork, is called extrinsic.
          • (having an) endor purposeor aimor intention
        • A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method and repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation.They often lead to the creation of hypothesis' or try and prove them.
      • Scientific theories are based on induction and cannot be completely/ absolutely proven
        • They are used to predict and formulate hypothesis
      • Science can create conflicts
        • Discovery of the structure of the atom and radioactivity
          • Use of radioactive elements to create nuclear weapons
            • Tense relationships between neighbours (India/Pakistan, Russia/Ukraine)
            • Rogue behaviour e.g. North Korea
          • Study of radioactivity leads to the discovery of nuclear power
        • GM Crops
          • GM Crops are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. In most cases the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species. Examples in food crops include resistance to certain pests, diseases, or environmental conditions, reduction of spoilage, or resistance to chemical treatments
    • Does science benefit society?
      • Society = the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community or a group of people who share a defined territory and a culture
      • Science is a never ending attempt to understand the universe. A scientific explanation, or theory, is of use to us only if it has stood up to repeated testing by experiment.
        • Scientific theories are the result of observations or observable events. The vents may form a noticeable pattern or several possible patterns. If the thought occurs to someone that there is a possible reason for the pattern they may come up with a hypothesis. (The process is shown above in pink.)
        • Scientific prediction can be used to help society; e.g Dr Ignaz Semmelweis discovered in the 1840s that doctors who touched corpses spread disease, discovering that the spread of these diseases was caused by microorganisms. By doing this he helped to reduce the amount of deaths of babies and mothers at birth.
  • •Embryonic stem cells = grown in the laboratory from cells found in the early embryo
    • Stem cell research
      • Tissue stem cells: found in our bodies all our lives
      • induced pluripotent stem cells, or ‘reprogrammed’ stem cells: similar to embryonic stem cells but made from adult specialised cells using a laboratory technique discovered in 2006.
      • Stem cells can essentially be programmed to become any type of cell in the body, As such, researchers say they have enormous potential for curing diseases and repairing damaged tissues
      • In 2006, scientists showed that adult cells (including skin cells) can be turned back into stem cells. These are called induced pluripotent stem cells
    • It is the embryonic stem cell - which has unlimited potential to produce specialised cells of the body and enormous possibilities for disease research – that cause so much controversy. 
      • 2014: Advances in stem cell research may mean that there will be less emphasis on embryonic stem cells anyway.
  • conflicts between science and religion
    • Embryos are destroyed during stem cell research - destroying a possible life. The catholic church teaches this is wrong as God is the only person who can give life therefore, God can only take life away.
    • The Bible teaches that the world was created in 7 days and within 6 of them all of the creatures (plants and animals) were created. Many conservative Christians take this as a literal interpretation of the biblical book of Genesis
      • However, all biologists believe in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. This is that the various species evolved over hundreds of years, mainly or completely through the process of natural selection.
    • Transgender people often describe themselves as being a female trapped inside a males body (or vise versa)
      • Researchers and therapists have reached a near consensus that transgender-ism is caused by hormonal imbalances in the womb; they often recommend gender reassignment surgery if the individual qualifies.
      • Many religious conservatives believe that transgender-ism is caused by a gender confusion and is treatable through deep prayer and counseling; many feel that gender reassignment surgery is a very serious sin.
        • Gender reassignment surgery is seen as a sin because it is christian belief that God made each person individually and in God's image. Therefore, this is going against God's plan for the individual.
    • Science is ultimately based on observation of nature. Whereas, religion is largely based on faith.
      • Science has reliable evidence whereas, religion is reliant upon faith as followers believe that God has taught them the absolute truths and that everything God says is the truth.
      • Religion Vs Science conflicts have existed for hundreds of years and will always continue because the two sides have different concepts of 'the truth'
        • Science has reliable evidence whereas, religion is reliant upon faith as followers believe that God has taught them the absolute truths and that everything God says is the truth.
  • Possible explanations (hypotheses)
    • observations
    • Assess the explanations
      • Select one (make a prediction)
        • Design and carry out tests
          • Tests consistent with explanation?
            • yes, so this may become part of a theory.
    • no
      • Tests consistent with explanation?
        • yes, so this may become part of a theory.
  • Select one (make a prediction)
    • Design and carry out tests
    • Remember that induction is used to reasoning from the specific to a broader generalisation. Therefore, observations are used to make a generalisation or conclusion.   The conclusion can only really be provisional because we cannot make all possible observations.  THINK ABOUT THE ATOM EXPERIMENTS.
    • Science can cause conflicts in society
      • The uncertainty of science
        • Experiment may not work out so could be a waste of public's money
        • Trials can have side effects (on ANIMALS and HUMANS)
      • Who should pay for Scientific experiments?
        • Government should pay for experiments
          • where there are high levels of risk in research, particularly for long term projects, the private sector (companies)  may not want to invest shareholders’ money.  Therefore, without government finance, the research may never happen.
          • Scientific research can create economic growth for a country and, therefore, benefit its citizens.
          • Some research is in the public interest and, hence, should be funded by taxpayers’ money.
        • Governments shouldn't pay for experiments
          • Taxpayers do not have a choice about the research projects chosen, and some would argue that governments should not be investing in risky projects.  Money could be better used in welfare payments, education etc.
          • With a large level of public debt, it could be argued that this is not affordable for governments.
        • Overall, it depend on the type of research/experiment taking place
          • There are two different types of scientific research
            • Curiosity-driven research
              • Pure research or curiosity-driven research involves seeking systematically and methodically for knowledge without having any particular application in mind.
                • A difference is often made between pure basic research and focused basic research, where the second can be viewed as providing a platform for applications. Pure research is not necessarily economically profitable in itself but may offer conditions for future innovations and scientific breakthroughs.
                • e.g bacterial research
            • Applied research
              • Applied research involves the systematic and methodical search for knowledge with a specific application in mind.
              • e.g diabetes research
    • Science helping LEDCS
      • Advances in Food Production and Distribution
        • The remarkable fact about the last 150 years has been the ability of farmers to increase food production geometrically in some places. Agricultural practices have improved in the United States in the last two centuries.
        • technology has produced a broader variety of techniques: new kinds of seed, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and more sophisticated machinery.
          • The use of technology has made possible the rapid expansion of agriculture in the United States and other developed countries.
        • The use of pesticides in LDCs increased between 400 to 600% in the last 25 years of the twentieth century.  The use of GM crops increases this further.
          • This increases crop produce and decrease the possibility of famine etc.
      • Public Health
        • People have concerns about surviving daily living, such as meeting basic needs: food, water, and housing.
        • Access to safe drinking water was related to the incidence of epidemic diseases such as cholera and child survival.
          • Less than 50% of the population had access to safe drinking water before 1990. By 1990, access to safe drinking water had increased by 75 per cent. An increasing number of countries both developed and developing are approaching the limits of sustainable water use based on their own renewable resources.
      • Conquest of Disease
        • The biggest population story of the last hundred years has been the conquest of disease.
        • The second most important factor is vaccinations. As far back as 1800, scientists knew how to use vaccines to protect people from infectious disease, such as influenza, smallpox, polio and rubella in MDCs.
        • Third, better public health practices - the germ theory of disease, discovered by Louis Pasteur in the 1870s clearly demonstrated that a person's health was also a community problem. Sewage dumped into a public water supply could cause disease throughout the community. With this understanding, the science of public health was born.
        • And finally, with the advent of new medicines, disease was less of a problem in MDCs because medical science has invented a whole range of new medicines with which to treat everything from infections to pneumonia.
    • The Role of ICT Innovations
      • in the city of Musanze in northern Rwanda. Rapid SMS scheme is a joint initiative between UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO. Through this programme, the Rwandan government is giving out hundreds of mobile phones in an attempt to protect pregnant women and babies. Nearly 500 volunteer community health care workers in the rural district of Musanze have been given free phones so they can keep track of all the pregnant women in their villages.
      • Computers to given to disabled orphans so they can learn new skills and get a job later in life (Tunisia)
      • Technologies such as mobile phones can be dropped into developing countries without the effort of building expensive infrastructure (such as land lines) and can circumvent the failings of old 19th- and 20th-technology.
        • Poor countries will ‘leapfrog’ into the next generation. The upshot is that technology is spreading to emerging markets faster than it has ever done anywhere
          • ‘Leapfrogging’ refers to the adoption of advanced or state-of-the-art technology where immediate prior technology has not been adopted.
        • But in some developing economies, such as  those in Latin America, the impact of technology has been less than in some Asian economies.
          • The Role of ICT Innovations
            • in the city of Musanze in northern Rwanda. Rapid SMS scheme is a joint initiative between UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO. Through this programme, the Rwandan government is giving out hundreds of mobile phones in an attempt to protect pregnant women and babies. Nearly 500 volunteer community health care workers in the rural district of Musanze have been given free phones so they can keep track of all the pregnant women in their villages.
            • Computers to given to disabled orphans so they can learn new skills and get a job later in life (Tunisia)
            • Technologies such as mobile phones can be dropped into developing countries without the effort of building expensive infrastructure (such as land lines) and can circumvent the failings of old 19th- and 20th-technology.
              • Poor countries will ‘leapfrog’ into the next generation. The upshot is that technology is spreading to emerging markets faster than it has ever done anywhere
                • ‘Leapfrogging’ refers to the adoption of advanced or state-of-the-art technology where immediate prior technology has not been adopted.
              • But in some developing economies, such as  those in Latin America, the impact of technology has been less than in some Asian economies.
                • This could be due to two fundamental problems
                  • The adoption of older technologies
                    • varies widely among countries at apparently similar stages of development.
                      • Soviet central planners loved to build electricity lines everywhere; the result is that ex-communist countries enjoy near-universal access to electricity
                      • Latin American countries had no such background and as a result consume only about half as much electricity per person as eastern Europe and central Asia.
                  • Technology  inheritance
                    • Most advances are based on the labours of previous generations
                      • you need electricity to run computers and reliable communications for modern health care, for instance
                      • So countries that failed to adopt old technologies are at a disadvantage when it comes to new ones. Mobile phones, which require no wires, are a prominent exception.
            • ICT is also a catalyst for globalisation as it facilitates information sharing across national borders.
          • This could be due to two fundamental problems
            • The adoption of older technologies
              • varies widely among countries at apparently similar stages of development.
                • Soviet central planners loved to build electricity lines everywhere; the result is that ex-communist countries enjoy near-universal access to electricity
                • Latin American countries had no such background and as a result consume only about half as much electricity per person as eastern Europe and central Asia.
            • Technology  inheritance
              • Most advances are based on the labours of previous generations
                • you need electricity to run computers and reliable communications for modern health care, for instance
                • So countries that failed to adopt old technologies are at a disadvantage when it comes to new ones. Mobile phones, which require no wires, are a prominent exception.
      • ICT is also a catalyst for globalisation as it facilitates information sharing across national borders.
    • Globalization
      • Although it could be argued that globalisation has benefits for developing countries, it is not helping to close the gap between the world's poorest countries and the world's richest.
      • Globalisation is the process by which the world is becoming increasingly interconnected
      • Problems of the resulting globalisation can include
        • Labour drain
        • Environmental costs
        • Less Cultural Diversity

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