The Darwin Course

Roadside sign for the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. Ten professors from a variety of specializations across campus bring a rich brew of perspectives to this course designed to examine the history of evolution, from Charles Darwin’s voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle to the Scopes Trial to continuing aftershocks in science classrooms today. Darwin and the ideas he supported have profound relevance across the fields of biology, history, literature, sociology and beyond, yet many misunderstand or even reject evolution and its mechanism. In addition to learning about Darwin and the science of evolution, the course is strategically designed to demonstrate that the most complete view of any discovery, event or person can only be achieved through the use of an interdisciplinary lens.

The Darwin Course addresses the following topics:

  • Charles Darwin and His Place in Intellectual History
  • What is Evolution as Darwin Conceptualized It?
  • Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle
  • Darwin: From Natural History to Natural Science
  • The Philosophy of Science and Evolution’s Place in It
  • Science and Pseudoscience
  • Darwin’s Problem: The Age of the Earth
  • Human Evolution: What we now Know
  • The Long Shadow of Scopes: Monkey, Media & Moral Majority The Evolution of Dayton, TN: Marketing Creationism
  • Evolution and the Law: Scopes and Beyond
  • Evolution and the Law: Little Rock and Dover
  • Social Darwinism, Eugenics and Other Abuses of Evolution Darwin & Evolution: Intersecting with Literature
  • Evolution, Science and Religion
  • The Science of Evolution since the Mid-20 Century
  • Evolution: Implications in and for the Modern World
  • Evolution and Education

William McComas, Parks Family Professor of Science Education, leads the course. He explains why The Darwin Course takes such an interdisciplinary stance:

 “It is fine to educate scientists and humanists but not so fine if those in these two communities are able to look at the world in only one way. This highly interdisciplinary course is designed to give students an opportunity to examine one of the most important ideas in human thought from as many vantage points as possible.”