The Importance of Biology
What do biologists study?
What is Biology?
The short answer is that it's the study of all living things. In fact, the word "biology" comes from the Greek words "bios" which means "life" and "logos" which means "study." Biologists study the distribution, evolution, function, growth, origin, structure, and taxonomy of species. Back in high school, biology was the class where you probably dissected frogs or pigs. Many of you may wonder why we would do such things and this is because the study of "the inside" and the make-up of creatures is the main focus of biology. It is the science that tells us what we are at a most basic level.
As you may have guessed, biology is an enormous branch of science. It's so broad that there are entire branches of science within biology. Fields like genetics, agriculture, ecology, virology, and even paleontology are all a part of biology! The reason for these lesser sciences to be grouped under the heading of biology is because they revolve around the basic principles of biology. A cell is the basic unit of life. Genes are the units of heredity and evolution propels the creation and adaptation of all species.
Why Is Biology Important?
Biology tells us about humans, plants, animals, cells, and really the entire world around us! Without biology, we wouldn't have treatments, cures, and vaccines for many diseases. Because of advancements in this field, we're living life much more comfortably than people hundreds of years ago did. Medical science is one of the biggest groups to use biology to their advantage. Throughout the years the medical community has used the science to create vaccines for things like chicken pox and polio, as well as cures for some of the more common diseases. Doctors and researchers are working hard to change the way we look at the smallest particles and how to use them to our advantage.
Biology continues to grow and make huge advancements, so people hundreds of years from now can look back at us and think, "how horrible it must have been to live like that!" When you think back to things like the black plague and smallpox, you can rest assured that because of the advancements in biology, we will not have to worry about these diseases in our day.
Biology even studies how we interact with the non-living world around us. With ecology, we're constantly learning how animals use various materials around them and even how they adapt to a changing environment. These studies are responsible for the theory of evolution in a way. Scientists in this field took the theory of evolution and set out to either prove or disprove it. Through their research, they have determined that humans evolved from apes due to our similar structures and biology. The same goes for the study of dinosaurs (paleontology) and how they are related to the birds of today. There are many new discoveries being made in these fields daily. By studying the past, we open up the mysteries of the future.
How Biology Has Shaped Medicine
Biology is more than just looking at a specimen under a microscope. Biologists in various fields have shaped the world with their discoveries. Everything from where we came from to the curing of disease is due to the study of biology. Though it covers a wide range of sciences, we can follow the smaller branches to focus the research on the most helpful facets of the subject.
Many vaccines have been developed by studying diseases (pathology, a branch of biology, is the study of diseases.) For example, a vaccine for Smallpox, a disease that has been wreaking havoc since around 10,000 BC (and responsible for an astounding 300,000,000+ deaths during the 20th century alone), was developed putting an end to all naturally occurring cases in 1977.
This means that in anyone born after the year of 1977 will never have to worry about the possibility of catching and dying from smallpox. If science can be used to destroy such a prolific killer of men, there is no stopping the progress we can achieve.
Oncology, the study of cancerous processes, is actually a field of both biology and medicine. Oncologists have made leaps and bounds over the years in developing treatments for people suffering from cancer. Scientists in this field may even find a cure for cancer in the not-so-distant future! Already we are seeing changes in the way cancer is treated and it is one of the most funded branches of biology in both the scientific and medical fields.
Advances in Genetics
Another fascinating field of biology is genetics. We've learned why some people have red hair, why some groups of women have higher incidences of breast cancer, and even how two people are related! By studying genetics, we have also found a way to narrow down genes that serve specific purposes.
It is now possible to go have yourself tested for genetic abnormalities responsible for Alzheimer’s disease or cancer. With this information, men and women now have a ‘heads up’ and are able to take proactive action against these diseases. For instance, a woman whose genetic makeup shows that she is highly predisposed to breast cancer may be able to take the opportunity to have a double mastectomy before developing cancer. However, having the genetic makeup for a disease does not guarantee that one will develop it.
Weaponizing Disease: Ethics in Biology
Biology has even made a name for itself in war. While it is unethical to fight with microbes, there exists the potential for weaponizing disease and poison spores in order to create a highly volatile and effective weapon.
For this reason, biological study, especially into things that can be used in warfare, is highly regulated.