“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of Evolution” This bold statement by the Russian population geneticist T. Dobzhansky emphasizes the importance of evolution as the only unifying concept in biology. All the living world around us is the result of more than 3.5 billion years of evolution and most features of microbes, fungi, animals, and plants cannot be fully understood without knowing their history.
Yet, the theory of evolution is more controversial and opposed by more forces in society than any other theory in science. The module will revisit many of these objections and reveal that they are based on reasoning that is incompatible with the principles of science. We will investigate, why it is "Neo-Darwinism" and not "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design" that is currently the best supported paradigm for explaining "adaptation." We will then challenge the power of the neo-Darwinian paradigm by asking how seemingly incompatible phenomena like altruism and excessive male ornamentation can possibly be explained by natural selection. We will also study several key events in evolution such as the origin of life, the origin of sex and its numerous consequences, and the origin of the human species. We will conclude with discussing the importance of the theory of evolution for understanding cultural evolution ("memes") and human health and senescense ("Darwinian medicine").