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Legacy of Darwin

Jason Moore,

Core: Humanities

Arguably the most important scientific discovery of the last 200 years was that of evolution, the credit for which most often falls squarely on the shoulders of Charles Darwin. After 150 years of dedicated research evolution is now one of the, if not the most thoroughly tested and reliably demonstrated of scientific facts. The insights provided by the development of this discovery have not only revolutionized our understanding of biology and medicine, but have also transformed many other subject areas, including linguistics, computer science, information science, music and art. It is also the reason that you need a new flu jab every year...

In this course we will learn what evolution is, the historical context behind the development of the idea (and the preceding ideas on which Darwin built his work), and how our understanding of evolution has developed since the first edition of the "Origin." We will then take this background of evolution and examine the history of some of the advances that have come about courtesy of evolutionary principles, how these ideas that developed in biology have been so successfully co-opted into other disciplines, and the causes behind the controversies that evolutionary thinking has sometimes provoked. Finally, we will look at some of the most recent developments of evolutionary biology and how they have impacted, and will continue to impact modern society.




Students must attend all classes and participate actively. Students will be expected to keep up with the class readings and contribute to every in-class discussion.

Students will write four short and one long essay discussing different aspects of the development of evolutionary ideas through the last 200 years.

At the end of the semester, students will give a short presentation on how evolutionary ideas have been applied to a modern field outside of biology, and the advances that has produced.


Dr. Moore received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, where he studied paleontology. He studies how vertebrate ecosystems change through time in response to climate, disaster, or biological perturbation. He is fascinated by the power and simplicity of the evolutionary process that underpins not only his research, but everything that we can observe about living systems on Earth and beyond.