Darwinism Applied
Spring Semester 1998The Joy of Life - Matisse
Biology 402/502
Credit hours: 3

Instructors: Drs. Randy Thornhill & Paul Watson

Time: Monday 2-5 pm
Location: Castetter Hall, Room 83
Enrollment: Maximum of 20 students
Prerequisites: Enrollment by permission of the instructors only, please. We welcome advanced students from biology, clinical and research psychology, anthropology and education and other departments where the understanding of human behavior is a goal.


The paper on depression by Watson & Andrews (to be read for week 5), as well as the 3rd required text, "Darwinism Applied", is on reserve at Zimmerman Library

Evolutionary psychology has matured to a point where it begins to offer deep knowledge of the biological bases of many social phenomena and the nature of the intrapsychic processes of individuals that underlie them. The purpose of the course will be to explore and discover ways that the Darwinian perspective on human psychology can inform our understanding of diverse social and interpersonal issues in modern life and how to deal with them effectively and humanely.

Approximately the first half of the course will cover readings from the required texts (see below) and manuscripts by the instructors that are either in preparation or in press. Thornhill is working on a book on sexual coercion and has written much on the topic of psychological pain. Watson is working on papers and a book on unipolar depression, the structure of the therapeutic alliance in psychotherapy, and evolutionary perspectives on psychotherapeutic techniques in general.

The second half of the course will be based on 30-45 minute presentations by students on a topic of their choice. These presentations should feature a succinct review of several key papers on the chosen topic as well as original synthetic thinking and constructive critiques of the literature by the student. Students may work singly or in small teams on their presentations. Depending on enrollment, students who work on a team may have to present more than a single topic.

The whole world of practical human problems are open to evolutionary analysis in this course. Possible topics include the psychology of: conservation; psychotherapy; crime and crime prevention; problems of jurisprudence and the imposition of moral codes by groups on individuals; zenophobia and social tolerance; mass belief phenomena; deception, self-deception and barriers to objective self-realization; governmental organization; war and peace; choosing leaders; getting people interested in politics, democracy, social issues; family and mateship harmony; gun laws; aesthetics and prejudice...

Grading: The student's grade will be based on the quality of their presentation(s) and their overall active participation in discussions.

Required texts: (1) The Moral Animal, by Robert Wright (paperback available); (2) The Biology of Moral Systems, by Richard D. Alexander (paperback available); Darwinism Applied: Evolutionary Paths to Social Goals, by John H. Beckstrom (available in hardcover only).

Note that the Beckstrom volume is rather expensive (ca. $50.00), but we will have xerox copies available for reading and copying for anyone not wishing to purchase this text. These will be placed on reserve at Zimmerman library.

Keep an eye on this home page for updated course information!

Go to Randy Thornhill's Home Page
Go to Paul Watson's Home Page

This page last updated 26 January 1998