Spring 2008

The Evolution of Human Nature

Listed in: Biology, as BIOL-14


William F. Zimmerman (Section 01)


Recent extensions of the theory of natural selection provide a unified explanatory framework for understanding the evolution of human social behavior and culture. After consideration of the relevant principles of genetics, population biology, developmental biology and animal behavior, the social evolution of animals--especially that of our nearest relatives, the apes--will be discussed and illustrated. With this background, many aspects of human social, psychological and cultural evolution will be considered: the instinct to create and acquire language; aggression and cooperation within and between the sexes; the human mating system; the origin of patriarchy; systems of kinship and inheritance; incest avoidance; rape; reciprocity and exchange; conflict between parents and offspring; homicide; warfare; moral emotions; deceit and self deception; the evolution of laws and justice; and the production and appreciation of art and literature. Three hours of lecture and films per week, and several guest speakers. This is the last time this course will be offered. Second semester. Professor Zimmerman.