Anthropology 121T Syllabus – Spring Quarter 2005

Genetics, natural selection, and human evolution

Professor John Tooby


Time: Wednesday 5:00 -  7:50PM   Lecture Location: Buchanan 1910      Enrollment Codes: 47720         

Date/time of Midterm:  Wed May 4, class time Date/time of Final: Friday, June 10: 4:00 – 7:00 Buchanan 1910

Tooby Office hours: Tue 4:00 - 5:00PM in HSSB 1010 & Wed 7:50 - 8:20PM Buchanan 1910 (until June 2)

Office (Tooby):  HSSB 1010 Tooby Mailbox: HSSB Second Floor Mail Room  Teaching Fellow: Lili Farinpour

Teaching Fellow email: TF Office Hours: M&W 11-12:30PM in HSSB 2060   

Course Web Page: Please consult this web page periodically.

Overview: Beneath the familiar surface of human life lies the hidden world of genes and their effects.  We can learn a great deal about ourselves by studying the history of genetic change from the first appearance of life on earth to the union of sperm and egg that created each of us.  Anthropology 121T is an introductory survey of the nature and role of genes in evolution, in natural selection, in sexual reproduction, in living cells, in molecular machinery, in human development, in psychology, in structuring the universal adaptive design of brain and body, and in the creation of similarities and differences between individuals, groups, and species.  Emphasis is placed on how the concept of adaptive function can illuminate basic genetics, how genes operate as the blueprints for universal human evolved design, on understanding how genes and environments interact to cause the traits of organisms, and how sexual reproduction plays a central role in organizing genetic phenomena and orchestrating our species' design.  The course will address such questions as: What are genes?  Why did genes come into existence?  What is sex?  Why do some species reproduce sexually, fusing genes from two parents, while others reproduce asexually?  Why are there two sexes in humans?  Why are there equal numbers of males and females?  Why do humans and other animals grow old and die?  How do genes influence behavior? How does genetic kinship shape family relationships?  Why is incest harmful? Why are people from around the world all so physically similar?  This course will explain how genetic forces are responsible for many features of human life and evolution that we take for granted.

Requirements: There will be a midterm and a final examination.  The final examination is cumulative, covering the entire course.  The examinations will cover everything: the lectures, the readings, the computer demonstrations, etc.  The midterm is designed so that it can only help: If you do worse on the midterm than on the final examination, the midterm will not be counted, and your grade will be based solely on your performance on the final examination.  We are interested in how much you have learned by the end of the class, not on whether you learned it by the midterm.  Also, the course is not graded on the curve: one person’s grade is not gained at the expense of others.  There will be three required computer tutorials, self-paced but starting in the fourth week.  Bring Par forms and no. 2 pencils to the midterm and the final.  They are available at the UCSB bookstore.

Prerequisites:  No official prerequisites.  Students who have no previous knowledge of genetics can perform well in this course, although some general familiarity with high school biology or basic evolutionary concepts will make the course considerably easier.

What to expect and how to study:  (1) Come to lecture.  (2) Read each chapter for the overall logic of each argument, not the details.  The purpose of this course is to teach you a series of ways of thinking, derived from the logic of modern Darwinism, which will you allow you to understand the nature of living things, the logic of the design of all organisms, including humans, and the framework within which they acquired their present designs.  Because of this, the central emphasis of the course is conceptual.  You will do well on the exams if you understand the concepts and logical arguments concerning each topic (reproduction, sex, sex differences, aging, etc.), without having to memorize every detail in the readings.  Although there is a fair amount of reading, you need only be concerned that you understand the arguments given (and the central facts and examples relevant to the arguments), rather than the minutiae.  This is particularly true of the Klug/Cummings text: read this for the main points only, and do not be afraid to skim. The key to the course is attending the lectures.  The best guide to the course content is given in lectures, and many topics are only covered in lectures.  You will not do well if you do not come to class regularly.  A.S. Notes: There is an A.S. note-taker in the class, to allow you to listen, rather than be distracted by taking your own notes.  However, experience shows that these notes work as a reminder and study tool only if you have been to the lecture, and cannot substitute for having been to class. The AS Notes materials are not reviewed by the instructor.

         Required Reading:

(1) The selfish gene / Dawkins, Richard Oxford University Press, 1989.

(2) Sex, evolution, and behavior / Martin Daly, Margo Wilson.  2nd ed. Boston: Prindle Weber & Schmidt, c1983.

(3) Concepts of Genetics, 7th ed. / William S. Klug & M.R. Cummings.  Prentice Hall, c2002.

(4) Why We Get Sick : The New Science of Darwinian Medicine / R. Nesse & George C. Williams  Vintage, c1996

         By week:

Readings for Week 1: The selfish gene. pp. 1 - 65; Daly & Wilson chs. 1 - 2; Nesse ch. 1 - 2

Readings for Week 2: The selfish gene. pp. 66-122; Daly & Wilson chs. 3 - 4; Nesse ch. 3 – 4;

Readings for Week 3: The selfish gene. pp. 123 - 165; Klug ch. 1 (main points only); Nesse ch. 5;

Readings for Week 4:  Daly & Wilson chs. 5 - 6; Klug  ch. 2 (main points only); Nesse ch. 6

Readings for Week 5: Daly & Wilson chs. 7 - 8; Klug  ch. 3 & 4 (main points only); Nesse ch. 7

         Midterm: Wednesday, May 4 Class time: Midterm covers weeks 1 - 5

Readings for Week 6: Daly & Wilson 9 - 10; Klug  ch. 5 –7 (main points only); Nesse ch. 8

tutorials should be available at the MCL by now

Readings for Week 7: Daly & Wilson 11 - 12; Klug  chs. 8- 10  (main points only); Nesse ch. 9-10

Readings for Week 8: The selfish gene. pp. 166 to 201; Klug  chs. 11 - 13 (main points only); Nesse ch. 11-12

Readings for Week 9: The selfish gene. pp. 202 - 233; Klug  ch. 14 –15 (main points only); Nesse ch. 13-14

Readings for Week 10: The selfish gene. pp. 234 - 266; Klug  ch. 25 & 26 (main points only); Nesse ch. 15   

Don’t stress over the Klug & Cummings Concepts of Genetics book: You only need to skim and review the reading assignments in the Klug book to extract the most basic ideas of genetics: genes are DNA, genes are linear arrays on chromosomes, proteins are linear arrays of amino acids, 1 gene makes 1 protein, ribosomes manufacture proteins, and so on.  Use the section headings, etc. for guidance, and do not worry about the technical details.  None of the chemistry in the book will be required on the exams.

Experiments: There will also be some experiments – class projects, that, if you participate in them, will help you understand some of the key ideas of the course, and how evolutionary forces really do express themselves in our behavior.  They will be anonymous questionnaires.  These experiments will explore the relationship between our human-universal genetic system and our mental machinery.  Those students who, for any reason, do not wish to participate may substitute a 1 page paper instead on a study topic to be assigned, due on the last day of classes.

Computer Demonstrations at the MCL:  There are three computer program demonstrations that you ought to go and use at the MCL, if you haven’t already experienced them in another class.  They will be installed and available by the end of the fourth week of class.  It shouldn’t take more than 2 hours or so of interacting with them to get the full educational benefit.  They are not graded, but will make a large difference in how well you understand the course and perform on the exam.


Recommended reading for advanced students:


Developmental Biology, 7th Ed.  Scott F. Gilbert  Sinauer Associates; 2003

Genes VIII  Benjamin Lewin  Prentice Hall 2003

Evolution. Mark Ridley  Blackwell Publishers; 3rd edition 2003 

Evolution (Oxford Readers) Mark Ridley / Oxford University Press; 2nd edition 2004

Adaptation  Michael R. Rose, George V. Lauder / Academic Press; 1st ed. 1996

Evolutionary Games and Population Dynamics / Josef Hofbauer, Karl Sigmund 1998 Cambridge Univ. Press 1998

Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution  P.J. Richerson & R.Boyd / Univ. of Chicago 2004


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