A transdisciplinary and integrative overview of evolutionary theory, evolutionary economics, and neuroscience:
The history and science of evolutionary theory shall include: the pre-Darwinian evolutionists, the influence of Paley, Malthus, Lamarck, and Lyell on Darwin, how natural selection was discovered (and how Darwin and Wallace differed in their theories), the scientific debate at the turn of the 20th century, the modern synthesis and the rise of neo-Darwinism, the genetic revolution, and current theoretical controversies; the 19th-century “problem of the species” and what Darwin’s theory was meant to explain, gradualism and punctuated equilibrium, contingency and necessity in the evolution of diversity, evo-devo and evolutionary restraints on development, the evolution of evolvability, adaptation and exaptation, ontogeny, phylogeny and historical constraints on evolutionary development, and extrapolationism from microevolution to macroevolution.
The application of evolutionary theory will be considered in its integration into psychology, anthropology, medicine, ethics, and economics. Controversies over and challenges to the application of evolutionary theory to society, most notably the telling of “just so” stories not backed by scientific evidence will also be considered. Finally, the implications of evolutionary theory for the debate over the relationship of science and religion as evidenced in the recent rise of Intelligent Design will be reviewed and discussed.
This course also includes an introduction to behavioral neuroscience. The course will focus on teaching students how new findings in the brain sciences can inform their work in the social sciences and humanities. For example: How reward acquisition is affected by risk; Why humans are typically risk-averse and when they are not; Hyperbolic discounting of future rewards; How interpersonal trust is built and maintained; Gender differences in risk and reward; Competitiveness; How “rational” vs. “irrational” decisions are made; The basis for cooperation and noncooperation; The reason people punish others; The role of genetics and childhood experiences in decision-making; The sources of individual variation in decisions in the same environment; Addiction; The role of hormones in decisions; How socially strategic decisions are made; Quid pro quo decisions; Life and death decisions; The basis for social norms or ethics; The sense of justice; The basis for love and hate and how these affect decisions.