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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2009

T C 302 • Origin Science: The Universe and Life - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43725 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
CRD 007A

Course Description

We will consider the successes and limitations of the scientific mode of reasoning by focusing on two subjects of "origin science." The origin of the universe and the origin of life have long been considered from religious and philosophical points of view. In the twentieth century, both became the subject of scientific inquiry. We will examine the history of cosmology to understand the evolution of our world-view and the development of the scientific approach. The current state of understanding of the origin of life will be considered in the same context. Students will learn some physics, astronomy, chemistry, and biology in the context of historical events.

Grading Policy

This course contains a Substantial Writing Component.

There will be two exams, primarily on the scientific content (40%) and three papers (each about 5 pages), which focus on the historical and philosophical issues (50%). The remaining 10% will be based on homework and class discussion. The grade for the papers will include a component for an oral presentation; each student will make one such presentation during the semester. Class discussion will include at least one of the talks in the University Lecture Series.


The primary book for the origin of the Universe will be The Accelerating Universe, by Mario Livio. It will be supplemented by an anthology on cosmology edited by N. Hetherington entitled Cosmology—Historical, Literary, Philosophical, Religious, and Scientific Perspectives.

For the origin of life, we will use a book by Iris Fry called The Emergence of Life on Earth and also a book by R. Shapiro called Origins, A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. This book is out of print, but the Co-op has permission to produce copies. It deals with both the science and the philosophical issues.

I will also supply materials, including articles at the level of Scientific American and occasionally more technical pieces.

About the Professor

Professor Neal Evans studies the formation of new stars from interstellar molecular clouds using radio and infrared telescopes. He regularly teaches undergraduate classes on extraterrestrial life and the origins of the Universe, stars, planets, and life. He survived the sixties at Berkeley, earning both B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics, while dabbling in English literature. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Caltech, he joined the faculty at the University of Texas, where he is currently the Randall Centennial Professor of Astronomy and Chair of the Astronomy Department. Professor Evans plays pool, backpacks with his wife, and listens to blues, jazz, and classical music.


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