Spring 2013: Honors Special Topic

Evolution of Evolution Society and the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection (BIOL 22040)

Leann Kanda
Phone: (607) 274-3986
E-mail: lkanda@ithaca.edu
Office: 159 Ctr for Natural Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14850

MWF 10-10:50

CNS 1B (formerly CNS 118)

Office Hours:

I have an open door policy.  Please feel free to stop by any time.  I will offer Monday 1-4 and Tuesday 10-1 as formal office hours, but we can always arrange meetings at other times.  If I am not in the office, look first in my lab room down the hall (CNS 182).  Otherwise I try to leave little notes as to where or when I might be found.                                          

Required Texts:        

     Sumner, M.  2010.  The evolution of everything: How selection shapes culture, commerce, and nature.  Sausalito: PoliPointPress.

      Scott, E. 2009. Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction. 2nd edition. U California Press.

Course readings: These will be made available electronically on Sakai.  Please note that discussions revolve around the readings so printing plus having notes for in-class are a good idea.  Tablet/iPad/kindle is fine for in-class, but regular laptops are NOT.

Course Website: This course is on Sakai.  We will use Sakai to share resources.  Part of your classwork will be to post discussions on each topic. 

Course Description:

We will address both the theory of evolution by natural selection as an explanation of the natural world and as a concept that has shaped and been shaped by society.  Students will learn about what the theory entails, and a brief history of the social reactions to the concept, including the long-standing conflict with western religion.  We will explore how our understanding of evolution has, and has not, itself evolved from Darwin's formulations. Finally, the application of evolutionary theory in modern society will be considered, from its relevance to racism to its role in the internet.  

Learning Objectives: 

The school of Humanities and Sciences has identified three main learning objectives for science general education courses.  This course addresses two of these three objectives.  By the end of this course,

a) Students will develop an understanding of some basic scientific principles

specifically the theory of evolution by natural selection and related concepts in evolutionary thought.

b) Students will develop an appreciation for the relevance of science to society, as well as some comprehension of the interaction of humans and the natural and physical world

specifically in the history and modern impact of the theory of evolution as a social force, and the ongoing phenomenon of evolution in biological and cultural realms.

Each of these learning objectives will be assessed through demonstrated comprehension in lecture discussions, online comments, and the address of evolutionary theory and society in the final paper.


Students are expected to attend all lectures with the exception of health emergencies, religious holidays, court appearances, or college-authorized extracurricular events. This is a small, interactive class; participation is very important.  If you are not going to be able to attend a class, please have the courtesy to inform me.  Chronic tardiness or absence will affect your grade.    

Evaluation: Your grade will be based on participation, several short essays, and the development of a term paper.

Essays:  There will be five short essays.


Preparation:  We will prepare for each week by posting comments on the Sakai discussion board.  Each week I expect everyone to post at least one thoughtful comment or question that will forward our subsequent discussions.  Several times through the term, preparation will include asking you to locate current news items related to the current topic.

Leading:  Many discussions over the term will be spearheaded by a team of two students.  You will be responsible for leading discussion one class.  Leading discussion means being thoroughly versed in the readings, doing extra background research, and being prepared with guiding questions and comments to stimulate discussion.  

Discussion:  Everyone is expected to engage during discussions.  {This means you really, really need to read and think about the readings ahead of time!}  Your participation grade for discussion will be based upon the cumulative contribution you make over the term.  Presence alone will not give you a satisfactory participation grade. 

Field Trip:  We will be making a field trip to the local Museum of the Earth. This will be outside of regular class meeting time; if you are unable to participate in the trip as scheduled, we will arrange for you to go on your own time.

Peer-review:  You will review and critique the rough draft of the final paper for two of your fellow students.


The term paper will be developed over the course.  You will submit a draft to receive peer and instructor feedback to improve your final submission.


Due dates:  All assignments are due at the appointed day and time.

There will be no extra-credit assignments in this course.

Course Evaluation:

Student input is highly valued and is important to maintain high quality instruction.  As a department, we have moved to online course evaluations.  At the end of the term, you will be provided with the website link. The evaluation will be submitted to the Department Assistant.

Academic Conduct:

Familiarize yourself with the college's policies on academic conduct (http://www.ithaca.edu/judicialaffairs/).  Please make yourself familiar with plagiarism as it is defined in the Student Handbook.  Academic dishonesty can result in a grade of zero on an assignment or test and/or judicial referral.


College is an extremely stressful time, with both academic and personal struggles.  Please remember that help is always available.  Among other resources, Ithaca College provides a Counseling Center to support the academic success of students. The Counseling Center provides cost-free services to help you manage personal challenges that threaten your well-being.

Students with Disabilities:

Students that need special accommodations should contact the Office of Academic Support Services for Students with Disabilities, 322A Smiddy Hall (274-1005, TDD - 274-7319). 

Visit the Biology home page.
Visit the Ithaca College home page.

Page maintained and updated by Nancy Pierce.
Last updated 2/2/2013