Tulane University
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


EBIO-3190, 6190






A seminar course exploring the life and contributions of English naturalist Charles R. Darwin (1809-1882). Topics include the family and cultural influences that shaped Darwin's development as a scientist; his educational background; the Beagle voyage; circumstances surrounding the formulation of his selection theory; the acceptance and implications of the theory; and Darwin's other contributions to biology, geology, and natural history.


The course is writing-intensive, and requires submission of at least twenty typewritten pages. Specific instructions and guidelines for written assignments will be provided by the instructor.

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"On the favourable side of the balance, I think that I am superior to the common run of men in noticing things which easily escape attention, and in observing them carefully." - Charles Darwin (Autobiography, ca. 1876)

"In 1859 there began what ultimately may prove to be the greatest revolution in the history of thought. The Origin of Species, published in November of that year, effected an immediate and cataclysmic shift in outlook, casting into doubt ideas that had seemed basic to man's conception of the entire universe." - Michael Ghiselin (The Triumph of the Darwinian Method, 1969).

"The arrival of the Origin changed man's world. ... At once, it was seen to have implications far beyond biology. It struck at beliefs and behaviors from the most trivial to the most profound." - Michael Ruse (The Darwinian Revolution, 1979).

"No one doubts that Charles Darwin played a major role in the development of modern science and - thanks to the controversial nature of his theory - in the growth of modern attitudes and values. But more than any other great scientist, Darwin remains surrounded in controversy." - Peter Bowler (Charles Darwin: The Man and His Influence, 1990).

"Irony and ambiguity shrouded Darwin as no other eminent Victorian. ...a man of clockwork routine...who infused natural history with contingency and chance." - Adrian Desmond and James Moore (Darwin, 1991).

"Whenever Darwinism is the topic, the temperature rises, because more is at stake than just the empirical facts about how life on Earth evolved, or the correct logic of the theory that accounts for those facts. One of the precious things that is at stake is a vision of what it means to ask, and answer, the question 'Why?'" - Daniel Dennett (Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 1995).


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