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BIOL 116 Life and Death (CORE—Scientific Thought/Laboratory Course)

(4 credits/3 class and 3 laboratory hours) 

In this course we will try to understand life by asking what distinguishes it from death. When organisms die, what stops? Is death inevitable? If not, why don’t we live forever? What determines the age at which living things die? Is it their genes? Their health? Or just a matter of luck? We will see that for many kinds of living things, concepts which we humans take for granted—like “life span,” “individual” and even “death” itself—don’t seem to make sense. We’ll also find that many questions which we consider morally very important (e.g., the issue of “when does life begin?” in debates about abortion) may not be biologically meaningful. We’ll also discuss a variety of other controversial issues related to life and death, including the right to die, hunting and vegetarianism.