Life: What is it, Where Does it come From and Where is it Going?

Ref: C3744565

Biology is a rapidly advancing science and the findings of modern biology challenge many of our most cherished assumptions about life as a special, privileged domain and they undermine the view of humans as a species endowed with unique properties occupying a central place in the natural world. This course will introduce the key ideas of modern biology and explore the implications for the understanding of life, ourselves and the future of our species. Topics to be presented and discussed will include; difficulties with defining life, what living things are made of and how they ‘work’, cells and tissues, change and evolution, origins of life, possibilities of life on other worlds and how life itself may become extinct. In addition to general principles we will look at specific organisms drawn from the microbial, plant and animal kingdoms to see how they live, how they differ and how they interact to make up the complicated web of life on earth.

Course aim

To introduce and explore the most important ideas in modern biology and to discuss their implications for understanding of ourselves and other living things, including the origin, evolution and extinction of life.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Explain some key definitions and concepts in modern biology and see how life science has radically developed since the time of Darwin, Mendel and Pasteur.
  • Have an appreciation for and be able to describe some features of the scientific method.
  • Participate and contribute to group discussions about the meaning and importance of some key ideas in biology.
  • Locate, access and critically evaluate sources of knowledge and information about biology.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of how the findings of modern biology have had, and continue to have, an impact on traditional beliefs and cultural values.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • Suggestions for readings that deepen or broaden some aspects of the course will be given, but these are purely optional and they are not required to follow, or to understand the course material.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • Discussion will be an important part of the course and ample time will be given given for questions, ideas from students, feedback and opportunities to check understanding.

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • There are many opportunities for further study of biology and the pursuit of varied careers in many applied life sciences. A summary and overview of these will be given during the course.

Download full course information sheet

Life: What is it, Where Does it come From and Where is it Going?

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This course is not available for online enrolment.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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