We applaud the Division of Biological Sciences in its efforts to restructure the basic biology courses to better integrate the explosion of information in biology (Dateline, May 23). If the proposed courses are adopted, however, consequences will reach far beyond biology majors in DBS. The courses they replace are taken by students in many other majors across campus. They are also required as prerequisites for many upper division courses.
From this perspective, we find the proposed sequence to be narrow in focus, despite claims to the contrary, and at best integrates only biology below the level of the organism. The reductionist view of biology that the curriculum expresses seems to place biological processes in a vacuum independent of organisms and environment. The DBC committee has proposed a series of courses that may very well be valuable for training laboratory-oriented molecular and cellular biologists, but would be much less useful for other students.
We are especially concerned about the poor preparation the new sequence would provide for upper division courses in organismal biology and ecology. Therefore, the development of a series of courses that are truly integrative, from genomics to ecosystems, would be needed for those students who are not largely oriented toward molecular and cellular biology.
If DBS teaches introductory biology solely as outlined in their proposal, it will be necessary to develop an integrated biology series outside of DBS. These courses are needed to satisfy the needs of departments that expect students to have a more fully integrated perspective on biology.
-- Chris van Kessel, chair, agronomy and range science; Peter Moyle, professor, wildlife, fish and conservation biology