“Darwin and The Politics of Evolution”
Professor David Prindle
Purpose of the Course
Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, generally shortened to The Origin of Species, is one of the two or three most influential science books ever published. But unlike the case with other science books, The Origin, published in 1859, is also of profound political importance. Part of this political importance—the implications of Darwin's theory for religious explanations of the diversity of life—is well understood by all socially-aware citizens. But there is much less awareness of the political implications of controversies within the science of evolutionary biology founded by Darwin.
In this class I will explicate and explore both the "outside" and "inside" political implications of the science launched by the Origin, and ask the students to evaluate them.
1) Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, first edition,
(Barnes and Noble Classics, 2004) [first published 1859]
2) Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True (Viking, 2009)
3) Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial, second edition, (InterVarsity Press, 1993)
4) David Prindle, Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution (Prometheus Books,
5) A package of readings, available online.
There are three assignments due in this class. I may make some minor adjustments in a few of the final grades to reflect excellent class participation, but in general, each of the three assignments counts one-third of the final grade.
For your three assignments, you may choose to write two essays and take one test, or take two tests and write one essay. It is up to you to decide how you mix the tests and essays, and in what order you choose to do them. You may not, however, "load up" by turning in an essay at the same time that you take a test, thus getting two‑thirds of the assignments out of the way on the same day.
At the end of the semester, an average of 92.3 or higher will earn an "A,", 90 to 92 will earn an “A-,” 88 to 89.7 will earn a “B+,” 82.3 to 87.7 will earn a "B," 80 to 82 will earn a "B-," 78 to 79.7 will earn a "C+," 62.3 to 77.7 will earn a "C," 60 to 62 will earn a "C-," and 50 to 59.7 will earn a "D." People who have missed one or more of the three assignments, or who average below 50, will receive an “F.”
Student are able to enroll in this class through two channels. First, Government majors who are eligible for upper-division standing may enroll through the usual departmental processes. Second, students who are participating in the Thomas Jefferson Center’s “great books” program (officially, CTI in the catalogue), may enroll in the class through that program.