Darwinism: history of a very big idea

Subject HPSC20001 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

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

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 1 x 1-hr online lecture per week; 11 x 2hr workshops from week 2-week 12
Total Time Commitment:

An average of 8.5 hours each week





Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


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:

Ideas don't come much bigger than Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection. Few books have had as large an impact as On the Origin of Species, published in 1859. In this subject we will not only explore the history of the idea of evolution before and after Darwin, we will analyse the impact his theory has had upon our world, exploring how Darwin and his followers not only transformed our understanding of the origins and development of life, but also our views of race, gender and religion. After Darwin, disciplines as diverse as anthropology, biology and philosophy would never be the same again.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

  • form and express a clear and sophisticated opinion about Darwin and Darwinism both to experts and to interested outsiders
  • extend learning beyond subject materials, enhancing independent research skills, and thus gaining valuable tools for life-learning
  • demonstrate knowledge and experience that address significant aspects of the University‚Äôs graduate attributes, especially academic excellence, and knowledge across disciplines


Portfolio based upon work undertaken during weekly workshops, as well as out of class engagement with social media and other online forums, 2000 words, 50% (due end of teaching); reflective review essay, 2000 words, 50% (due during the examination period).

Hurdle requirement: students must attend a minimum of 75% of workshops in order to pass this subject. Regular participation in workshops is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day; after five working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

Subject readings will be available online

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:
  • Critical and analytical (including the ability to assess arguments about Darwinism and its impacts
  • Communication (written work, through assessments, and oral presentations during the workshops)
  • Engagement (with real world ideas and problems)
  • Teamwork / Collaboration (during workshops)
  • Cultural and Social Alignment of values (through understanding the impact of Darwinism on society and culture)
Links to further information: http://hps.unimelb.edu.au/

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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