can humans walk on the moon, compose symphonies, invent literature, use calculus
while our closest living relatives, chimps, can barely count to ten?
Also see http://www.deathfromadistance.com
The Biology of Being Human
will explore a powerful new theory of the origin of human uniqueness and the
evidence supporting this theory. The course will also engage students in the
process of science – the ways we define theories, collect evidence and
use that evidence to test theories.
EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS:
be asked to fully understand the claims of the specific theory and the evidence
presented. You will be asked to reinterpret some insights and evidence you
have learned previously from other perspectives and in other courses. This
exploration and reinterpretation will enrich and expand your understanding
of human origins, properties and history while enhancing your understanding
of how science works.
The Biology of Being Human
surveys all of human evolution, behavior and history. By investigating all
the elements of the human story through the framework of a ‘parsimonious’
theory (a theory that is both simple and powerful), the course reveals points
of the long-sought-after unity among the natural sciences, social sciences
and the humanities. Exploring the broad scope of this theory will entail a
tour of diverse elements of the entire knowledge enterprise - from physics
and molecular biology to psychology, archaeology, hominid paleontology, history,
economics, religious studies, political science and more.
Such an ambitious tour
of the knowledge enterprise becomes possible because of the simplification
provided by strong theory. As the global academic enterprise continues to
grow and evolve, having an aggressive exposure to authentic interdisciplinary
investigation will serve every student well.
The overall format of the
course is to explore biological theories of human origins and human uniqueness.
We will ask whether each of these theories is a viable, biologically-based
hypothesis that can credibly explain how humans came to be so different than
all other animals. We will ask whether we can “explain why humans walk
on the moon, compose symphonies, invent literature and the calculus while
our closest living relatives, chimps, can barely count to 10.”
We will argue that some
biological theories of human uniqueness are, in fact, credible. Such theories
give us deep new insight into our behavior and our history.
In this context, we explore
topics as diverse as the evolution of language, human cognitive virtuosity,
uniquely human patterns of sexual and child-rearing behavior and the evolution
of the uniquely human ethical sense. Moreover, we explore the two million
years of human history as empirical evidence against which we can test biological
theories of human social behavior.
The course will provide
a much deeper insight into the ethical and existential questions that confront
all people as members of an increasingly pan-global human society.
THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD:
As the course explores theories
of human uniqueness by testing them against the vast body of empirical evidence
from the study of human evolution, behavior, and history, the student repeatedly
is exposed to (and asked to use) the fundamental scientific method—how
it works as an intellectual discipline, what its specific tactics and strategies
are, and how to evaluate its outcomes.