Chapter 1: The Science of Marine Biology
The Science of Marine Biology
The History of Marine Biology The Challenger Expedition
The Growth of Marine Labs
Marine Biology Today
The Scientific Method
Observation, the Currency of Science
Two Ways of Thinking
Constructing the Hypothesis
The Nature of Scientific Proof
Testing the Hypothesis
The Scientific Theory
Limitations of the Scientific Method
- Eyes (and Ears) in the Ocean
- John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts
Chapter 1 introduces you to the scope and nature of marine biology and its relevance in the modern world.
The second half of the chapter emphasizes the scientific nature of modern marine biology by briefly discussing the nature of science and the scientific method, which is essential to understanding science.
Answers to Critical Thinking Questions
1. Nearly all of the major advances in marine biology have come in the last 200 years. What do you think are the reasons for this?
Reasons include increased mobility due to advances in the means of transportation (faster ships, planes), methodology (sampling equipment, microscopes, scuba, satellites, etc.), developments and discoveries in biology and other fields of science that have stimulated further research in the marine environment (theories of evolution, plate tectonics, etc.), improved educational opportunities and facilities.
2. In this chapter it was explained that the statement "There are mermaids in the ocean" is not a valid scientific hypothesis. Can the same be said of the statement "There are no mermaids in the ocean"? Why?
Yes, it is a valid scientific hypothesis because it can be falsified if a mermaid is found. No scientific hypothesis can be proven so this does not mean it is not a scientific hypothesis. So far all attempts to falsify this hypothesis have failed: no one has found a mermaid. Thus, the hypothesis is accepted as true, though not proven.
3. Imagine that you are a marine biologist and you notice that a certain type of crab tends to be considerably larger in a local bay than the same type of crab that is in the waters outside the bay. What hypotheses might account for this difference? How would you go about testing these hypotheses?
Let students' imagination roam free, even if they may not know the limitations and constrains of experimental work! It's a great way to stimulate their imagination and desire to learn. One possible hypothesis: "Crabs outside the bay are smaller because wave action outside the bay is stronger than inside the bay." We can reject it if some of these smaller crabs are moved inside the bay, placed in a cage that allows food to move in (as well as smaller crabs from inside the bay placed in identical cages), and all are checked and their size compared after a reasonable period of time. Remember a control experiment: crabs from outside and inside the bay placed in identical cages outside the bay. This hypothesis is rejected if size difference remains when all experimental populations are compared. Other possible hypotheses: differences due to food, predators, parasites, type of substrate, temperature, depth, etc. Do not despair if you cannot come up with too many possible hypothesis&emdash;these factors will be discussed in successive chapters, particularly 10, 11, and 13.
4. Many species of whale have been hunted to the brink of extinction. Many people think that we do not have the right to kill whales and that all whaling should cease. On the other hand, in many cultures whales have been hunted for centuries and still have great cultural importance. People from such cultures argue that limited whaling should be allowed to continue. What is the role that science can play in deciding who is right? What questions cannot be answered by science?
Science can provide evidence of the role whales play in the marine environment, factors related to the maintenance of biodiversity in our planet such as food for some predators (especially young whales), place to live for some parasites and commensals, and potential control on the population size of their prey (additional information on the biology of whales is given in Chapters 9 and 10). Science, however, cannot provide answers concerning the value of the enjoyment people get by observing (or listening to) whales, as well as their importance in terms of food and source of various materials to some cultures. Science can help us decide, however, who benefits the most.