Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A first run at a textbook-free 'Introduction to Biological Anthropology'

This post has been updated since it was first published.

None of the textbooks share my curricular vision or path. And I believe that the path I take with students is instrumental to their learning evolution and to overcoming the gripping misconceptions. So I'm all done with textbooks for "Introduction to Biological Anthropology" and I've posted my thoughts on this before:
As promised in the last link, here's a serious draft of what I'll be implementing in Spring 2015 when I'm back to the classroom after having a baby.

It's for APG 201: Human Origins, a fundamental major requirement and a course that fulfills 3 general education credits in the natural sciences for anyone wishing to graduate from URI. I teach to a small auditorium of 120 students both Fall and Spring semesters every year, 50 minutes each meeting, three times a week per semester. Sometimes I have TAs, sometimes I don't. (We don't have a graduate program.)

Notice how I have the students make observations first (mostly on primates) before we explain them with evolution. And at first, evolution is only about common ancestry and change over time (i.e. even though we bring in Darwin at this point, we do not talk about  natural selection or adaptation). Then evolution's about inherited continuity with recombination and mutation, then it's about trait complexity, and then, and only then, it's about processes like drift and selection.

I've decided that even though it's a lot of fun, and even though I do introduce sexual selection, there's just no room in this introductory course for primate sex and reproductive strategies, the evolution of ours, and reconstructing these things in our ancestry.  I'll be relegating all that content to my "Sex and Reproduction in Our Species" (aka The Baby Makers) course, instead.

I've been increasing homework assignments, in frequency and intensity, over the past few years but this will be, by far, the most I've had them do for this course. I like to have them struggle through things on their own before we tackle them in class, which is why so may assignments are due on the day we're slated to cover the same topic. This means, I don't grade for complete accuracy. What's more, students clearly aren't reading and writing enough (in general, in life) to meet my standards for thinking and thought expression in my courses, so this journal approach is how I'm addressing that problem. Because it would be nearly impossible to deal with in such a large course, I won't collect their daily assignments. Instead, I'll have them add assignments to their journals which I will spontaneously check only a few times. I've issued many of these assignments in the past, so I'm already aware of what the students will write and have built the course in such a way that anticipates and addresses the obstacles they face as it goes along. "Lecture resources" are not assigned readings but are highly recommended study resources, especially for students who were not satisfied with our discussion of the content for a particular day (either because they didn't understand or they want to learn more) or for students who missed class that day.

Here's the course (minus the worksheets and my in-class materials, including handouts with content that's not covered fully by the readings/resources). Sakai, for anyone unfamiliar, is like Blackboard and other on-line aids for courses. Sorry for not making the links neater but this is how I've formatted the syllabus for maximum clarity. The syllabus looks great, yet transferring it here looks awful. I hope you can forgive me and also get something out of this! Day 1.1 might look unconventional but it will light them up before we go over the course properly, and I'm always looking for excuses to bring one of my wonderful dogs to class with me.



APG 201: Human Origins
A textbook-free curriculum
Assignments are due on the day they're listed
Books you'll need for this course:
1. Your Inner Fish - Neil Shubin
2. Paleofantasy - Marlene Zuk

Unit 1.
This view of life. Our place in nature.
What is the anthropological perspective? What is the scientific approach to understanding human origins? What is a human? What are human traits? How do humans fit on the Tree of Life?

1.1 – Dog origins
Lecture Resources
·        The Woof at the Door - Shipman (American Scientist)
·        How to Build a Dog - Ratliff (National Geographic)
·        Genetics of Dog Breeding - Adams (Nature Education)
Journal Assignment
With at least one word, term, or phrase from today’s class, start a glossary. Whenever a word, term, or phrase is used in class that you think is important, jot it down, and define it. Whenever something's said in class that you’re unfamiliar with, jot it down and then go look it up (or ask a peer or me about it), and define it. 

1.2 – Overview of course
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Without looking anything up or discussing with anyone else, writing just from your own mind at present... What is evolution?

1.3 – Doing biological anthropology
Assigned reading/viewing
·        What is it like to be a biological anthropologist? A Field Paleontologist's Point of View – Su (Nature Education) http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/what-is-it-like-to-be-a-59719064
·        Notes from the Field: A Primatologist's Point of View – Morgan (Nature Education) http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/notes-from-the-field-a-primatologist-s-54334509
·        Expedition Rusinga (video; 8 mins)  http://vimeo.com/50614968
·        YIF: How Do We Know When Our Ancestors Lost Their Tails? (video; 4 min) http://video.pbs.org/video/2365211775/
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Why do biological anthropology?
Lecture Resources
·        The ape in the trees – Dunsworth (The Mermaid’s Tale)
·        Metabolic hypothesis for human altriciality – Dunsworth et al. (PNAS) http://www.pnas.org/content/109/38/15212.short
·        Challenges to human uniqueness: bipedalism, birth and brains - Roberts and Thorpe (J Zool) - Posted on Sakai

1.4 – The scientific process
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Understanding science: How Science Works, pages 1-21; starts here: http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/0_0_0/howscienceworks_01
Journal Assignment
·        Scientific Process worksheet - Located at end of syllabus

1.5 – Linnaeus and the Order Primates
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Arkive: http://www.arkive.org/
·        Animal Diversity Web: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/
·        Primate Factsheets: http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets
·        Encyclopedia of Life: http://eol.org/
·        Time Tree: http://www.timetree.org/
Journal Assignment
·        Primate Expert worksheet - Located at end of syllabus
Lecture Resources
·        Characteristics of Crown Primates – Kirk (Nature Education) http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/characteristics-of-crown-primates-105284416

1.6 – Overview of primates
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Many primate video clips –Posted on Sakai
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Write about your viewing experience, for example, you might write about being surprised that some of these creatures are primates or how some behaviors are surprisingly human.
Lecture Resources
·        Old World monkeys – Lawrence and Cords (Nature Education)

1.7 – Primates: Encephalization and locomotion
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Many primate locomotion video clips –Posted on Sakai
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Without looking at the lecture resource, come up with some categories for the different types of primate locomotion, give those categories names and list which species fall into them.
Lecture Resources
·        Primate locomotion – Gebo (Nature Education)

1.8 – Primates: Diet, tool use, and communication
Assigned reading/viewing
·        ·        http://www.eskeletons.org/
·        http://www.efossils.org/
The Human Spark 2 (video; 55 mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roqTXf5UNyc&feature=kp
Journal Assignment
·        Anatomy worksheet - Located at end of syllabus
·        In a page or more: Summarize the film, highlighting something you already knew and also something you learned that was brand new to you. What is the human spark?
Lecture Resources
·        Chimps with everything: Jane Goodall's 50 years in the jungle – McKie (The Guardian) http://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/jun/27/jane-goodall-chimps-africa-interview

1.9 – Primates: Sociality
Assigned reading/viewing
·       Peace Among Primates – Sapolsky (The Greater Good) http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/peace_among_primates
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Reflect meaningfully on the reading, relating it to your life is fine but not required.
Lecture Resources
·        What Influences the Size of Groups in Which Primates Choose to Live? – Chapman and Teichroeb (Nature Ed)
·        Primate Communication – Zuberbuhler (Nature Ed)
·        Primate Sociality and Social Systems – Swedell (Nature Ed)
·        Primates in communities – Lambert (Nature Ed)

1.10 – Evolution and Darwin’s evidence
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Three parts from The Autobiography of Charles Darwin:
o   "Voyage of the 'Beagle'" (p. 71-81 ) and "An account of how several books arose" (p. 116- 135) and "An estimation of my mental powers" (p. 136-145)
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: What circumstances or experiences influenced Darwin's thinking?
Lecture Resources
·        Evolution Is Change in the Inherited Traits of a Population through Successive Generations – Forbes and Krimmel (Nature Ed)
·        Charles Darwin spotlight (1809-1892) http://www.nature.com/scitable/spotlight/charles-darwin-7567158

1.11 – The evidence that Darwin wishes he had
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 1: Finding Your Inner Fish - Shubin
·        YIF: Amazing Places, Amazing Fossils: Tiktaalik (video; 5 mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2vKlEUX7DI
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 2: Getting a Grip - Shubin
·        YIF: The Ancient History of the Human Hand (video; 4 mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUL8hKDdY84
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: What does Shubin mean by "your inner fish"? What's the connection between a fish’s fin and your hand?

1.12 - Phylogeny
Journal Assignment
·        Phylogeny worksheet - Located at end of syllabus
Lecture Resources
·        Reading a phylogenetic tree – Baum (Nature Ed)
·        Trait Evolution on a Phylogenetic Tree – Baum (Nature Ed)

1.13 – The human primate (encephalization, locomotion, diet, tool use, communication, sociality)
Lecture Resources
·        Overview of hominin evolution – Pontzer (Nature Ed)


Unit 2.
Explaining the similarities and differences. How evolution works.
Why are we like our parents but not exactly? Same for other species: why are we like them but not exactly? How did human traits evolve? What is our "inner fish" etc.? What was the last common ancestor (LCA) between humans and chimps like? How do we know when and where it lived?

2.1 – Inheritance: Chromosomes
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 3: Handy Genes - Shubin
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 4: Teeth Everywhere - Shubin
·        YIF: The Evolution of Your Teeth (video; 3 mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohq3CoOKEoo
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 5: Getting ahead - Shubin
·        YIF: Our Fishy Brain (video; 2.5 mins) http://video.pbs.org/video/2365207797/
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: What did you learn about how to do paleontology from the reading? What does he mean by your "inner shark"?
Lecture Resources
·        Developing the Chromosome Theory – O’Connor (Nature Ed)
·        Genetic Recombination – Clancy (Nature Ed)

2.2 – Inheritance and gene expression: DNA, RNA, proteins
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 6: The Best-Laid (Body) Plans - Shubin
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 7: Adventures in Bodybuilding - Shubin
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: What are  Hox genes and what do they have to do with linking a fruit fly to you? What is one benefit of being a sponge?
Lecture Resources
·        What is a Gene? Colinearity and Transcription Units – Pray (Nature Ed)
·        RNA functions – Clancy (Nature Ed)
·        Hox Genes in Development: The Hox Code – Myers (Nature Ed)

2.3 – Inheritance and gene expression: Mendelian genetics
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 8: Making Scents - Shubin
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 9: Vision - Shubin
·        YIF: Finding the Origins of Human Color Vision (video; 5 mins) http://video.pbs.org/video/2365207765/
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 10: Ears - Shubin
·        YIF: We Hear with the Bones that Reptiles Eat With (video; 4 mins) http://video.pbs.org/video/2365207244/
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Is it fair to say that when you smell something, that something is touching your brain? Why is it called the eyeless gene if you can have it and still have eyes? How does hearing work? What does your ear do besides hear, and how? What does drinking lots of alcohol do to your ears?
Lecture Resources
·        Gregor Mendel and the Principles of Inheritance – Miko (Nature Ed)
·        Mendelian Genetics: Patterns of Inheritance and Single-Gene Disorders – Chial (Nature Ed)

2.4 - The reality of inherited traits = Complexity; Hox genes and development
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Things Genes Can’t Do – Weiss and Buchanan (Aeon)
·        Insanity: genes 'versus' environment as causes – Weiss (The Mermaid’s Tale)
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Reflect meaningfully on these articles and highlight something that you already knew, but also the things that you learned that are brand new to you.
Lecture Resources
·        Phenotypic Range of Gene Expression: Environmental Influence – Lobo and Shaw (Nature Ed)
·        Genetic Dominance: Genotype-Phenotype Relationships – Miko (Nature Ed)
·        Pleiotropy: One Gene Can Affect Multiple Traits – Lobo (Nature Ed)
·        Polygenic Inheritance and Gene Mapping – Chial (Nature Ed)
·        What Works Works. But What Works?: Genomes as works in progress – Weiss (Evol Anth) – Posted on Sakai

2.5 - Population genetics and evolution
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Paleofantasy , Intro - Zuk
·        Paleofantasy,  Chapter 1: Cavemen in Condos - Zuk
Journal Assignment
·        Scenario worksheet, 1 - Located at end of syllabus
·        In a page or more: What's the point of Zuk’s book? How familiar are you with "paleo" diet and other kinds of lifestyle choices that fall under that umbrella?
Lecture Resources
·        Mutations Are the Raw Materials of Evolution – Carlin (Nature Ed)
·        Natural selection, genetic drift and gene flow do not act in isolation in natural populations – Andrews (Nature Ed)
·        Neutral Theory: The null hypothesis of molecular evolution – Duret (Nature Ed)

2.6 - Natural selection
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Paleofantasy,  Chapter 2: Are We Stuck? - Zuk
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: What does Zuk mean by, "are we stuck?" and what's the answer?
Lecture Resources
·        Negative selection – Loewe (Nature Ed)

2.7 - Sexual selection, Modern Synthesis, and more on epigenetics
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Paleofantasy,  Chapter 3: Crickets, sparrows, and Darwins- or, evolution before our eyes - Zuk
Journal Assignment
·        Scenario worksheet, 2 - Located at end of syllabus
·        In a page or more: How can natural selection explain the silent crickets?
Lecture Resources
·        Sexual selection – Brennan (Nature Ed)

2.8 - Recent human evolution: Malaria resistance and lactase persistence
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Paleofantasy,  Chapter 4: The perfect paleofantasy diet: Milk - Zuk
Journal Assignment
·        Wisdom Teeth worksheet - Located at end of syllabus
·        In a page or more: How can natural selection explain lactase persistence?
Lecture Resources
·        Natural Selection: Uncovering Mechanisms of Evolutionary Adaptation to Infectious Disease – Sabeti (Nature Ed)

2.9 - Understanding evolutionary mechanisms; Building evolutionary scenarios
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Evolution is the only natural explanation – Dunsworth (The Mermaid’s Tale)
·        The F-words of Evolution  – Dunsworth (The Mermaid’s Tale)
·        Another F-word of evolution  – Dunsworth (The Mermaid’s Tale)
http://ecodevoevo.blogspot.com/2011/05/another-f-word-of-evolution.html
·        Mutation not natural selection drives evolution –  Tarlach (about Nei; Discover Mag)
Journal Assignment
·        Drift vs. Selection worksheet - Located at end of syllabus
·        In a page or more: Reflect on what you already knew and, more importantly, what you learned from each of the readings that's new.

2.10 - Species and speciation
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Primate Speciation: A Case Study of African Apes – Mitchell and Gonder (Nature Ed)
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: What are some hypotheses for how or why the African apes, including humans, diverged? Why might gene trees and species trees not agree with one another?
Lecture Resources
·        Why should we care about species? – Hey (Nature Ed)
·        Speciation: The origin of new species – Safran (Nature Ed)
·        The maintenance of species diversity – Levine (Nature Ed)
·        Macroevolution: Examples from the Primate World – Clee and Gonder (Nature Ed)

2.11 - Genomics, fused chromosomes, molecular clocks, and the LCA
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Lice and Human Evolution (video; 11 mins) http://video.pbs.org/video/1790635347/
·        Time Tree: http://www.timetree.org/
Journal Assignment
·        Speciation and molecular clocks worksheet - Located at end of syllabus
Lecture Resources
·        The Onion Test – Gregory (Genomicron) http://www.genomicron.evolverzone.com/2007/04/onion-test/
·        The Molecular Clock and Estimating Species Divergence – Ho (Nature Ed)

Unit 3.
Evolving humans, past and present. Our extinct hominin ancestors and relatives. Modern human origins and variation. The cultural controversy over evolution.
How did human traits evolve? How and why do humans vary? Should we look to our ancestors as a lifestyle guide? Are we still evolving? Why is human evolution misunderstood and why is it controversial?

3.1 - Fossils, geology, dating methods; Extinction
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Planet without apes? – Stanford (Huffington Post)
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: What could lead to a future on Earth without apes? What kinds of evidence would such a process leave behind for future humans to use to explain why apes went extinct?
Lecture Resources
·        Dating Rocks and Fossils Using Geologic Methods – Peppe (Nature Ed)
http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/dating-rocks-and-fossils-using-geologic-methods-107924044
How to Become a Primate Fossil – Dunsworth (Nature Ed; in press) – Posted on Sakai

3.2 - Primate fossil record; Origins and evolution of bipedalism
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Dating Rocks and Fossils Using Geologic Methods – Peppe (Nature Ed)
Journal Assignment
·        Geology worksheet - Located at end of syllabus
Lecture Resources
·        Milankovitch Cycles, Paleoclimatic Change, and Hominin Evolution – Campisano (Nature Ed)
·        Studying function and behavior in the fossil record – Benton (PLOS Biology)

3.3 - Bipedalism, diet: Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, Paranthropus
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Lucy – Dunsworth (Icons of Evolution) – Posted on Sakai
·        Desktop Diaries: Tim White (video; 7 mins)
·        YIF: Ancient Human Ancestors: Walking in the woods (video; 4 mins) http://video.pbs.org/video/2365207936/
·        YIF: Lucy (video; 5 mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8Lkk6u-wQM
·        Trowelblazers: http://trowelblazers.tumblr.com/
·        An Unsuitable Job for a Woman: http://www.ellencurrano.me/blog/
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Describe something monumental (either for paleoanthropology or for you personally) to be learned or realized thanks to Lucy. Then summarize each of the films. For the two websites/blogs, choose one featured woman from each, and briefly describe at least one of her contributions to humankind.
Lecture Resources
·        The Earliest Hominins: Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, and Ardipithecus - Su (Nature Ed)
·        The "Robust" Australopiths – Constantino (Nature Ed)
·        Paleoecology and Paleoenvironment: a Case Study of Plio-Pleistocene Mammals from Laetoli – Kovarovic (Nature Ed)

3.4 – Technology and encephalization: Homo habilis
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Paleofantasy,  Chapter 5: The perfect paleofantasy diet: Meat - Zuk
·        YIF: Ancient Hands, Ancient Tools (video; 5 mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_ew9J8lpwo
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more:  Can you name something at the grocery store that could count as "paleo"? Why did I ask this question?
Lecture Resources
·        A Primer on Paleolithic Technology – Ferraro (Nature Ed)
·        Evidence for Meat-Eating by Early Humans – Pobiner (Nature Ed)

3.5 – Ecology and encephalization: Homo erectus
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Paleofantasy,  Chapter 6: Exercising the paleofantasy - Zuk
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Is exercising in a "paleo" way good, bad, both, or neither?
Lecture Resources
·        Homo erectus - A Bigger, Smarter, Faster Hominin Lineage – Van Arsdale (Nature Ed)

3.6 – Sociality and encephalization: Neanderthals
Assigned reading/viewing
·        What Happened to the Neanderthals? – Harvati (Nature Ed)
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: What happened to the Neanderthals?
Lecture Resources
·        Archaic Homo sapiens – Bae (Nature Ed)
·        Neanderthal Behavior – Monnier (Nature Ed)

3.7 - Sociality and encephalization: Modern Homo sapiens 
·        Research Projects due today
Lecture Resources
·        The Transition to Modern Behavior – Wurz (Nature Ed)


3.8 - Origins and evolution of speech and language
Assigned reading/viewing
·        The Human Spark 1 (video; 55 mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HgVl27j4Mk
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Summarize the film, highlighting something you already knew and also something you learned that was brand new to you. What is the human spark?
Lecture Resources
·        Tracking the Evolution of Language and Speech: Comparing Vocal Tracts to Identify Speech Capabilities – Lieberman and McCarthy (www.museum.upenn.edu/expedition)

3.9 - Models of human origins and geographic dispersal; Ancestry genetics
Assigned reading/viewing
·        From the Belgian Congo to the Bronx Zoo (NPR)
·        A True and Faithful Account of Mr. Ota Benga the Pygmy, Written by M. Berman, Zookeeper – Mansbach
·        Human Races May Have Biological Meaning, But Races Mean Nothing About Humanity – Khan (Discover blogs)
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: (Regarding Ota Benga: The first is a short article and audio news piece and the second is fiction based in fact.) Why was Ota Benga brought to the U.S.? Why was Ota Benga brought to the Bronx Zoo? Regarding issues that Ota Benga’s story raised, what do religious and evolutionary perspectives have in common? Why doesn’t a story like Ota Benga’s take place in 2014? Do you agree or disagree with Khan about races having biological meaning? Do you agree or disagree with Khan about races meaning nothing about humanity? Why or why not (for both)? What would you like to learn more about as a result of reading Khan's piece? Describe how you would go about doing that.
Lecture Resources
·        Anthropological genetics: Inferring the history of our species through the analysis of DNA – Hodgson and Disotell (Evolution: Education and Outreach)
·        Testing models of modern human origins with archaeology and anatomy – Tryon and Bailey (Nature Ed)
·        Human Evolutionary Tree – Adams (Nature Ed)
·        Paternity Testing: Blood Types and DNA – Adams (Nature Ed)

3.10 - Race and evolution's P.R. problem
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Understanding Race: http://www.understandingrace.org/
·        In the Name of Darwin – Kevles (PBS) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/darwin/nameof/
·        The visible colors: and the falseness of human races as natural categories – Weiss (The Mermaid’s Tale)
Journal Assignment
·        Peruse the whole site then take the quiz at Understanding Race and prove that you completed it by listing the correct answers (just letters is fine)
·        In a page or more: What is eugenics and what’s it got to do with Darwin? Genes contribute to performance on IQ tests (and others like SAT), but what else contributes to performance on those tests? Does social Darwinism contribute to the cultural controversy over accepting and teaching evolution in the U.S.A.? Why doesn't the color metaphor work for categorizing humans?

3.11 - Race and the evolution of human skin color variation; Future evolution
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Paleofantasy,  Chapter 10: Are we still evolving? - Zuk
·        We are not the boss of natural selection – Dunsworth (io9)
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: Are we still evolving?
Lecture Resources
·        Human Skin Color Variation (NMNH): http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/genetics/skin-color

3.12 - The cultural controversy over evolution; Overcoming misconceptions
Assigned reading/viewing
·        Your Inner Fish, Chapter 11: The Meaning of It All - Shubin
·        Evolution reduces the meaning of life to survival and reproduction... Is that bad? – Dunsworth (The Mermaid’s Tale)
Journal Assignment
·        In a page or more: After re-reading your very first journal entry on "what is evolution?" compose a letter to yourself highlighting what you were right about and what you were wrong about or what was incomplete in your answer based on what you learned this semester. Also reflect on what you're still left wondering and how you could find the answers to your remaining questions.
Lecture Resources
·        Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
http://ncse.com/files/pub/legal/kitzmiller/highlights/2005-12-20_Kitzmiller_decision.pdf
You'd have to be science illiterate to think "believe in evolution" measures science literacy –Kahan (The Cultural Cognition Project)

25 comments:

Jennie said...

This looks great. I taught a textbook free 4-fields course last semester and, although it definitely needed work, I would do it again. I used Storify to collect resources for each topic.

Ken Weiss said...

Looks very good, Holly. I might only suggest that in Section 1.10 you give them a chapter (first? fourth? last, summary?) of Origin, so they would get a direct taste of Darwin's argument. However, I say this not remembering what CD said in the parts you have set from Voyage. My suggestion only relates to the reasoning that he went through to advance the idea of speciation by adaptation and divergence.

But I think you're (properly) asking a lot of your students, and in a very logical and meaningful order and so on, and I can see from the outline how you're freed from the constraints of any given book.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Thanks Ken. But that part of the course is selection- and adaptation-free. It's just simply evolution. The bulk of OOS, yes, which is why I introduce Darwin at this point. Just common ancestry and change over time and Tree of Life stuff at this point. That they'll get a taste of selection from his writings about what led him to think such-and-such will be foreshadowing for Unit 2.

Holly Dunsworth said...

It might sound crazy, but it's really really easy to avoid saying "adaptation" or "natural selection" for the first 2/3 of the course. By the time I do, they get evolution and mutation, both of which are crucial to getting selection (and getting what's NOT selection).

Ken Weiss said...

Sounds great! I'll enroll if there are still empty seats.....

Holly Dunsworth said...

There hasn't been in the past, but I'm afraid with this new daily journal business, there'll be seats aplenty!

Ken Weiss said...

The idea of natural selection was a brilliant way to see how complex organisms can get here, but I think it is often far less clear how it happens in fact. To me the most profound insight of Darwin's is descent with modification from common ancestry. That took care of creationistic explanations and the like. Selection as a trait-molder of course took care, in Darwin's explicit statement, of the need for an external designer. But I think common ancestry is generally easier to deal with than selection.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Oh, I'm glad you think so! I think common ancestry is so powerful and the observations are easy to make because they're everywhere around us. Yet common ancestry gets buried immediately with molecules and mechanisms and theory by most presentations of this material.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Same with deep time and the evidence for it. Just starting out with what's obvious (that doesn't require a microscope, a PCR machine, or equations) is very powerful, I think.

Ken Weiss said...

There is a nice quote from Lamarck's book, in 1809, about how the slowness of evolutionary time is so deceptive. Darwin's insistence on gradualism was,in his case, fundamental to his idea that religious creationist explanations were not needed and were incorrect (because any quick change, or saltation, would seem to require a 'watchmaker'). In fact, I agree with what you say, and Darwin's book is mainly about the evidence of slow change from common ancestry. Also, to the extent Darwin was actually right about how slow things are, traits become more complex (because environments change) and drift becomes all the more powerful relative to very weak selection molding many genes simultaneously. So selection is the more challenging thing to actually understand--not just because, as you and we have blogged about numerous times, one can invent all sorts of plausibility stories if you make adaptation seem steady and quick.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Yes! Okay, now I really wish I didn't have to wait so long to work through all this with students again! It's so much fun.

Ken Weiss said...

Nothing in teaching is as gratifying as getting smart students interested.....and thinking! You have the 'it' factor to do that, because you think about the issues and have the personality to match.

Robert Kopec said...

Probably doesn't fit here, but are you familiar with this review and/or the book reviewed?
"The Function, Mechanism, And Evolution Of Learning: A Review Of Sara J. Shettleworth’s Cognition, Evolution, And Behavior"

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1284897/

Holly Dunsworth said...

Not the review, but the book: yes.

Mango said...

I just discovered this site today and came across your course outline - it looks great! I teach anthropology at a junior college in Quebec and every semester, I agonize over my choice of a textbook and/or the readings for a coursepack. The links you have provided here will be immensely helpful to me. I will, of course, give credit where it is due!

Jason Hodgson said...

This is fantastic Holly. I will definitely borrow parts of it for a human evolution class I am designing. Thanks!

Holly Dunsworth said...

I'm thrilled it's useful at all!

I wanted to note... I was asked why I don't cover all the fields within Biological Anthropology. The answer's got a few parts. I rely on what I do/know from my own research experience. I am the only biological anthropologist at URI, we have no grad program and most majors who take this course as a requirement aren't even going into graduate programs. All those things together, plus the fact that the time is just so limited in 3 credits, mean that I don't see this course as an overview of the entire field of bioanth. Most students who take it are not going into anthropology so cramming (which it would be like for me) all of bioanth into one introductory semester isn't an ideal pedagogy as I see it. Instead, because for most who take the course ( as a Gen Ed in the natural sciences), it's their only biology or anthropology at URI, I think that really giving them a good foundation in evolution and really conveying why that's important are the most powerful things I can do with this course, for nonmajors and majors alike (because the majors need it just as badly).

Holly Dunsworth said...

Also, in case it needs to be said, much more about bioanth is elaborated on in the smaller higher level courses that I teach.

Ken Weiss said...

And I think that a sound understanding of what evolution is, and what it isn't, and how it works and the role of genes etc. is more important for students at this level to learn than some other areas of bioanthropology.

Holly Dunsworth said...

...And I think that more than ever now that I've seen what evolutionary misthinking/misappropriation/flat-out wrong thinking goes along with the reactions to our posts about race and human variation.

Ken Weiss said...

Yes, and the really difficult problem is that when something applies to us, as humans, we are challenged to distance ourselves from it and too ready to fit it into our various predilections, which are affected by so many social, cultural, individual aspects of life, including our vested interests, views of ourselves and others, and so on. That is one reason evolution is difficult to grasp, especially because how we got here is a tale of things happening so slowly they usually cannot be directly observed, so it's too easy to make superficial inferences that suit what we want to believe. It's very subtle and elusive.

Holly Dunsworth said...

A common reaction to my course is "I don't understand why I haven't learned this already before now," which is interesting given how much they already know (didn't say it was complete or correct) coming into the course!

Maura Finkelstein said...

Holly this is amazing! I am a Cultural Anthropologist at a small LAC and will be teaching Human Evolution in the fall (not my area AT ALL! I am so grateful for your generosity. Is there a place I can find your journal assignment worksheets? I'm curious about how you design them. I really like weekly writing assignments. Thanks again, and I will obviously give you credit.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Hi Maura, So glad you think this is useful! The journal assignments are mainly the questions I've got posted there but, yeah, there are lots of worksheets too. If you email me, I'll gladly send you the complete syllabus (worksheets and all): holly_dunsworth@mail.uri.edu

Sandy Reece said...

This is a great resource! I am currently teaching an intro course at Oregon State University and have found your course source materials to be so helpful. Would it be possible to get copies of the worksheets that you have developed? I would love to use them in the classroom as a teaching tool. I will, of course, give full credit to you!