Spring 2014 - Graduate Course Descriptions
Description of Course:
Many people still believe that the idea of a theory of evolution begins and ends with Darwin. This course will attempt to place Darwin's theory of evolution into a broader historical context. We will examine earlier theories of evolution and also analyze how Darwin's theory underwent significant transformation and change during the 20th century. Special emphasis will be placed on the ways in which social and intellectual theories influenced the development of theories of evolution, and on the ways in which theories of evolution influenced philosophy, psychology, literature, social theories, and religion. Some topics will include: the great chain of being; debates in geology among the catastrophists and the uniformitarians; theories of evolution before Darwin -- J.B. Lamarck and Herbert Spencer; Darwin's theory of evolution -- what is controversial and what is not; the influence of Darwin's theory on literature, psychology, and philosophy -- George Eliot, F. Nietzsche, and S. Freud; Social Darwinism; evolution and religion -- the Scopes trial and the creationists; the modern synthesis -- Darwin meets genetics; sociobiology -- the selfish gene.
Readings MAY include:
Peter Bowler, Evolution: The History of an Idea, 4th ed.
Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study in the History of an Idea
Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought
Edward Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Debate over Science and Religion
Frank Sulloway, Freud: Biologist of the Mind
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
Students will be required to attend class, keep current with the readings and write a 20-25 page research paper on some aspect of evolution.