2013/2014, Semester 1
University Scholars Programme (University Scholars Programme)
Modular Credits: 4
Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of Evolution This bold statement by the Russian population geneticist T. Dobzhansky emphasizes the importance of evolution as the only unifying concept in biology. Yet, the theory of evolution is more controversial and opposed by more forces in society than any other theory in science. The module will revisit many of these objections and reveal that they are based on reasoning that is incompatible with the principles of science. We will investigate, why it is "Neo-Darwinism" and not "Intelligent Design" that is currently the best supported paradigm for explaining "adaptation." We will then challenge the power of the neo-Darwinian paradigm by asking how seemingly incompatible phenomena like altruism and excessive male ornamentation can possibly be explained by natural selection. We will also study several key events in evolution such as the origin of sex and its numerous consequences and the origin of the human species. We will conclude with discussing the importance of the theory of evolution for understanding cultural evolution ("memes") and human health and senescence ("Darwinian medicine").
Lecture-style elements alternate with seminar-style discussions and group work.
The module encourages student discussions. It is therefore difficult to predict a precise schedule. The following subjects that are earmarked for coverage.
Why study Evolutionary Biology? Proximate and Ultimate Questions in Biology.
The three main elements of the theory: (1) Tree of Life, (2) Natural Selection, (3) Genetic Drift
Why "Evolution" and not "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design"?
Natural Selection. The Concept and its Distortions in Public Opinion
Cultural Evolution and Memes
Altruism and Kin Selection
Why Mate Choice?
Darwinian Medicine: Death and Senescence
Workload Components : A-B-C-D-E
A: no. of lecture hours per week
B: no. of tutorial hours per week
C: no. of lab hours per week
D: no. of hours for projects, assignments, fieldwork etc per week
E: no. of hours for preparatory work by a student per week