Architectural Detail of Old Cabell

Humans, Nature, and Evolution

Since their emergence from among other hominid species in Africa, Homo sapiens has left its mark on planet Earth. Indeed, many scientists believe that the human impact on the planet is now so great that it marks its own era—the Anthropocene. But the story of how Homo sapiens came to be is largely a story of how nature shaped us, through the processes of evolution—a mixture of natural selection and chance. This forum explores the long history of Homo sapiens and encourages an in depth study of just who we are. With our complex brains, we humans are capable of rational, methodical thought about our environment and about ourselves. This forum addresses the questions that seem so pressing to the human brain: How did humans come to be? What were the processes that formed our bodies, minds, and societies? What were the physical conditions that shaped our development? How are we different from other hominid species and why did we persist when they did not? How did language, thought, and culture emerge and why? In addition to these questions of fact, we will look at questions of value: Our understanding of our origins shapes how we address the most fundamental moral questions of human life: How should we live? How should we treat others? How should we arrange our societies? How should we live on the Earth?

Anyone who seriously questions “How should I live?” will find herself tackling the prior question “Who or what am I?” Humans have answered these questions about human origins and human nature in a variety of ways. Although each student come from a particular cultural framework in answering these questions, this forum is designed to help you understand mythological, religious, and philosophical traditions more generally and to expose them to alternative worldviews. You will be prompted to look for common threads as well as points of difference and to tackle the question of what, exactly, all humans have in common. You will learn that this question can be explored from a variety of disciplinary perspective, such as Anthropology, Evolutionary Biology, Psychology, Sociology, History and Philosophy. We will also send you in search of answers to departments such as Women and Gender Studies, Religious Studies, African and African American Studies, LatinX Studies, Drama and Art History.

Instructors

Rachel Most, Professor of Archaeology and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs

I currently serve as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs in the College and as the Academic Dean for students in the sports of football and men and women's basketball. In addition, I teach archaeology classes in the Department of Anthropology. I frequently teach Human Impact on the Environment (with colleagues Hank Shugart and Steve Plog), Unearthing the Past (ANTH 2890) during January Term, Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (ANTH 4870/7870) and a summer class (ANTH 2589) in which I travel with students across Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado (this is team taught with a colleague from PVCC). I have also taught a USEM on the collapse of prehistoric and historic societies. My primary research interests are concerned with the study of change over time in prehistoric economic and settlement systems. I am particularly interested in the impact of the adoption of agricultural strategies by foraging societies, the role of hunting in emergent complex societies, lithic analysis and the so-called "collapse" of prehistoric societies. My field research has been primarily in the American Southwest (where I worked in the Mogollon Rim area (Pinedale/Snowflake) and southern desert areas of Arizona); I have also done fieldwork in Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

Erin Eaker, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Assistant Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

As a Philosophy professor my research and teaching interests have revolved around the ways that humans use language to communicate their beliefs about themselves and the world around them.  I also co-lead the Visions of the Good Forum, where students grapple with age-old questions about human nature and what it is to lead a good human life.  As a researcher I am particularly interested in how our self-understanding has been deeply influenced by the Darwinian notion that our bodies, brains, minds, societies and cultures are the product of the same gradual evolutionary processes that have shaped the other living beings with whom we share the earth.  This idea has had profound effects on how we understand human nature.  For example, in my philosophy class, Darwin and Philosophy, my students and I explore what Darwinian theory tells us, if anything, about topics such as: war and conflict, morality, human variability and human universals, human political and social organization, race, gender, genetic determinism, and eugenics.  We also talk about the compatibility of evolutionary theory with religious beliefs.  I am excited to be co-leading the Humans, Nature and Evolution Forum with Anthropology Professor Rachel Most.  It is an unprecedented chance for students to learn not only the science of human evolution but to really come to grips with how they understand themselves in relation to their fellow human beings and the natural world.

Navigating the Forum

In the first semester (fall 2018) you will enroll in FORU1500: Introduction to Humans, Nature, and Evolution, team-taught by Rachel Most (Anthropology) and Erin Eaker (Philosophy). This seminar will explore the evolution of human bodies, minds, and societies—and how we have both shaped and been shaped by our environment. We will ask “What does it mean to be human?” and will examine how our understanding of our origins shapes how we address the most fundamental moral questions of human life:  How should we live? How should we treat others? How should we arrange our societies? How should we live on the Earth? How did we get to where we are today?

During the second and third semesters you will enroll in a one-credit web-based course (FORU 1510 “Continuing the Forum”) where you will do some independent work to keep you engaged in the forum topic. We will all get back together in the fourth semester for the Forum Capstone course.  In this course you will have the opportunity to engage in a sustained research project on whatever approved Forum topic you have found most gripping in your explorations across the College curriculum.

Professors Most and Eaker have selected over 75 courses from the College of Arts and Sciences that will allow you in some way to explore the Forum themes in greater depth.

Coursework

Competency Requirements

  • First Writing Requirement (3 credits)
  • Second Writing Requirement (3 credits)
  • World Languages (0-14 credits)

Core Required Courses (8 credits)

  • FORU 1500 Introduction to Humans, Nature and Evolution (3 credits – Fall 2018)
  • FORU 1510 Continuing the Forum (1 credit - Spring 2019 and Fall 2019)
  • FORU 2500 Capstone Seminar (3 credits - Spring 2020)

Category 1 (6 Credits, pick 1 from each sub-category)

Category 1A - Pick 1

  • ANTH 1010 Introduction to Anthropology
  • ANTH 1050 Anthropology of Globalization
  • ANTH 2120 The Concept of Culture
  • ANTH 2250 Nationalism, Racism, Multiculturalism
  • ANTH 2280 Medical Anthropology
  • ANTH 2285 Anthropology of Development and Humanitarianism
  • ANTH 2325 Anthropology of God
  • ANTH 2365 Art and Anthropology
  • ANTH 2375 Disaster
  • ANTH 2400 Language and Culture
  • ANTH 2410 Sociolinguistics
  • ANTH 2420 Language and Gender
  • ANTH 2430 Language of the World
  • ANTH 2430 Languages of the World
  • ANTH 2559 Intro Native American Studies (THIS TOPIC ONLY)
  • ANTH 2625 Imagining Africa
  • ANTH 2810 Human Evolution
  • ANTH 2820 The Emergence of States and Cities
  • ANTH 3130 Disease, Epidemics and Society
  • ANTH 3340 Ecology and Society

Category 1B - Pick 1

  • AAS 2740 Peoples and Cultures of Africa
  • AAS 3500 Being Human [only SECTION 004 counts (Spring 2019)]
  • AAS 3710 African Worlds Through Life Stories
  • AAS 3810 Race, Culture and Inequality
  • PSYC 1010 Introduction to Psychology
  • PSYC 2600 Introduction to Social Psychology
    PSYC 2700 Introduction to Child Psychology
  • PSYC 3420 The Nature Nurture Debate
  • PSYC 3500 Evolutionary Psychology (this topic only)
  • SOC 2220 Social Problems
  • SOC 2230 Criminology
  • SOC 2320 Gender & Society
  • SOC 2052 Sociology of the Family
  • SOC 2595 Immigration and Society (THIS TOPIC ONLY, Fall 2019)
  • SOC 3056 Culture and Power
  • SOC 3180 Sociology of Emotions
  • SOC 3410 Race and Ethnic Relations
  • SOC 3490 Cities and Cultures
  • SOC 3640 Human Society in History
  • SOC 3820 Social Movements

Category 2 (6 Credits, pick 1 from each sub-category)

Category 2A – Pick 1

  • ARTH 1505 Art and Indigenous Cultures (this topic only)
  • ARTH 2052 Ancient Egypt
  • ARTH 2053 Greek Art and Archaeology
  • ARTH 2054 Roman Art and Archaeology
  • ARTH 2055 Introduction to Classical Archaeology
  • ARTH 2056 Aegean Art and Archaeology
  • ARTH 2471 Art Since 1945
  • ARTH 2251 Italian Renaissance Art
  • ARTH 2451 Modern Art, 1900-1945
  • ARTH 2559 New Course in History of Art: African Art  [NOTE: Sections 100-103 only (Spring 2019)]
  • ARTH 2862 Arts of the Buddhist World: India to Japan
  • ARTH 2871 The Arts of India
  • ARTH 2961 Arts of the Islamic World
  • CLAS 2010 Greek Civilization
  • CLAS 2020 Roman Civilization
  • CLAS 2040 Greek Mythology
  • CLAS 3040 Women and Gender in Ancient Greece and Rome
  • CLAS 3559 - New Course in Classics: Race & Ethnicity in Antiquity [NOTE: Spring 2019 only]
  • CHTR 3010 Survey of Traditional Chinese Literature
  • CHTR 3132 - Legends and Lore of Early China
  • CPLT 2010 History of European Literature I
  • CPLT 2020 History of European Literature II
  • ENAM 3130 African-American Literature I
  • ENAM 3140 African-American Literature II
  • ENGL 3030 Global Cultural Studies
  • ENGL 3810 History of Literatures in English I (NOW OFFERED STARTING Fall 2019 AS ENGL 3001)
  • ENGL 3820 History of Literatures in English II
  • MUSI 1010 Introduction to Music
  • MUSI 2010 Music, Meaning, and the Arts
  • MUSI 2700 Music and Politics
  • MUSI 3070 Introduction to Musical Ethnography
  • RELA 2750 African Religions
  • RELA 2850 Afro Creole Relg in Americas
  • RELB 2100 Buddhism
  • RELB 2054 Tibetan Buddhism Introduction
  • RELC 1210 Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
  • RELG 1010 Intro Western Religious Trads
  • RELG 2210 Religion, Ethics, & Global Environment
  • RELG 2650 Theological Bioethics
  • RELG 3605 Religion, Violence and Strategy: How to Stop Killing in the Name of God
  • RELG 3360 Conquests and Religions
  • RELI 2070 Classical Islam
  • RELI 2080 Global Islam

Category 2B – Pick 1  

  • PHIL 1410 Forms of Reasoning
  • PHIL 1710 Human Nature
  • PHIL 1730 Introduction to Moral and Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 1750  The Meaning of Life
  • PHIL 1740 Issues of Life and Death
  • PHIL 2070 Knowledge and Reality
  • PHIL 2110 History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval
  • PHIL 2450 Philosophy of Science
  • PHIL 2500 (100-103) Survey on a Philosophical [Topic: Animal Minds NOTE: Spring 2019 only]
    PHIL 2500 (200-203) Survey on a Philosophical [Topic: Environmental Ethics NOTE: Spring 2019 only]
  • PHIL 2500 (200-203) Survey on a Philosophical [Topic: Environmental Ethics NOTE: Spring 2019 and Fall 2019]
  • PHIL 2640 - Rational Choice and Happiness
  • PHIL 2660 Philosophy of Religion
  • PHIL 3010 Darwin & Philosophy
  • PHIL 3330 Philosophy of Mind
  • PHIL 3652 Animals and Ethics
  • PHIL 3710 Ethics
  • PHIL 3720 Contemporary Ethics
  • PHIL 3810 Sex, Sexuality, and Gender

Category 3 (3-4 Credits, pick 1)

  • HIAF 2001 Early African History
  • HIAF 3021 History of Southern Africa
  • HIAF 3051 West African History
  • HIAF 3112 African Environmental History
  • HIEA 1501 Cul & Society: Imperial China (THIS TOPIC ONLY)
  • HIES 1501 Thought and Religion Imperial China (THIS TOPIC ONLY; Fall 2019)
  • HIEA 2011 History of Chinese Civilization
  • HIEA 3111 China to the Tenth Century
  • HIEU 1501 Life & Death Dark Age Europe (this topic only)
  • HIEU 2031 Ancient Greece
  • HIEU 2041 Roman Republic and Empire
  • HIEU 2061 The Birth of Europe
  • HIEU 2101 Jewish History I: The Ancient and Medieval Experience
  • HIEU 3021 Greek and Roman Warfare
  • HIEU 3041 The Fall of the Roman Republic
  • HIEU 3221 The Culture of the Renaissance
  • HIEU 3231 Reformation Europe
  • HIEU 3111 Later Medieval Civilization
  • HIEU 3321 Scientifc Revolution 1450-1700
  • HILA 1501 Introductory Seminar in Latin American History: The Great Encounter (THIS TOPIC ONLY)
  • HILA 2110 Latin American Civilization
  • HILA 3559 New Course in Latin American History: The Great Encounter (THIS TOPIC ONLY)
  • HIME 2001 Mid East & N Africa 500-1500
  • HIME 2003 Economic History of the Islamic World
  • HISA 2002 History and Civilization of Medieval India
  • HIST 2559 Law and Empire in World History (THIS TOPIC ONLY)
  • HIUS 3641 American Indian History

Category 4 (9 credits; check prerequisites before enrolling)

Category 4A – Pick 2

  • ASTR 1210 Intro to the Sky and Solar System
  • ASTR 1220 Intro to Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe
  • ASTR 1250 Alien Worlds
  • ASTR 1270 Unsolved Mysteries in the Universe
  • ASTR 1280 The Origins of Almost Everything
  • ASTR 3420 Life Beyond the Earth
  • BIOL 1040 The DNA Revolution
  • BIOL 1050 Genetics for an Informed Citizen
  • BIOL 1210 Human Biology and Disease
  • BIOL 2100 Introduction to Biology w/Laboratory
  • BIOL 2200 Introduction to Biology w/Laboratory: Organismal & Evolutionary Biology
  • BIOL 3000 Cell Biology
  • BIOL 3010 Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • BIOL 3020 Evolution and Ecology
  • BIOL 3180 Introduction to Plant Biology
  • BIOL 3250 Introduction to Animal Behavior
  • BIOL 3450 Biodiversity and Conservation
  • EVSC 1010 Introduction to Environmental Sciences
  • EVSC 1300 Earth's Weather and Climate
  • EVSC 1450 An Inconvenient Truce: Climate, You and CO2)
  • EVSC 2010 Materials That Shape Civilizations
  • EVSC 2050 Introduction to Oceanography
  • EVSC 2220 Conservation Ecology: Biodiversity and Beyond
  • EVSC 2800 Fundamentals of Geology

Category 4B – Pick 1

Take one class from the Department of Math or Statistics