Subject 136-029 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Between 10-12 weekly tutorials and between 20-24 lectures, normally two per week
Total Time Commitment: 2.5 contact hours/week, 6 additional hours/week. Total of 8.5 hours per week.
Prerequisites: Usually 75 points of first year study across any discipline areas.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability


Dr James Bradley


Subject Overview: This subject explores the origins and the implications of Charles Darwin's revolutionary theory of evolution by means of natural selection. It begins by examining the diverse sources from which the theory was constructed during the late 1830s: the geological data used to challenge Biblical stories of Creation and the Great Flood; the observations of plants and animals that began to suggest common descent; the evolutionary theories that preceded Darwin's own; and the fraught socio-economic context that arguably helped inspire Darwin's vision of a natural world steeped in struggle. The course goes on to examine the reasons why Darwin delayed publishing for more than twenty years and the reception of his theory following the appearance of The Origin of Species in 1859. The course then charts how Darwin's basic theory was refined by successive generations of biologists. It also examines the application of evolutionary theory to questions of politics, warfare, colonialism, economics, as well as race, class and gender, during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The course concludes with a discussion of Darwin's legacy both in terms of the relationship between science and religion, and the emergence of evolutionary approaches to understanding human mind and behaviour.
Objectives: Students who successfully complete this subject will
  • have considerable knowledge of the origins of basic life sciences and an understanding of their social, ethical and cultural contexts;
  • develop an ability to conduct critical historical research, thus developing an understanding of library and other information sources;
  • through the written work develop an historical method of presenting an argument by developing critical analysis through synthesizing, and distinguishing between, a variety of arguments and ideas;
  • gain the necessary critical acumen and store of relevant knowledge to be able to engage confidently and intelligently in contemporary debates around socio-biological issues;
  • have the background in the history of life sciences in which to base further research in the subject.
Assessment: Tutorial assignment of 1500 words 35% (due mid-semester) and a 2500-word essay 65% (due at the end of semester).
Prescribed Texts:
  • Evolution: the history of an idea (P J Bowler) (3rd ed) University of California Press July 2003
Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • develop skills in written and oral communication;
  • conduct independent research;
  • make appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an argument;
  • form defensible judgements based on a critical evaluation of conflicting arguments.

Formerly available as 136-102. Students who have completed 136-102 Darwinism are not eligible to enrol in this subject. For science third year, see HPSC30004 (Darwinism (Science 3)) .

This subject is available for science credit for students enrolled in the BSc (pre-2008 degree only), or a combined BSc course (except for the BA/BSc).

Related Course(s): Diploma in Arts (History and Philosophy of Science
Graduate Diploma in Social Health
Graduate Diploma in Social Health (Health Care History)
Graduate Diploma in Social Health (Medical Anthropology)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History & Philosophy of Science
History && Philosophy of Science Major
History and Philosophy of Science

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