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BIO 558: Biological Basis of Human Evolution and Behavior

Understanding Human Evolution & Its Implications to our Behavior and History




Summer 2020: - 5/26-8/3 2020 - 10 Week Asynchronous online course

Fall 2020 : TBA -  10 Week Asynchronous online course


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Faculty:  Joanne Souza , PhD;  Paul Bingham, PhD

Summer 2020 Syllabus


This course is fast-paced and comprehensive with the content and workload expected of a University graduate course including global mastery of the subject matter. This course may be taken as either CEB553 or BIO558. This course is an accepted elective in our MAT program, our Masters in Liberal Studies Program, and various master's programs including psychology, journalism, and biochemistry to name a few as well as some continuing education requirements. Check with your institution and program. 

COURSE DESCRIPTION: An exploration of biological theories of human evolution, properties, and behavior. We build an understanding of evolution of complex organisms by natural selection, followed by the emergence of humans as a uniquely complex species. Scientific hypothesis formation and testing using the extensive multidisciplinary empirical record of the 1.8 million years of human history is developed throughout. Implications of human evolutionary biology for contemporary social and sexual behavior are also investigated. 

An approved content component of the Stony Brook University Biology MAT program, the Biochemistry Master’s Program, and the Journalism Master’s Program (3 Credits). Appropriate for Continuing Education Credit for Science Teachers. 

Major objectives of this course:

1.  Explore a powerful evolutionary theory of the origin of human uniqueness. Covered are the implications of this theory for our biological and social properties including the evolution of our large brains, language, unique sexual behavior, our history, economics, politics and all empirical evidence supporting this theory.  The scientific implications are profound and unite the social and natural sciences into a coherent whole.

2.  Engage students of all disciplines in the process of science – learn and participate in how we define theories, collect evidence and use that evidence to test these theories by subjecting them to skeptical public questioning. In this portion of the course, via discussions, you will be asked to critically think and debate varying interpretations of the empirical evidence in relation to the science being brought to your attention.

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How is the course administered?

The course is administered through a combination of the Blackboard Course management system and the Streaming Tutors Digital EDU-PACK subscription purchase. The Digital EDU-PACK includes video lectures, study questions, animations, and interactive questions.  Subscription purchase is to registered students only. 
This course requires good time management skills, excellent scheduling skills, and ability to work on your own as well as being part of an online group.

Topics Covered:

[TOPIC 1]      Introduction to Human Uniqueness and Social Coercion Theory. 

[TOPIC 2]      We know what life is – a particular case of chemistry

[TOPIC 3]      Evolving genes and the animals they build 

[TOPIC 4]      How and how fast does natural selection actually work in sexual animals?

[TOPIC 5]      How natural selection produces animals that cooperate

[TOPIC 6]      Kin-selected behaviors in humans

[TOPIC 7]      Kinship-independent social cooperation – the fundamental, unique human adaptation

[TOPIC 8]      How and when we became human - fossil record 1 

[TOPIC 9]      How and when we became human - fossil record 2 

[TOPIC 10]    The human village and life history evolution

[TOPIC 11 & 12]       Sexuality in the human village 1 and 2  

[TOPIC 13]    Human language – cooperation and information exchange – I

[TOPIC 14]    Human language – cooperation and information exchange – II

[TOPIC 15 & 16]      Culturally transmitted information and the uniquely human mind/brain 1 and 2  

[TOPIC 17]    Introduction to a powerful new theory of history that emerges from Social Coercion Theory

[TOPIC 18]    The behaviorally modern human revolution as an historical process

[TOPIC 19]    The bow and the Neolithic ("agricultural") revolutions

[TOPIC 20]    Body armor, shock weaponry and the rise of the Archaic states. 

[TOPIC 21]    Democratization, hierarchy, and social psychology 

[TOPIC 22]    Gunpowder and the emergence of the modern state 

[TOPIC 23]    Aircraft, missiles and the pan-global human coalition. 

[TOPIC 24]    Final considerations - The contemporary world and a humane future