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COURSE NUMBER: BIOL 466
COURSE TITLE: EVOLUTION, GENES AND BEHAVIOR
NAME OF INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Heather Looy
CREDIT WEIGHT AND WEEKLY TIME DISTRIBUTION: credits 3 (hrs lect 3 - hrs sem 0 - hrs lab 0)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course addresses questions such as: do people act and think differently because different groups encountered different problems during evolutionary history? Is our personality determined by our genes? Evolutionary and genetic explanations of human experience and behavior are widespread and increasingly popular. In this course we will examine how evolutionary psychology and behavior genetics can illuminate our embodied nature, and we will explore the strengths, limitations and implications of these approaches for understanding the human cycle.

Same as PSYC 477.

Prerequisites: PSYC 250 or 251 and PSYC 305 or six credits of biology at the senior level.

Evolutionary psychology (EP) is a relatively new approach to the study of human behavior that is rapidly gaining prominence.  It applies the principles of evolutionary biology to human behavior and mental processes, and argues that we were shaped by natural selection to perceive and respond to the world in ways that were adaptive during our evolutionary history.  Evolutionary psychologists focus on what is universal to humankind.  Behavioral genetics (BG), on the other hand, focus on differences among individuals and between groups.  This relatively old field examines how variations in genes are related to variations in psychological traits, and measures the degree to which variations in these traits are due to genetic or to environmental factors. 

In this course we will explore the assumptions, methods and implications of these approaches to psychology.  We will examine how research and theorizing in these two areas are influencing our culture.  We will attempt to steer a course which enables us to celebrate our embodied nature, interconnected within a dynamic creation, without landing on the shoals of biological reductionism and absolute determinism.  We will also examine whether, and if so, how, Christian theology can embrace these approaches to understanding ourselves.
REQUIRED TEXTS: Nettle, D. (2009).  Evolution and genetics for psychology.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

This text forms the backbone of the course.  Especially for those who do not have a strong biology background, it supplies information about basic and relevant concepts from evolutionary biology and genetics that is needed to appropriately apply these approaches to human experience and behavior.  Biology majors may find much in this text that is familiar; however please be aware that everyone in the course is expected to master the material.

Other required readings will be posted on the Moodle course page.  They provide the application of evolutionary biology and genetics to human experience and behavior.
MARK DISTRIBUTION IN PERCENT:
Chapter/Section Tests 50%
Reflections 20%
Media analysis 10%
Major Project 20%
100%
COURSE OBJECTIVES:
  • Be familiar with the basic terms and concepts of evolutionary psychology and behavior genetics
  • Understand the methods by which evolutionary and genetic theories of human behavior are tested empirically
  • Know the assumptions behind evolutionary and behavior genetic approaches to psychology
  • Be able to critically and thoughtfully engage these approaches
  • Know the implications of these approaches for our understanding of human nature
  • Have reflected on the ways a Christian perspective illuminates and interacts with these approaches
Evolutionary psychology (EP) is a relatively new approach to the study of human behavior that is rapidly gaining prominence.  It applies the principles of evolutionary biology to human behavior and mental processes, and argues that we were shaped by natural selection to perceive and respond to the world in ways that were adaptive during our evolutionary history.  Evolutionary psychologists focus on what is universal to humankind.  
 
Behavioral genetics (BG), on the other hand, focus on differences among individuals and between groups.  This relatively old field examines how variations in genes are related to variations in psychological traits, and measures the degree to which variations in these traits are due to genetic or to environmental factors.  
 
Both approaches focus on the role of genes in human characteristics, behavior, and experience.   We will explore their assumptions, methods and implications.  We will examine how research and theorizing in these two areas are influencing our culture, and attempt to steer a course which enables us to celebrate our embodied nature, interconnected within a dynamic creation, without landing on the shoals of biological reductionism and absolute determinism.  We will also examine whether, and if so, how, Christian theology can embrace these approaches to understanding ourselves.


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