The theory of evolution by natural selection is the underlying theme that unites
all fields of biology. In this course we will cover the basic principles of evolution,
explore ways in which evolutionary theory can be applied to human biology and
behavior, and consider how evolutionary thinking might guide the development of
social policy. We will consider questions such as these:
• Why are women and men different?
• Which is more egalitarian: monogamy or polygamy?
• Why do step-parents and step-children often have more conflicted relationships
than biological parents and biological children?
• When do people cooperate, when are they selfish, and why?
• What can we do to reduce the rate of spousal abuse and homicide?
My goal is to help students learn selection thinking; that is, to help them learn to
reason like evolutionary biologists. I hope to help students pose questions,
formulate hypotheses, design experiments, and critically evaluate the quality of
evidence. After taking this course, students will be able to:
• Apply evolutionary theory to human interactions, especially those involving
social conflict, and make predictions about how the divergent interests of the
parties involved will affect their behavior.
• Design observational studies and experiments to test these predictions.
• Interpret and critically evaluate graphs and tables showing data on behavioral
patterns in humans and animals.
• Provide evolutionary interpretations of various human social institutions, such
as laws, wills, and social policies.
Time & Place
H A&S 221 B: T Th 10:30-12:20 in MGH 248
H A&S 221 C: T Th 12:30-2:20 in MGH 242
Jon C. Herron
Phone: (206) 547-6330
Office Hours: To be announced or by appointment
Kincaid Hall Room 442
Office Hours: Tuesday 3-4pm, or by appointment