Our Place in Nature (3) An evolutionary and genetic consideration of our understanding of human beings as a part of the natural world.
ANTH 470H Our Place in Nature (3)
The title "Our Place in Nature" takes off from T.H. Huxley's famous book in 1863 that put humans in rather than outside of nature, and the idea of the course is to place humans in the context of organic evolution both specifically and as a kind of general "model" organism (for example, genomic, phylogenetic, and comparative perspectives will be included). We will take a theme (one or more related topics, depending on enrollment, timeliness, etc.), which students will be assigned to work on singly or in groups. We'll first read from the historical, comparative, and evolutionary literature to see how "Our Place in Nature", relative to that theme, was first argued. Then we will follow the literature in evolutionary, developmental and genetic biology to the present to see how our current understanding of the trait evolved. Current research, especially on developmental and genetic aspects of the trait, will be examined in depth. We'll pay special attention to research strategies, comparative and genomic approaches, and latent working assumptions that help or hinder our explanations. The sociocultural context will be considered throughout, including the implications for society of our changing scientific assessment of the trait.
As an Honors course, we will have the time, and the students the dedication, to pursue the chosen topic(s) in much greater and more rigorous detail than is possible in the usual lecture or even seminar course formats. The students who enroll for this course will be given a description of the approach and the intended general topic, on a course web page or by email when I learn they have registered. Requisite background reading will be identified so students will know what will be expected of them. Some prior reading will be assigned, so that we can begin the semester with a common basis in background. The course will assume the level of knowledge such as can be obtained in one of several recent "Evolution" texts, an understanding of modern genetics and genetic methodology, basic statistics, and a general work on the history and philosophy of science and evolutionary thinking (initially, probably J.A. Moore's Science as a Way of Knowing). This substantial background requirement is based on this being an upper-level class; for good students to get what good students deserve at a good university, we need to be able to start at a high level.
Evaluation will stress original synthetic thought and investigation rather than memorized factual recapitulation. Work groups will tackle particular problems, present them, and turn in written products. There will be a written take-home synthetic essay exam. There will be other written assignments summarizing assigned reading or topics to keep students on track. The class will generally be based on oral discussion and/or be run in Socratic Q&A format. Evaluation will include a major component related to attendance and to level and quality of in- class participation, acquired knowledge and quality of thought and communication. This course will build on, and incorporate, knowledge acquired in physical anthropology, evolutionary biology, statistics, and genetics courses and will count as 3 credits toward the additional courses in biological anthropology required for the Anthropology major.
Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.