Major Transitions in Evolution

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FIG 26
David Baum
Major Transitions in Evolution
Seminar 2, 9:55–10:45 MWF
Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity
Lecture 1, 9:55–10:45 TR; Discussion 332, 2:25–3:15 T
General Chemistry I
Lecture 2, 1:20–2:10 MWF; Discussion 334, 12:05–12:55 TR; Lab 634, 2:25–5:25 R

The main seminar in this FIG, Interdisciplinary Letters & Science 101: “Major Transitions in Evolution,” will introduce students to evolutionary biology and its role in synthesizing knowledge across biology and beyond.

We will do this through interactive lectures and readings that cover different aspects of evolutionary theory. Discussions will focus on clarifying why evolution is so well established, and why it serves as an organizing principle in all of biology. Once you are feeling comfortable with the core concepts of evolution, we will put that knowledge to work in making sense of certain amazing transitions that occurred in the history of life on Earth. This will include the transition from non-life to life (a chemical problem), the transition from simple, prokaryotic cells to complex eukaryotic cells, and some of the key transitions in the relatively recent history of the human lineage (an anthropological issue).

The goal is to equip you with an understanding of what a good evolutionary narrative looks like.  As a final project, groups of students will conduct literature research on a group of organisms and then prepare a presentation summarizing the group’s evolutionary history. Assessment will be based on quizzes, short writing assignments, a paper, a presentation, and contributions to in-class discussions and debates.

Anthropology 104: “Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity” — Provides a comparative cross-cultural consideration of social organization, economics, politics, language, religion, ecology, gender, and cultural change. These topics will help provide context for our analysis of the American criminal justice system and our literatures about it.

Chemistry 103: “General Chemistry I” — Introduction to stoichiometry and the mole concept; the behavior of gases, liquids, and solids; thermochemistry; electronic structure of atoms and chemical bonding; descriptive chemistry of selected elements and compounds; and intermolecular forces.