Bruce Winterhalder, Instructor, 218 Young HallWhitney Meno,
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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, 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