Ant 50: Syllabus
Spring Quarter 2009; CRN #93489
(Lecture & discussion, 12:10-1:30 T/Th; 194 Young Hall)
Goal and Objectives
Attendance and Participation
Course Format and Expectations
Bruce Winterhalder, Instructor, 218 Young Hall
Anthropology & Graduate Group in Ecology
Ryan Boyko & Adrian Bell, Teaching Assistants
Offices: RB 2F Young Hall; AB 3148 Wickson Hall
Are there commonalities running through our diversity as a species, evolved characteristics that we can identify as human nature? If so, what are they? And, what are the implications, if any, for our behavior?
ANT 50 asks what we can learn about these questions and ourselves by adopting a Darwinian form of analysis.
The organization of the course is partly historical. We will begin in the mid-19th century with Darwin and his contemporaries, trace our topic through social darwinism at the beginning of the 20th century, and then examine the recent florescence of the evolutionary study of human behavior.
The course organization also is partly topical. Among the subjects we will take up are: non-human primate precursors, incest, polygamy, sexual selection, parental investment, life history traits (e.g., menopause), honesty and deception, Machiavellian intelligence, language origins, religion, sexual behavior, gender and mate choice, parent-offspring conflict, competition and altruism, jealousy, eugenics and social darwinism.
These subjects have been as controversial as they are fascinating. Biological accounts of humanity are said by some to be reductionist and to seriously understate the role of nurture, socialization and learning in the formation of human societies. We will have to grapple with this critique.
A final quality of the course is relevance. What we believe about our nature helps to shape it by establishing our sense of possibilities and limitations. Such ideas are public and intensely personal.
Ten weeks is insufficient to cover such a broad topic as the evolution of human nature; this syllabus necessarily is very selective. But, this course will provide you basic concepts with which anthropologists and other scholars attempt to understand human behavior and its diversity. It will serve as an excellent foundation for the more specific, detailed and advanced study to be discovered in anthropology and related fields, here at UC - Davis or elsewhere.
By the end of the course you will understand how anthropologists are attempting to understand the evolution of human behavior. You will be able to:
- locate the origins of this subject in its historical context in the mid-nineteenth century;
- explain the key concepts of Darwinism and neo-Darwinism, as they apply to the evolution of living organisms;
- describe recent developments in neo-Darwinism that have expanded greatly our ability to explain the evolution of behavior;
- appraise attempts to apply this theory to the explanation of a variety of specific human behaviors, such as those listed above;
- appreciate reasons for being cautious in evaluating of the relative roles of nature and nurture in any holistic appreciation of humans; and,
- use this information to think critically and constructively about western beliefs about human nature.
back to top
Three books comprise the reading required of everyone in this course along with six journal articles of your choosing. The books are listed immediately below and can be purchased in the textbook department of the University Store.
Cartwright, John. 2000. Evolution and Human Behaviour: Darwinian Perspectives on Human Nature. Cambridge, MIT Press.
de Waal, Franz. 2005. Our Inner Ape: Power, Sex, Violence, Kindness, and the Evolution of Human Nature. New York: Penguin Group.
Wolf, A. P., and W. H. Durham (eds.). 2005. Inbreeding, Incest and the Incest Taboo: The State of Knowledge at the Turn of the Century. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
This class depends on your participation. Questions and occasionally discussion will be an important part of lectures and section. You will be assessed on your informed questions and comments and thus on careful, timely preparation and regular attendance.
Readings should be completed by the class period which follows the date of the assignment. The class requires an average amount of reading, usually 35-45 pages per session. It requires greater than usual care in reading. And, it requires greater than usual participation.
The twenty class sessions include the following activities:
Lecture mixed with occasional discussion (20 classes)
Section Meetings (10)
There are three kinds of written assignments. . They are:
a) Nine short-answer questions, each requiring a concise, one-paragraph answer);
b) Six, one-page precis summaries, based on articles from the "Supplementary Journals" list, no more than three of which may be drawn from any one journal; and,
Several journals (e.g., Evolutionary Anthropology, Evolution and Human Behavior,Human Nature, Evolutionary Psychology) regularly publish empirical articles on the evolutionary study of human behavior. Over the quarter I expect you to look through the contents of recent issues of these publications, select six articles and summarize each of them in the form of a one-page precis. You should plan to make at least two visits to my or one of the TAs office hours, 2-3 precis in hand on each occasion, to talk about the papers you have read. Be prepared to hand in a copy of each of the precis you discuss.
The UC-Davis honor code is to be observed in this class; you are solely responsible for your work. If you have any uncertainties or questions about plagiarism or other academic violations, please ask.
We grade this class on the assumption that you are motivated to study and learn the materials. Four elements will comprise your grade. They are all either open book or 'take-home' in some or another format:
(1) regular, informed participation in discussion during sections (10 pts);
(2) care in reading and summarizing, in written and oral form, the six supplementary articles (5 pts each x 6 articles = 30 pts);
(3) ability to give informed and accurate answers to the quiz questions, in clear, concise and organized prose (5 pts each x 9 questions = 45 pts); and,
I will have office hours T/Th 1:30-3:00PM, 218 Young. Times besides these can be arranged individual, most easily via e-mail. Ryan and Adrian also will hold office hours as follows: RB 9-11 AM Tuesday; AB 4-5 PM Monday/Wednesday. Office hours are a neglected resource; please make use of them!
Class # & Date
1. T 31 Mar
|Wolf/Durham, Intro, Ch. 1||L: Class Introduction|
2. Th 2 Apr
|Wolf/Durham, Chs. 2, 3||L: Malthus|
|3. T 7 Apr||Wolf/Durham, Chs. 4, 5||L: Darwin|
|4. Th 9 Apr||Wolf/Durham, Chs. 7, 8||L: Spencer|
|5. T 14 Apr||Wolf/Durham, Chs. 9, 10||L: Social Darwinism
|6. Th 16 Apr||Cartwright, Chs. 1, 2||L: Basics of neo-Darwinism 1|
|7. T 21 Apr||Cartwright, Ch. 3||L: Basics of neo-Darwinism 2;Quiz #1|
|8. Th 23 Apr||de Waal, Ch. 1||L: Nature/nurture|
|9. T 28 Apr||de Waal, Ch. 2||L: Deception
Complete First "Precis" Office Visit
|10. Th 30 Apr||de Waal, Ch. 3||L: Egalitarianism|
|11. T 5 May||de Waal, Ch. 4||L: Patriarchy|
|12. Th 7 May||de Waal, Ch. 5||L: Violence & Warfare; Quiz #2|
|13. T 12 May||de Waal, Ch. 6||L: Children & Altruism|
|14. Th 14 May||Cartwright, Ch. 4||L: The Spiritual Ape
|15. T 19 May||Cartwright, Ch. 5||L: Boys or Girls?
Complete Second "Precis" Office Visit
|16. Th 21 May||Cartwright, Chs. 6, 7||L: Sexual Selection|
|17. T 26 May||Cartwright, Chs. 8-9||L: Costly Signaling; Quiz #3|
|18. Th 28 May||Cartwright, Ch. 10||L: Mate Choice|
|19. T 2 June||Cartwright, Chs. 11-12||L: Alloparenting & Partible Paternity|
|20. Th 4 June||No assignment||L: Summary & Conclusions
I encourage you to explore web-based resources related to the materials being covered in this class. An excellent starting point is the Human Behavior and Evolution Society website: