Sex And Death - Course Outline
Sex And Death: The Philosophy of Biology
PHIL2082
This course asks what we know about biology at a general, conceptual level. It looks particularly at evolutionary biology and genetics, and related topics in philosophy of science, history of science and sociology of science.
Specific topics include:
\n- the diversity of life on (and off) Earth
\n- Darwinism and natural selection
\n- environment and inheritance
\n- causation and biological determinism
\n- competing definitions of "gene"
\n- genes and developmental constraints
\n- are genes real?
\n- altruism and group selection
\n- organisms, groups and superorganisms
\n- are species real?

Convenor: Jason Grossman
0425 263 912
jason.grossman@anu.edu.au
office hours: Mondays 2—4 pm, room 112, A.D. Hope Building (to be confirmed)
Course website: http://xeny.net/SexAndDeath

Mode of delivery

lectures and tutorials

Workload

20 hours of lectures and 12 hours of tutorials, plus tutorial readings

Learning outcomes

\n- An understanding of current issues in evolutionary biology and genetics from a conceptual perspective, with applications in scientific and political debates.
\n- An appreciation of some of the methods of philosophy of science.
\n- A habit of educated questioning of scientific orthodoxy.

Course schedule

(See http://xeny.net/SexAndDeath-Syllabus for a slightly more detailed schedule.)
Tuesday 24 February
Introduction: evolution, genetics and maybe some philosophy
PART 1: ORGANISMS
Thursday 26 February
The diversity of life
Tuesday 3 March
Extremophiles
Astrobiology
PART 2: SOME BASIC BIOLOGY
Thursday 5 March
recap on the diversity of life
Cell biology
Tuesday 10 March
Reproduction
Gene transfer
PART 3: SPECIES
Thursday 12 March
Tokens, types and supertypes
Theories of truth
Tuesday 17 March
recap of theories of truth
Scientific realism
Thursday 19 March
no lecture
Tuesday 24 March
The nature of species
Thursday 26 March
Are species real?
Tuesday 31 March
Local optima
Thursday 2 April
no lecture
Tuesday 7 April
Environment and inheritance
PART 4: THE RECEIVED VIEW OF EVOLUTION
Thursday 9 April
Life before Darwin
Darwin
Tuesday 28 April
Natural selection
PART 5: THE GENE'S EYE VIEW OF EVOLUTION
Tuesday 5 May
Units of selection
Replicators and interactors
The selfish gene
Thursday 7 May
The active germ-line replicator (reading by Richard Dawkins)
PART 6: THE ORGANISM STRIKES BACK
Tuesday 12 May
Philosophers' introduction to the history of genetics
Are genes real? (reading by Alex Comfort)
Thursday 14 May
Are genes active germ line replicators?
Evolutionary vs molecular genes
Tuesday 19 May
Are genes difference makers?
Thursday 21 May
The developmental systems theory
PART 7: ORGANISMS, GROUPS, AND SUPERORGANISMS
Tuesday 26 May
Interactors
Altruism
Group selection

Assessment details

1. Three 200-word short assignments each worth 10% of the overall mark for the course
on topics to be handed out in class
assessment criteria as at http://arts.anu.edu.au/sss/Assessment_Criteria.pdf
due on Tuesday 24 March, Tuesday 7 April and Tuesday 28 April
2. One colouring-in assignment worth 10% of the overall mark for the course
assessment criteria:
due on Tuesday 10 March
3. 2,000-word essay worth 40% of the overall mark for the course
on a choice of topics selected from those handed out in class
assessment criteria as at http://arts.anu.edu.au/sss/Assessment_Criteria.pdf
due on Thursday 28 May
4. Participation in tutorials and on the web discussion board, worth 20% of the overall mark for the course, assessed by the tutor

Penalties and extensions

See http://cass.anu.edu.au/students/rules/late_submission.php

Prescribed text

"Sex And Death" by Kim Sterelney and Paul Griffiths (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1999), available from the Co-Op Bookshop

Proscribed text

none

Generic skills

This course aims to develop the generic skills of critical thinking, verbal discussion and iconoclasm.
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General information

For ANU policy and procedures regarding academic honesty, and plagiarism and appeals, please visit http://cass.anu.edu.au/students/rules/index.php
For assistance with assignment writing and completion, visit the Academic Skills and Learning Centre at https://academicskills.anu.edu.au, Lower Ground Floor, Pauline Griffin Building (Building no. 11).
ANU Library: See http://library.anu.edu.au.
ANU Councilling Centre: The ANU offers a free and confidential counselling service to all current ANU students and staff. See http://www.anu.edu.au/counsel.
ANUSA: The Australian National University Students' Association (ANUSA) is the representative body of undergraduate students on campus. If you're an undergraduate student at ANU, then you're an ANUSA member. ANUSA consists of a number of elected students. They present student issues to the University Council, to Faculty Boards and on other official committees. ANUSA also represents student issues outside the campus, organises social events and provides some student services which are not otherwise provided by the University. See http://sa.anu.edu.au.