We wrote Biology for the Informed Citizen because we love biology and are convinced that everyone should have a basic understanding of biology to function as a fully engaged, contributing member of society. As we researched topics, designed our approach, and wrote, we were thinking of you—students majoring in fields other than biology. You possess perspectives, interests, dispositions, and expectations that differ somewhat from those of most students majoring in biology, and that is what makes it so much fun and rewarding to teach you.
One of the challenges in trying to foster an understanding and appreciation of the importance of biology is that our educational system and society tend to compartmentalize science rather than seeing it as a central aspect of modern life. In this era of deep specialization, we are even more in need of conversation, communication, and understanding among specialists and one another. In reality, the integration of knowledge—not simply within biology but also among sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts in general—is essential for confronting and finding solutions to the challenges we all face. You have the potential to play an important role in meeting these challenges and helping to find solutions precisely because your particular interests allow you to see biology from different perspectives. And the biology you will learn will enrich your understanding of and strengthen the connections among the things you already know.
Biology for the Informed Citizen presents biology in the context of important cultural and social issues you are likely to encounter now and in the future. In writing this book, we chose to address biology in a way that will help you learn what you need to know about biology to make informed decisions in your life; become effective, engaged citizens; and understand, at least in principle, the new opportunities and challenges modern biology provides. Although you may be interested in studying biology for its own sake, we recognize that you may be most interested in the consequences of biology: what it says about your health, disease, and the environment, for example.
Although our motivation for writing this book was to teach you, along with the guidance of your course instructor, the major concepts of biology, evolution, and the process of science so that you can apply your knowledge as informed consumers and users of scientific information, we also benefited in some unexpected ways. We became more informed scientists, teachers, and parents. We hope that you have as much pleasure reading and learning as we did in creating this book for you.
Sadly, Doug Green, my husband and coauthor of this book, passed away before its completion. However, I am delighted to see the project come to fruition.
Saint Michael’s College