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Unit 1:
Ch. 1
Ch. 2
Ch. 3
Interlude A
Unit 2:
Ch. 4
Ch. 5
Ch. 6
Ch. 7
Ch. 8
Ch. 9
Interlude B
Unit 3:
Ch. 10
Ch. 11
Ch. 12
Ch. 13
Ch. 14
Ch. 15
Interlude C
Unit 4:
Ch. 16
Ch. 17
Ch. 18
Ch. 19
Interlude D
Unit 5:
Ch. 20
Ch. 21
Ch. 22
Ch. 23
Ch. 24
Ch. 25
Ch. 26
Ch. 27
Ch. 28
Ch. 29
Ch. 30
Interlude E
Unit 6:
Ch. 31
Ch. 32
Interlude F
Unit 7:
Ch. 33
Ch. 34
Ch. 35
Ch. 36
Ch. 37
Ch. 38
Interlude G

» Getting Started » A Guide to the Reading » Tying it all together

Getting Started

Below are a few questions to consider prior to reading Chapter 1. These questions will help guide your exploration and assist you in identifying some of the key concepts presented in this chapter.

  1. What is a hypothesis and why can it never be proven to be true?
  2. What is life and where did it come from?
  3. What are some of the characteristics that all living things have in common?
  4. Are viruses, such as the influenza virus which causes the common flu, alive or not?
  5. What is a biological hierarchy and how does knowing about it help us in our everyday lives?
  6. What role does the sun play in sustaining life on our planet?  What are the differences between producers, consumers, and decomposers in a ”food web”?
  7. What is a nanobe and how does it compare to a virus?

A Guide to the Reading

When exploring the content in Chapter 1 for the first time, the following concepts typically give students the most difficulty. For each concept, one or more references have been identified which may help you gain a better understanding of these potentially problematic areas.

Limits of Science

Biologists employ the scientific method to study the living world.  This process involves the observation of a phenomenon followed by the formation of a hypothesis.  A testable prediction based on the hypothesis is then made, which is followed by experimentation to determine the validity of the hypothesis.  While the scientific method provides scientists with a means to investigate the natural world, it cannot be used to investigate matters of faith or morality.  Consider your own religious beliefs about the origin of life.  Why is it that science cannot be used to investigate this question?

For more information on this concept, be sure to focus on:

  • In Section 1.1, The Scientific Method Has Limits.

What is life?

Characteristics that are common to all living organisms help us to better define what makes something ”alive”.  Seven properties are described in Chapter 1 that are common to all living things (Recall that all living organisms: (1) are built of cells; (2) reproduce themselves using the hereditary material DNA; (3) develop; (4) capture energy from their environment; (5) sense their environment and respond to it; (6) show a high level of organization; (7) evolve).  Consider examples of how you possess each of these characteristics.

For more information on this concept, be sure to focus on:

  • Section 1.2, The Characteristics That All Living Organisms Share.

Evolution vs. Adaptation

A group of organisms capable of breeding with one another is referred to as a species.  Each new generation of a species has the potential to introduce change to certain characteristics possessed by members of the group.  If such a change imparts a survival or reproductive advantage to individuals possessing the new characteristic, it can be called an adaptation'.   Evolution occurs when adaptations accumulate over time and change the characteristic(s) that define the species.

For more information on this concept, be sure to focus on:

  • In Section 1.2, Living organisms evolve.

The Hierarchy of Life

All organisms can be described using a biological hierarchy that spans a range, from the molecules which comprise the most basic unit of life, the cell, to entire organisms and the environments in which they live.  Many multicellular organisms, including humans, have arrangements of organs (composed of a number of different tissue types) that work together as a system to help sustain the individual.   Individuals may then belong to a population, a large group of organisms of the same species.  Populations may then live and interact with other populations in a living system referred to as a community.  A collection of communities may then comprise an ecosystem.  The Earth (biosphere) can then be considered as a large, enclosed system containing many different biomes which consist of the various ecosystems on our planet.

For more information on this concept, be sure to focus on:

  • Section 1.4, The Biological Hierarchy
  • Figure 1.11, The Biological Hierarchy.

Tying it all together

Several concepts presented in this chapter build upon concepts presented in previous chapters and are also revisited and discussed in greater detail in subsequent chapters, including:

Cell Theory of Life

  • Chapter 5 – Section 5.1, Cells: The Simplest Units of Life

Energy Flow in a Living System

  • Chapter 7 – Section 7.1, The Role of Energy in Living Systems
  • Chapter 7 - Section 7.2, Using Energy from the Controlled Burning of Food

DNA as hereditary material

  • Chapter 12 - Section 12.1, The Search for the Genetic Material


  • Chapter 16 – Section 16.1, Biological Evolution: The Sum of Genetic Changes
  • Chapter 16 – Section 16.5, The Impact of Evolutionary Thought
  • Chapter 19 – Section 19.2, The History of Life on Earth

Responding to the Environment

  • Chapter 26 – Section 26.1, Sensory Structures: Making Sense of the Environment

Reproduction and Development

  • Chapter 29 – Section 29.2, Sexual and Asexual Reproduction in Animals

The Biological Hierarchy and Food Webs

  • Chapter 33 – in Section 33.4, The biosphere can be divided into biomes
  • Chapter 36 – in Section 36.1, Food webs consist of multiple food chains

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