Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection fundamentally changed the way we think about the natural world and our place in it. This course begins with Darwin’s around-the-world journey as a naturalist aboard the Beagle and considers how his visit to the Galápagos Islands influenced the development of his ideas. We then examine what Darwin proposed, what evidence exists for his theory and how our understanding of evolution has changed since Darwin’s lifetime. Discover how the genetic revolution—from Mendel’s work on peas to the sequencing of the human genome—has transformed the way scientists study evolution and led to exciting new discoveries. We also consider how evolutionary science is being used to improve human lives, from the prevention and treatment of disease to efforts to extend the human life span—and perhaps even to direct our own evolutionary future. Includes a tour of the Morian Hall of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
- On the Origin of an Idea: How did an around-the-world journey—and in particular a visit to the Galápagos Islands—lead Darwin toward a new idea about how species change?
- Only a Theory?: What evidence exists for Darwin’s theory of evolution?
- The Modern Synthesis and Beyond: How has the burgeoning field of genetics influenced our understanding of evolution?
- What Darwin Got Wrong: What aspects of modern evolutionary biology would be unexpected to Darwin—and what did he get wrong about evolution?
- Applying Evolution: How can our understanding of evolution be used to improve—and perhaps even extend—our modern lives?
- Gene Editing and the Future of Human Evolution: How might technology be used to influence the future evolution of life on Earth—including the future of Homo sapiens?
- Biosciences at Rice
- Houston Museum of Natural Science
- Rice University Office of Alumni Relations
This course is offered in conjunction with the Rice Alumni Traveling Owls’ December 2019 trip “Galápagos Islands,” which Dr. Solomon is guiding. Traveling Owls tour participation is not required to register for this class. Participants are responsible for arranging their own transportation for the course field trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.