Subject HPSC20001 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

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

This subject is not offered in 2011.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 3 (1x2 hour lecture and 1x 1 hour tutorial per week)
Total Time Commitment: An average of 8.5 hours each week
Prerequisites: None.
Corequisites: None.
Recommended Background Knowledge: Knowledge gained in at least 75 points of first year study.
Non Allowed Subjects: Students who have completed 'Darwinism under the codes 136-029, 136-329 or 672-315 are not permitted to enrol in this subject. Students who have completed 'Darwinism' under the code HPSC30004 are not permitted to enrol in this subject.
Core Participation Requirements: For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website: http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/
Subject Overview:

This subject will provide students with an exciting and stimulating introduction to the origins and implications of Charles Darwin's revolutionary theory of evolution by means of natural selection. We begin by exploring the pre-Darwinian cosmos, a place where an omnipotent God designed and ordained the natural world, and where nature was viewed through the lens of the Bible. But during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries this view was challenged by scientists and philosophers. We explore the impact of these ideas, particularly: the new geology that challenged the 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. Particular emphasis is placed upon Darwin's life, and the influence of society and culture upon his world-view. Here we explore the voyage of the Beagle as a watershed in Darwin's life and thinking. For five years he crisscrossed the oceans and circumnavigated the world, collecting specimens and observing nature. His experiences upon the voyage led him to question contemporary approaches to the origins of species, and to develop his own theory of evolution. But for many years he not make his views public, only admitting them to a close circle of friends, until a letter from Alfred Wallace prompted him hurriedly to publish Origin of Species in 1859. Why did Darwin delay? We discuss this issue in detail. The appearance of Origin caused a sensation, and we explore the impact of his work and the vigorous debates that surrounded it as a case study in the creation of scientific legitimacy and authority. We then chart how his theory was challenged and refined by generations of biologists, particularly Mendelian genetics. But equally important to the course is the application of evolutionary theory to the huge questions of religion, politics, warfare, colonialism, economics, as well as race, class and gender, from the late nineteenth until our own day. Explorations of Social Darwinism and Eugenics are fundamental aspects of this course, as is the issue of Darwinism’.s difficult relationship with god. We conclude 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 the human mind and behaviour.


Upon successful completion of this subject, students are expected to possess:

  • an effective grasp of the history and historiography (i.e. how historians have written about over time) of Darwin and evolutionary theory.
  • a sound critical ability, enabling the effective analysis and synthesis of the historiography.
  • the ability to express a clear and sophisticated opinion about Darwin and Darwinism both to experts and to interested outsiders. and,
  • the ability to undertake independent research and reading within the field, including the use of library resources (e.g. finding a book in the open stacks, or using Supersearch), and other online resources.
Assessment: Tutorial assignment of 1500 words 35% (due mid-semester) and a 2500-word essay 65% (due at the end of semester). This subject has a minimum hurdle requirement of 75% tutorial attendance. Regular participation in tutorials is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.
Prescribed Texts:
  • Janet Browne, Darwin’s Origin of Species: A Biography (New York: Grove Press, 2008)
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.
Links to further information: http://www.pasi.unimelb.edu.au/hps/
Notes: This subject is available for 2nd year science credit for students enrolled in the BSc (pre-2008 degree only), or a combined BSc course (except for the BA/BSc). For science third year, see HPSC30008 (Darwinism (Science 3). HPSC30008 is not available as Breadth and is for pre 2008 science 3rd year only. See HPS major at: https://handbook.unimelb.edu.au/view/2010/755-BB
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science Major
Science credit subjects* for pre-2008 BSc, BASc and combined degree science courses
Related Breadth Track(s): Understanding Nature
Science and its Margins

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