Human Evolution: Past Present Future
Dr. Kristin Bishop-von Wettberg
How do human beings fit into the natural world? Are we fundamentally different from other animals, or do we just have a specialized skill set? Who are our closest relatives among non-vertebrates? Among the vertebrates? How did our evolutionary history lead our species to occupy such a key ecological role that the very future of the global ecosystem depends on the choices we make? Through readings, videos, exploratory writing, and discussion we will critically examine our place in the natural world and how we came to occupy it. We will begin the semester learning about the history of evolutionary thought leading up to Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and studying the mechanism of natural selection. We will then follow the evolutionary history of humans, from the earliest vertebrates in the Cambrian seas, to the colonization of land in the Devonian, to the radiation of mammals after the extinction of the dinosaurs, to the evolution of humans over the last five million years. We will finish the semester by considering the Anthropocene, the period in history during which ecosystems have been primarily affected by human activities – how we got to where we are now, and where we can go from here.