DARWINISM APPLIED (Biology 402/502)

Spring Semester 1998 - Monday 2-5pm

Drs. Randy Thornhill and Paul J. Watson - Instructors

Thornhill's office: rm. 180, Castetter Hall; phone 277-2804

Watson's office: rm. 153, Castetter Hall; phone 277-2515

Course home page: http://biology001.unm.edu/~pwatson/402.htm

Goals - Darwinism Applied is a chance to explore the power and the limitations of modern evolutionary thinking for illuminating social issues of critical concern throughout the human world. We hope to use evolutionary human psychology to help us understand and design model solutions to a wide array of social problems. The course's pivotal hypothesis is that evolutionary theory provides objective insights into how the human mind is designed to adaptively navigate the vicissitudes of life and that such unromanticized, non-ideological conceptions of psychological design can inform the development of optimally humane and effective schemes for realizing social goals.

Attendance - Consistent attendance is strongly encouraged and lack of it will effect your grade.

Participation - The success of seminars depends on avid participation by everyone. In order to encourage consistent participation, we ask everyone to write "connections" while doing their reading assignments each week and bring them to class. A connection is a thought or observation you have while reading (or afterwards) that relates some aspect of the reading material to a phenomenon you have observed in life, an idea or observation from another academic field, or some potentially novel insight into a problem or question that the reading sparks in you. Your mind is constantly making associations while you read and occasionally has an "ahhhaa." Bring the important ones to class in brief written form (ca., 2-4 sentences) and be prepared to share and develop them with the class. If it seems necessary to compel better participation, we will begin collecting and grading the written connections.

Experience the inner glow of being prepared to interact in class!

Leading Discussions - We need everyone to lead at least two 45 minute discussions during the semester, one during the first seven weeks and another during the second half of the course. Leaders essentially come to class with a more sweeping, coherent and better developed set of "connections" (see above paragraph). Since we would like most of the in class discussion to be analytical as opposed to review, we suggest that each leader spend only 10-15 minutes of their time reviewing the salient points of the reading. Then, get right into critiquing or applying the concepts and conclusions. Try to design thought questions for the class to respond to. Say something heretical. Say something nasty. Shake up your classmate's or instructor's beloved world view. Trash the evolutionary view if you can, or articulate why it should displace a view on the topic from another academic domain. But, try to guide a coherent interaction. Be ready to defend your opinions and develop the topics you bring up in some depth. A big chunk of your grade will be based on the quality of your efforts in leading discussions.

Reading schedule for first seven weeks

(MA=Moral Animal; BMS=Biology of Moral Systems; DA=Darwinism Applied)

Week One: Introductory lecture and discussion led by Thornhill and Watson. Assignment of discussion leaders for weeks 2-7.

Week Two: Special Reading: Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer, by L. Cosmides & J. Tooby; MA: Introduction & Chapters 1-3; BMS: Preface & Chapter 1; DA: Introduction and Chapter 1.

Week Three: MA: Chapters 4-6; BMS: Chapter 2; DA: Chapters 2-4.

Week Four: MA: Chapters 7-11; BMS: Chapter 3; DA: Chapters 5-7.

Week Five: An Evolutionary Theory of Unipolar Depression as an Adaptation for Overcoming Constraints of the Social Niche, by P.J. Watson & P.W. Andrews.

Week Six: MA: Chapters 12-14; BMS: Chapter 4; DA: Chapters 8-9.

Week Seven: Chapters from R. Thornhill's treatise on rape.

The remainder of the semester will be devoted to student presentations of their special topics (45 minutes each).