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Is Darwin’s extraordinary idea relevant for our species? The subject highlights the power of Darwin’s theory of the evolution of adaptation by natural (and sexual) selection for understanding our origins and the present human condition, with an emphasis on exploring the claim that we cannot fully appreciate anthropogenic systems in the absence of an evolutionary perspective. The subject briefly examines the recent evolutionary history of hominids and highlights the challenges and significance of distinguishing between nature and nurture in shaping contemporary life-histories and behaviour. The subject focusses especially on the application of evolutionary theory to informing our understanding and management of global anthropogenic issues, including antibiotic, insecticide and other forms of resistance; vaccines and viruses; pathogen virulence; response to selection arising from environmental change, including pollution and climate; and the management of natural resources. Classes combine lectures and tutorials, and there is a strong emphasis on distinguishing between unsubstantiated conjecture and concepts that are supported by rigorous science.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject, students should be able to:
- articulate an evolutionary perspective on human origins, life history and behaviour;
- critically evaluate critically conceptual and empirical approaches to evolutionary explanations of human and anthropogenic systems, and to apply an appropriate approach to an unfamiliar problem;
- explain evolutionary perspectives on human and anthropogenic systems to general audiences in a written format;
- articulate different forms of biological data and how to make inferences from them;
- conduct an effective literature search and synthesise findings and critique a given topic in evolutionary biology; and
- evaluate the written work of peers to gain experience in preparedness for the workplace.
The subject builds upon existing generic skills, including:
- an ability to assimilate and critically evaluate new knowledge within a scientific paradigm; and
- the ability to communicate that knowledge to a broad audience.
Last updated: 1 March 2024