2015/2016, Semester 2
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.
12 Jan (Tue) Seminar 1: Introduction – Administration, Group Assignments, Intro
14 Jan (Thu) Seminar 2: Why study Evolutionary Biology? Proximate and Ultimate Questions in Biology
19 Jan (Tue) Seminar 3: Tree of Life, Natural Selection
21 Jan (Thu) Seminar 4: Review, in-class activities
26 Jan (Tue) Seminar 5: Evidence for Natural Selection
28 Jan (Thu) Seminar 6: Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design
Assignment 1 announcement
02 Feb (Tue) Seminar 7: Molecular Basis for Natural Selection/Neutral Evolution
04 Feb (Thu) Seminar 8: Paper Discussion
09 Feb (Tue) CHINESE NEW YEAR
11 Feb (Thu) Seminar 9: Assignment 1: Museum self-guided tour submission deadline
16 Feb (Tue) Seminar 10: Cultural Evolution and Memes
Assignment 2 announcement
18 Feb (Thu) Seminar 11: Altruism and Kin Selection
TBD Mar Saturday Sungei Buloh Field Trip
~ Recess Week 20 Feb – 28 Feb ~
01 Mar (Tue) Seminar 12: Sexual selection
03 Mar (Thu) Seminar 13: Class Activity
08 Mar (Tue) Seminar 14: Why Mate Choice? Why Sex?
10 Mar (Thu) Seminar 15: Review, Class Activity
15 Mar (Tue) Seminar 16: Death and Senescence
17 Mar (Thu) Seminar 17: Class Activity
22 Mar (Tue) Seminar 18: Darwinian Medicine
24 Mar (Thu) Seminar 19: Class Activity
29 Mar (Tue) Seminar 20: Fossils
31 Mar (Thu) Seminar 21: Hominid Evolution Practical
03 Apr (Sun) Submission deadline for Assignment 2 Individual essay
05 Apr (Tue) Seminar 22: Assignment 2 Group Debates I
07 Apr (Thu) Seminar 23: Assignment 2 Group Debates II
12 Apr (Tue) Seminar 24: Tree of Life/Conclusion
14 Apr (Thu) Seminar 25: Session off-in-lieu
~Reading Week: 16 Apr – 22 Apr ~
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