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Let this be known as the year Intro. Biology kicked me in the ass.

The year I got up. And it kicked me down again.

And again, I got up.

The final exam is over, and now I have some time to think about what made it so ass-kickingly hard. And why I loved it so much.

Let’s start with the ass-kicking. Some of it was specific to me, a humanities professor taking undergraduate lecture classes on topics about which she knows next-to-nothing. I quickly realized that starting an education in the sciences with college-level biology was like taking a class in Ancient Greek literature while trying to learn Ancient Greek at the same time. Sure I spend my days on a university campus, but I haven’t been an undergraduate for over 25 years. …


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“The problem is that we’re genetically unequal […] These humans have no chance of really competing with most other humans. So what do you do with the unfit? You can give them charity, you can try and cure their diseases, there are a variety of things you can do, or Hitler’s solution was just kill them.”

So says James Watson in a 2007 interview included in the new documentary, A Dangerous Idea, about the damaging impact of biological determinism. …


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Ornament, necklace, earrings, stickers, T-shirt, car magnet, duvet cover, throw pillow, throw blanket, baseball jersey, travel mug, notecards, yard sign, mousepad, poster, button, magnet, onesie, cell phone case, postcards, needle point kit, bib, nightshirt, tile coaster, drinking glass, apron, hoodie, tote bag, dog shirt, notebook cover, cufflinks, wall clock, jigsaw puzzle, photo mug: this is a partial list of the products in a Google shopping search for “HeLa cells.”

I’m doing this search because we recently worked with HeLa cells in my biology class. When our lab instructor mentioned that anyone could buy HeLa cells online, I decided to take a look for myself. He was right; it is surprisingly easy to find and order a batch of cells, but, even more surprising was the abundance of paraphernalia decorated with colorful images of the cells themselves. …

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