Week 2, Discussion 2: What is science and scientific theory?

Week 2, Discussion 2: What is science and scientific theory?
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Be sure to review (or read, if you haven’t already) Module 1 of the textbook called, “Anthropology, Science, and Storytelling” and the other Week 2 materials before completing this discussion.

First, answer the following: What is science and how does it differ from myth? How do you think it differs from belief? What are scientific theories and why are they taken seriously even when the hypothesis remains open to testing?

Second, do you consider evolution to be a theory, belief, or fact? Explain your answer.

Your post must be written in your own words. Remember to name your sources. If you summarize something from the textbook, you can say, “according to our textbook.” However, if you use quotes from the textbook or any other source, be sure to put them in quotation marks, state where they are from, and include the page number.

Week 2: Evolution and Anthropology
On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or, The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life

This week we explore evolution and how it relates to anthropology. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) is arguably the most important scientific work to date. As described in our text and the film assigned for this week, Darwin outlined the theory of evolution. While Darwin was not completely alone in his departure from previous understandings of the natural world, the publication of his book represents a shift in thinking that answered some questions while opening the door for new questions and scientific exploration. The theory of evolution remains, to date, the most well-supported and robust scientific explanation of biological variation and change.

This theory has had a long history of opposition and misconception as well. For most of this week, we are focused on gaining a basic understanding of how evolution works so that we can understand more about human biology – obviously an important aspect of what it means to be human! (It never ceases to amaze me how little of our biological experience even registers for most of us -myself included- as we go about our daily lives.) The film I have assigned for this week (see below) tells Darwin’s story while also explaining some of his main concepts. I always find that I understand a theory better if I know a bit of the history behind it, and I hope you find it helpful for you as well. Also please watch the mini-lecture video on misconceptions of Evolutionary Theory. I discuss common misunderstandings about the theory which will be extremely important for your overall understanding of it. (These are also likely to come up on the midterm…) We will also touch on some of the social debates about evolution and try to understand them from a cultural anthropology perspective in one of our discussions.

Here are some additional resources, beyond what is assigned. You can use these to supplement the materials as you see fit. To explore Evolutionary Theory in a different presentation format than our textbook, check out Evolution 101 by Understanding Evolution (Links to an external site.). To understand more about genetics, feel free to check out this excellent page on Mendel and Inheritance (Links to an external site.) by following the link. Both of these are excellent resources to supplement your understanding of the scientific concepts for this week. Also, all of Darwin’s publications, letters, and manuscripts are all freely available at Darwin Online (Links to an external site.).

Origin of Species
Week 2 Assigned Reading:
Chapter 2 of the textbook

[Review Module 1 of the textbook (“Anthropology, Science, and Storytelling”) if you haven’t already. This will help with our second discussion this week.]

Week 2 Assigned Film:
Watch the BBC documentary, Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life (2009): https://ez.sccd.ctc.edu:443/login?url=http://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=151365&xtid=40443 (Links to an external site.)

The film is accessible through our library (click the link). You’ll be required to login with your name and ID number. You should only have one login page.

Speaking of the film… The library has changed the login page for films, so if you tried to access the film, you probably could not. I have updated the link, so it should work for you now. Here is the new link as well: https://ez.sccd.ctc.edu:443/login?url=http://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=151365&xtid=40443

Week 2 Mini-Lecture:
After exploring the theory of evolution and it’s major concepts, please watch this brief lecture on common misconceptions of the theory.
http://youtu.be/2ReSnPLGVA0 (Links to an external site.)

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