Ernst Haeckel, Discomedusae, in Kunstformen der Natur, 1904

Darwin: Genes, Generation, Genealogy

Instructor: Joseph Osmundson

Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of Species produced a radical paradigm shift in thinking about the living world.  After Darwin, the origins of life were no longer miraculous or murky: life could build itself, meaning humanity no longer stood apart from the natural world or required a supernatural character.  This work remains, for some, controversial, but it is a key tenet of all contemporary biological inquiry. Over the course of some 100 years after Darwin’s initial findings, researchers discovered the molecular mechanisms that connected Mendel’s pea plants to Darwin’s finches to Watson and Crick’s double helix.

This course will consider original works by Darwin, as well as the genetic and molecular basis for evolutionary change, with a special emphasis on natural and sexual selection.  We will also consider the work from the perspective of philosophers who have used evolutionary biology to support their arguments about the organization of culture and society, and about the necessity of the divine.  Finally, we will critically examine how Darwin’s notion of selection has been use as a tool of structural violence and the link between natural selection, racism and slavery, eugenics, and modern birth control. In addition to Darwin, we will read primary research in evolutionary biology alongside related works by Karl Marx, E.O. Wilson, Dorothy Roberts, and Alondra Nelson.

Course Schedule

Thursday, 6:30-9:30pm
March 31 — April 21, 2016
4 weeks


Registration Closed

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