Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Human Evolution

Offered at: Pratt Logo

Note: For the time being I am removing this course from my roster of courses offered; although I have enjoyed teaching this class and I believe it offers students some valuable content, I have found that it is simply too hard to stay abreast of the literature in this field with my current teaching and research responsibilities.

Course Description:
In this course we will investigate how evolution has shaped the human species, with a particular emphasis on the dialogue between biological and cultural evolution. We’ll consider the connection between our evolutionary origins and contemporary civilization by analyzing modern art, design, and architecture in light of human evolutionary history. Throughout the semester you will develop an informed perspective for assessing the degree to which human evolutionary history exerts an influence on contemporary culture.

Who Might Be Interested In This Course?
This course provides an overview of what scientific investigation has revealed about the origins of the human species. If you are curious about how we emerged to become the dominant, widespread species of the current era, this course will allow you to understand how our genetic makeup has coevolved with our cultural technologies to make us unique among our fellow animals. If you have already taken Anthropology and are interested in learning more about our genetic evolution, Human Evolution provides an expanded perspective on how our genes can be used to understand our evolutionary history. The course also provides an alternative framework for understanding what drives cultural change, which may be of particular interest to majors in Critical and Visual Studies. There is no final exam in this course, but I do give weekly quizzes to make sure that you understand the readings and concepts taught in previous weeks. Your main opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of key concepts is on the Midterm Paper and Final Project (guidelines posted below). I also ask that students engage in regular discussions, often in small groups, so you should be prepared to be actively involved during class sessions. Human Evolution requires a significant amount of reading (see the syllabus below for details), so you should be prepared to allocate at least four hours a week to reading for this course. If you are concerned about making sure you fulfill your Math & Science requirement, one nice thing about this course is that it awards a lot of credit for work done within the class sessions themselves; if you regularly attend classes, it is difficult to fail this course.

What Background Should I Have Before I Take This Course?
This course assumes that you have a basic understanding of evolutionary biology and strong understanding of high school-level biology. It is advised (though not required) that you take MSCI-260 (Evolution) before taking this course.

Important Course Materials:

MSCI-361 (Human Evolution) Course Syllabus
MSCI-361 (Human Evolution) Midterm Paper Guidelines
MSCI-361 (Human Evolution) Final Project Guidelines

You can check out exemplary Midterm Papers and Final Projects on the Human Evolution student work page.