EGMT 1520: How Has Evolution Shaped Who We Are?


All humans are 99.5% genetically similar to any other human yet there is tremendous variation among us.  Why is there variation in skin color?  Why do most of us suffer from altitude sickness but there are people in the Andes and the Himalayas who live at extreme elevations?  How does malaria explain why, for over 30 years, all the finalists in the men’s Olympic 100-meters had a recent ancestry in Sub-Saharan West Africa?  To understand variation we need to understand how evolution has shaped us and how the environment has influenced our evolution.

We will use empirical approaches to understand patterns of variation in appearance, in physiology, and in (athletic) performance among individuals across the world.  The questions that we will address are important, not only to understand diversity among individuals, but also because the foundational approaches that you will develop in this class will provide you with skills to understand how science is done.  You will learn to think like a scientist and to interpret data.  In the future when you read in the New York Times about the latest discoveries, you will be able put these discoveries into context and make your own evaluation about the validity of new findings