Beginning Life (Contemporary Issues in Science)

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In particular, the reduction of the environmental footprint of transport, the goal to maintain the competitiveness of the transport industry as well as the mobility policies need to be taken into account for development of relevant researches. Transport combines very different trans-disciplinary approaches for which the technological and management advances will be issued from strong interactions between scientific disciplines.

INSA Lyon offers well-recognized expertise in engineering which could allow to bring additional scientific value from the components and technologies to the management of the transport systems. These competences could be sketched as a triptych: vehicle — infrastructure — uses, illustrating both excellence in scientific disciplines and innovative multidisciplinary approaches.

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You are here Home Research Excellence in Research 5-current-social-issues. However, there are other effective but inexpensive ways for them to participate, such as regional monitoring and carrying out studies of local conditions and effects. It was suggested, for example, that Mexico could contribute to research on climate change by carrying out, at very low cost, epidemiological studies of a possible link between urban air quality and recently observed seasonal increases in cardiovascular disease and pregnancy-related hypertension.

ICSU has an important role in ensuring that developing countries are involved in global change studies on imaginative but affordable and practical ways. Another symptom of the North-South science gap is the inequitable distribution of profits generated by new technologies and products based on plant genetic resources obtained from developing countries. Efforts should be stepped up to give developing countries better access to scientific expertise, information and technology, especially in the areas of disaster relief, health, energy, and water management.

In particular, the scientific and technical know-how of military organizations should be harnessed to monitor and alleviate the effects of disasters around the world. Measures are needed to systematically involve all countries in research on global change. Countries and communities should be fairly compensated for their contribution of plant genetic resources that lead to commercially profitable technologies.

As a priority, science should address the basic needs of the sick and disadvantaged in the poorest countries. Economics versus Sustainable Development. Science today seems caught in a cross-fire between two opposing world views. On the one hand, science is a major tool of the ideology currently driving the world economy, namely that of the free market system, continual growth and the pursuit of personal wealth.

On the other hand, science is increasingly being called on to produce knowledge and technology that promote environmentally sustainable, people-oriented development and long-term management of resources. The world economy continues to rely heavily on cheap oil, a non-renewable resource and major contributor of greenhouse gases. Fossil fuels - oil, coal, natural gas - will continue to power world industry for several decades.

The fact that they will do so despite the availability of technically feasible alternative "green" energy technologies, brings the dilemma into sharp relief. Examples of the conflict between current economic forces and the need for sustainable development can be found in many other domains as well. The imposition of structural adjustment policies by international financial institutions, for example, has forced some countries to reorient agricultural research and production to focus on cash crops that generate foreign currency rather than food crops for local consumption.

In some cases, such policies have put food security and the continued production of the land in jeopardy, created enormous personal hardship for citizens, and led to social unrest. Free trade arrangements, too, may pose a threat to some of the underlying components of sustainable development, affecting biodiversity, community self-reliance, and local knowledge systems.

Families, policy and the law

In some cases, the elimination of trade barriers between countries has led farmers to abandon the cultivation of traditional crop varieties that were well adapted to local conditions and tastes, in favour of imported varieties that may respond better to newly expanded markets. Deregulation and privatization are two trends aimed at improving commercial competitiveness, and stimulating economic growth.

In the past, developments in the energy field have had more to do with the protection of vested economic interests than with concern for the public good or environmental conservation. The prospect of that approach being perpetuated is a major concern for the future of energy science, since fossil fuels are a finite resource and a major contributor of greenhouse gases, and research or energy alternatives is handicapped. Rather, what is needed is a vision of the world that looks "seven generations" ahead, in the manner of the holistic philosophies of North American aboriginal people.

Public debate on the dangers of "consumptive" lifestyles typical of the industrialized countries, needs to be reactivated. If everyone on the planet lived as many North Americans do, we would need the resources of "seven Planet Earths". As this is clearly impossible, the implications of inevitable major changes soon to come should be openly discussed at all levels of society. Agencies that provide research grants should be broader in their terms of reference and more neutral and flexible so that scientists are not continually pushed to find short-term solutions when long-term ones are needed.

In some countries, the allocation of research funds is controlled by small powerful groups who engage in favouritism for their own personal gain or prestige. Governments should ensure that systems for evaluating and funding project proposals are fair, objective, and transparent.

Science Policy and Ethics. Scientific advances are never, in themselves, a guarantee of social benefit. Technology has to be treated as a servant of society, not a master. Increasing commercial productivity, while at the same time necessary, unemployment and poverty is not a socially acceptable solution. Science must be fully integrated with broad societal needs, but this tenet is not yet fully accepted. One reason for public mistrust of science is that ordinary people feel they will sometimes end up being the ones to suffer the costs of technological innovation.

It was suggested repeatedly at the North American meeting that the time has come to introduce an international code of ethical conduct for scientists to ensure that science is directed for the public good. Scientists in their daily work are sometimes isolated from mainstream society, making it difficult for them to be clearly aware of public needs.

Conversely, policy makers, in need of sometimes urgent advice on technical matters, sometimes urgent, may be unaware of the scientific expertise residing under their very noses. Society has much to gain by the proactive involvement of scientists in policy making. Genetic research, while offering major benefits for disease diagnosis and treatment, also poses serious questions about the nature and sanctity of human life and the protection of human rights.

The possibility that genetic technology could be commandeered by powerful groups to pursue goals in their own interests but which may be socially destructive or discriminatory is not to be considered lightly. It is an issue of particular importance to disabled persons. Greater dialogue between scientists, policy makers and the public, especially those groups disproportionately affected by technological developments, is clearly needed.

How inconvenient. A related example now seems similarly ludicrous. Prior to the American Civil War, it was concluded that brain size is related to race, gender and intelligence. This was heavily influenced by the work of Dr Samuel George Morton who, in , began collecting an amazing array of Egyptian, Indigenous Australian Aboriginal, African, Asian and Caucasian skulls from around the globe. Scientific fame can be short-lived and built on fragile foundations. Those two examples can be dismissed as fatuous anachronisms. Fad and fashion can inflate the significance of particular research and lead us to ignore the issue of the validity of single studies.

As such, assertion is too easily mistaken for evidence. Three contemporary examples, again among many, show that the changing nature of knowledge is not only a problem of the distant past. A first example relates to our knowledge of the brain and its development. Until relatively recently, it was thought that we had a fixed number of neurones at birth and that these could not be replaced.

The ravages of time and, dare I say, lifestyle factors were thought to ensure that neurologically it could only be downhill the pace of decline was found to occur at a faster rate for men than women! We now know this is not correct. Nor is the concept that our nervous system is hardwired from birth. Advances in neuro-imaging and biochemistry have revealed the brain in a very new, complex and dynamic light. The degree of plasticity of brain functioning is far greater than previously thought, as studies of the transfer of functions in those who have suffered brain injuries now show Doidge, While suspected for some time see, for example, Bergland, , evidence is increasingly available that demonstrates the complex hormonal systems that underpin this plasticity and mediate and moderate the effects of experience Garcia-Segura, The brain is the largest gland in the body, with the most complex assemblage of nerve cells and interconnected circuits.

And yet, simplifications and erroneous ideas about brain development exert enduring influences on present thinking. Clearly, a definitive conclusion on the topic awaits much further research Warshak, The final example I would cite, albeit briefly, takes me closer to the cauldron. It relates to the concept of bonding. Notwithstanding its weak empirical foundations, the focus on bonding did have benefits in changing obstetric and neonatal care.

For example, infant feeding regimes were permitted to suit the needs of the mother and child, rather than the needs of the hospital and its routines. Bonding continues, however, to be confused with the concept of attachment, and the two are frequently used as synonyms. As Minde concluded, however, while the concept of attachment is supported by a voluminous research literature, there is scant evidence to support the concept of bonding as framed by Klaus and Kennell. Scientific argument becomes the stuff of popular social knowledge that is all too readily detached from the detail and the critical debates within the scientific community.

In this process, scientific evidence can be distorted in its meaning and significance. As such, it then takes on the status of an article of faith rather than empirical fact. Fallacies have a way of persisting and fads are remarkably fashionable. While I support the focus on the early years of childhood, for example, it has become in some ways faddish.

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In reading the recent early childhood literature one might conclude that this is the only time in life when key brain developments occur. While adolescence is of growing interest Spear, , some developmental eras, such as middle childhood, continue to be overlooked. And adulthood is still too often seen as merely an end point, rather than a time of continuing developmental change in its own right Smith, Adolescence, for example, is a time of interesting paradoxes.

On the one hand, there is a quantum leap in the physical strength, intellectual processing speed and capacity, and overall resilience of adolescents. On the other, it is marked by heightened risk, with morbidity and mortality rates doubling over these years Dahl, Changes to myelination and neuronal pruning, especially in the prefrontal cortex, characterise the entry to adolescence Spear, , Rather than slavish adherence to age- and stage-based approaches, as conveniently simplifying as these may be, the action in developmental psychology for some decades has been on the life course.

Just as there is considerable variation and overlap on most variables between groups, so too there is considerable difference when one measures developmental age in contrast to chronological age. Further, the older one gets, the less important distance from birth becomes than proximity to death! Developmental outcomes at any age or stage are also influenced by the interpretation of events, and these in turn change over life Sameroff, What is reported can be as much a function of the seer as the seen. It is important to avoid being trapped by the external standpoint into highlighting assumptions based on the norms of development and what one might expect at a particular age or stage.

A focus on individual differences highlights the need to see the world, as far as possible, as each child sees it Henaghan, As Parkinson and Cashmore emphasised, children want to express themselves and have their views heard on the things that are salient in their lives. A second myth of uniformity relates to the extent of change, continuity and predictability of development. There is considerable scope for change in development. The longer the time between measurement points, the greater the scope for variability. Stability of relationship and personality variables, over time, tends to be low.

For example, it is a mistake to see attachment as a fixed trait or stable individual characteristic across time. There is, in fact, a lack of continuity from infancy to adolescence and beyond. In the longitudinal study conducted by Lewis and his colleagues, attachment at 18 years was related to family status, whether divorced or intact, but not to attachment in infancy. Cashmore and Parkinson made a similar argument. And yet the notion of the power of earlier events and states to determine what happens later in life is an enduring belief.

Given the diversity of pathways through life, the interplay between change and continuity underscores developmental complexity. What is not clear is what is sustained, as opposed to lost, from early experience. Not everything experienced is retained! What might this mean in a family law context? Much can and does change over a lifetime! The dynamic nature of development makes the timing of our actions and interventions to address problems a difficult issue.

Problems emerge over time. Difficult temperament, conduct problems and aggressiveness tend to appear early in life, while social withdrawal, difficulties in peer relationships and academic problems tend to manifest themselves in the school years. The outcomes of early vulnerabilities are a function of the number of risks and problems and the presence of factors that catalyse their emergence or ameliorate their effects.

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In development, difference is the norm, change is the constant and the diversity of development pathways is typical. This makes decision-making based on attempts to predict the future particularly challenging. Prospective longitudinal studies are essential if we are to tease out the factors that drive developmental outcomes. Such studies follow a sample that is broadly representative of the population, prospectively, rather than identifying a group of interest, such as a clinical sample, and looking retrospectively for the factors that might explain their membership of the group.

Prospective longitudinal studies can provide valuable insights into issues of change and continuity of pathways Masten, The prospective Life Chances Study has shown the divergence of life paths in ways that are very difficult to foresee Taylor, Werner highlighted the value of prospective longitudinal research in identifying the factors that lead to successful adaptation and resilience. In considering young men with a history of juvenile offending, they cited the evidence for the world of work, with its regularities and routines, and close personal relationships as two salient sets of influences that alter negative pathways and sustain more adaptive life trajectories.

The presence or absence of connections to work and relationships, explain the patterns of desistance or persistence they observed in the life courses of the juvenile offenders. Of those who offend as juveniles, only a very small percentage goes on to a career in crime. In reflecting on the Kauai Longitudinal Study—arguably the groundbreaking study of resilience—Werner extended the list of influences:. The study commenced in , when the 2, participants were aged between 4 and 8 months.

They are now young adults. Of particular relevance to the present discussion is the evidence that the ATP provides of the variation in the time when pathways became noticeable. The pathway to multiple substance use at the age of 15 to 16 years, for example, was discernible in infancy. Those who went on to be involved in substance abuse in adolescence were, on parental report, less rhythmic as infants; less persistent and less cooperative as toddlers; less shy from 3 to 4 years on; more aggressive from 5 to 6 years on; and from primary school on showed greater inflexibility, poorer peer relations, more depressiveness but lower anxiety and fearfulness.

A wide range of indicators, any one of which is unlikely to be predictive! In contrast, the pathway to persistent antisocial behaviour in adolescence only became noticeable in the primary school years. Those who showed problems of antisocial behaviour had noticeably higher levels of acting out, aggression, hyperactivity, attention problems and volatility that became apparent in the primary school years. In turn, they had lower levels of cooperation, self-control and relationship with parents.

At least in terms of temperament, however, there were no significant associations with parental reports of their characteristics in infancy. The ATP provides an example of a pathway that was evident early in life for boys but not until middle childhood for girls. Boys who went on to show anxiety in adolescence were noticeably more anxious and more likely to be considered to be shy by the age of 3. For girls, their higher anxiety, parent relationship factors and externalising problems only became noticeable at 11 to 12 years of age.

So pathways may be differentiated by key sub-group characteristics such as, in this case, gender, as the work of Edwards also showed in relation to the greater effects of disadvantage on the early development of boys. Finally, prediction of outcomes is likely to be difficult Hayes, , given the wider representation in the population of the indicators of any problem.

It again demonstrates the perils of prediction in individual instances. That is, the correlations are calculated retrospectively rather than from analyses of a truly prospective prediction study, where one would analyse the extent to which the predicted outcome actually came to pass; neither an easy nor an impossible exercise. So what else drives continuity? Is it the stability of the environment or are there genetic underpinnings that interact with experience?

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In considering the continuity of personality characteristics, Caspi and Roberts concluded that there is modest continuity:. Although the environment is often put forward as a reason for continuity in personality, there is little evidence to support the hypothesis. The genetic underpinnings of continuity are just now beginning to be reported in longitudinal behaviour genetics studies and the early evidence is provocative. As such, the sources of individual differences are complex. If one considers aggressive behaviour, a topic of considerable contemporary interest—especially for the Australian Government—there is accumulating evidence of the influence of genes and environments.

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The environmental influences on aggression are similarly complex and multiple. Exposure to violent behaviour, in and of itself, does not necessarily portend a life of violence. Exposure to abuse or neglect early in life, however, can lead to neurological and endocrinological changes that influence reactivity and responsiveness; though, again, these are not necessarily immutable effects. Environmental risk is not destiny.

Nor is DNA destiny. Rather, there is an interplay between environmental factors and genetic pre-dispositions that is much more complex than nature versus nurture. The groundbreaking new field of epigenetics highlights the importance of environmental influences on the expression of genes. Such influences can span generations, as indicated by research that shows how famine in one generation followed by abundance of food in the next can influence the risk of obesity and heart disease across generations Pembrey et al.

To that extent, you are what your grandparents and parents ate. The marks of experience of previous generations are written on the genome and act to influence the expression of genes. But for each individual, current experience and lifestyle throws the genetic switch. To that extent, you are what you eat. Susceptibility to intricately interacting genetic and environmental influences is a complex process. Like epigenetics, differential susceptibility is a rapidly developing field of research, with wide implications across several disciplines.

Susceptibility to environmental influences varies considerably among children. As such, they are more likely to be influenced for good or ill depending on the quality of their developmental context. Children with difficult temperaments have also been shown to be more susceptible to negative maternal discipline and to show fewer externalising behavioural problems if exposed to positive maternal discipline van Zeijl et al.

Bakermans-Kranenburg and van IJzendoorn also provided support for the differential susceptibility hypothesis in a study of attachment security, with those children who show insecurity, distress and avoidance characteristic of disorganised attachment being more susceptible to unfavourable care environments but responding positively to favourable ones. Their study demonstrates the link between the genetic substrate and differential susceptibility to environmental experiences.

Again, prediction is problematic if one only has partial information about the behaviour but not the genes! A relationship has also been established between a specific gene that underpins differential susceptibility to childhood maltreatment and the propensity to move from being a victim to a victimiser Caspi et al. Those with high levels of expression of the monoamine oxidase A MAO-A gene were shown to be less likely to victimise others than those with low levels, despite both groups having experienced maltreatment.

In part, this illustrates the value of differential susceptibility in explaining why risk is not destiny. A focus on differential susceptibility also moves the discussion beyond the simplistic binary consideration of whether, for example, particular care-time arrangements have developmental effects, irrespective of other factors. Like many other public health problems, combinations of factors complexly cause developmental outcomes related to health and wellbeing as well as to behaviours such as aggression and violence.

Dualisms abound!

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  • There are norms versus individual differences and their translation to normative versus ipsative research approaches.

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