BIOL 436 (Fall)

Evolution and Society

(Not offered in 2017-2018)


 
Instructor(s):
E. Abouheif (Coordinator)
N3/6
(514) 398-7190
ehab.abouheif@mcgill.ca
S. Reader TBA (514) 398-6421 simon.reader@mcgill.ca
Workload:
3 credits (3-0-6)
Prerequisite(s):
BIOL 304 or permission of the instructor
Content:
Explores the impact that biological evolution and evolutionary thinking has on society. Topics covered include intelligence, language, race, gender, medicine, genetically modified organisms, politics, and creationism. We will introduce each topic and lead discussion, while an invited lecturer will focus on a particular aspect of that topic. 

Evolution and Culture
Lecture 1: Approaches to studying evolution and culture
Lecture 2: in Evolutionary theory: recent advances and challenges

Evolution and Politics
Lecture 1: Introduction: Eugenics, Lysenko’s regime during Stalin’s reign, imperialism
Lecture 2: Presentation by guest lecturer (TBA)
Lecture 3: Discussion and debate

Evolution of the Intelligence and the Brain

Lecture 1: Introduction: genes, brain size, and intelligence
Lecture 2: Presentation by guest lecturer (TBA)
Lecture 3: Discussion and debate

Evolution of the Language and the Brain
Lecture 1: Introduction: Cerebral cortical plasticity and the evolution of speech
Lecture 2: Presentation by guest lecturer (TBA)
Lecture 3: Discussion and debate

Evolution and Race
Lecture 1: Introduction: Defining race, the origins of phenotypic differences between populations, present state of the race concept
Lecture 2: Presentation by guest lecturer (TBA)
Lecture 3: Discussion and debate

Evolution and Medicine
Lecture 1: Introduction: Evolution of infectious diseases and genetic diseases, racial medicine
Lecture 2: Presentation by guest lecturer (TBA)
Lecture 3: Discussion and debate

Evolution and Gender
Lecture 1: Introduction: Sexual selection theory and its implications for humans
Lecture 2: Presentation by guest lecturer (TBA)
Lecture 3: Discussion and debate

Evolution and Genetically Modified Organisms
Lecture 1: Introduction: The limits of artificial selection: wiener dogs and broccoli; biological and ethical problems and benefits of GMOs
Lecture 2: Presentation by guest lecturer (TBA)
Lecture 3: Debate and Discussion

Evolution and Religion
Lecture 1: Introduction: Creationism and evolution, evolution of religion
Lecture 2: Presentation by guest lecturer (TBA)
Lecture 3: Discussion and debate

Evolution and the Future of Humanity
Final lecture: Overview, summary, and discussion

       
Readings:
Assigned readings for each topic.
Method:
Each topic will be examined over three class periods. During the first period the professor will present a lecture introducing the material. The next meeting will host an expert from the McGill community who will present an in depth analysis of one aspect of the topic. Finally, the third period will be devoted to a guided discussion of the material presented in the first two periods..
Evaluation:

Summary presentation – will be based on role-playing presentations of the problems discussed in the previous two lectures. Role-playing presentations are meant to both summarize key aspects of the content of the two previous lectures, as well as raise several “controversial points of discussion” in order to spark debate and discussion among the students. The criteria for how these role-playing presentations will be graded will be given to the students at the beginning of the course, and the students will receive feedback on their performance shortly after the discussion.

Participation in Discussions: We expect that students will be prepared for the discussion periods by the take home assignments (see below), and that the summary presentations at the beginning of these periods will serve as a catalyst to ignite the discussions. Marks will be accorded for evidence that the students are using lecture material to inform and advance their arguments. Students will be given feedback on their performance several times during the term. This feedback will include advice on improving performance where necessary.

Take home assignments: these will be given after each guest lecturer has spoken. Thus, there will be seven assignments over the term. The students will be asked to summarize the previous two lectures on a particular topic, highlighting those elements of the presentations that they think are cardinal in understanding the topic. In addition, they will be given a list of questions related to the topic, of which they will choose one to answer in a short essay. The students are encouraged to discuss their questions with each other. The assignments will be due on the day of the discussion period for the topic.

Term Paper: topics for the term paper will be chosen from a list provided by the professors


McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see http://www.mcgill.ca/integrity/ for more information).

Last update: March 22, 2017