The Nature of Human Nature, Spring 2001

Students hard at work on the "Mangrove Challenge"! (Sierpe River, SW Costa Rica)

R. Hays Cummins / Chris Myers-- Western Program, Miami University

WCP 222 Natural Systems II Spring 2001

Welcome! It is 1:10:01 PM on Friday, November 27, 2020. Visitors served: 31314 Last Update: Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Where do friendship, romance, racism, sibling rivalry come from? What are the evolutionary implications of sex and gender? Where do our ethics come from? Darwin helped begin a controversy that thrives to this day on the nature of who we are. The controversy was inflamed in 1975 with the publication of E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology, a conceptual marriage of evolution and human behavior. Politically loaded and regarded as anathema to many, the word sociobiology has been stricken from journals and professional usage.

Syllabus NAVIGATION: Table of Contents

Specifc Course Topics, Assignments and Due Dates
Research Projects and Lab Reports
Other Resources
Grading Scale& Assignments
Human Nature Project & Natural Systems Database
Library Resources
Human Nature Research Categories
WWW Search Engines
Enter Research Idea, Proposal Final Report
"In-House" Ecology Database Search Engine
SYLLABUS: Modules 3-Understanding Ourselves
WWW Posting Help Sheet
Newspaper Editorials


  Hays Cummins
222 Boyd Hall, ext 9-1338

Office Hours: MW, 3-5

  Chris Myers
203 Boyd Hall, ext. 9-5664

OfficeHours: M 3-5; T, Th 3:30-4:30

In this course we will critically explore the cherished perceptions we hold of ourselves and the research that has sought to lend new insights into the fundamental basis of human behavior. This will include interpretations of such issues as criminal behavior, honor, sacrifice, parental manipulation, and intelligence.

We will further examine new uses of evolutionary theory to address our place in nature, using a comparative approach that combines careful readings of primary and secondary literature in evolutionary biology, ecology, philosophy, psychology, and religion, with empirical investigations (including fieldwork) of the central tenants of the course.


INTERDISCIPLINARITY: We will mainly draw on subdisciplines in biology (evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology), psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and sociology. We will be following the tracks of a recent, controversial paradigm (sociobiology), to examine how its central tenants are denied, incorporated, and transformed in other disciplines.

WRITING AND QUANTITATIVE REASONING: Writing assignments will include professional writing within a discipline, creative writing, essay, and autobiography. Quantitative components include basic statistics; collecting, presenting, and interpreting data; simple mathematical models in quantitative genetics.


Course Reader (pick up from the Oxford Copy Shop)
Jane Goodall 1990. Through a Window. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 268pp.
Leslie Stevenson and David Haberman. 1998. Ten Theories of Human Nature. Oxford Univ. Press. 239pp.
Robert Wright. 1994. The Moral Animal. Vintage Books, New York, 466pp.


 Assignment Weight
 In-Class Writing and On-line Feedback  15%
 Midterm  15%
 Poster Presentations  20%
 Naturalist Autobiography  15%
 Field Study/Final Exam (on poster topic)  25%
 Participation  10%

Miami has 100s of acres of beautiful Natural Areas which lend themselves to experiencing nature!

(Quicktime movie~4 mb).On the same walk, a garter snake makes her presence known!

ATTENDANCE POLICY: attendance is essential for serious class discussion and learning. Three percent of the final grade will be subtracted for each unexcused absence. All students should submit end-of-the-semester course evaluations. WCP students must complete their Statement of Educational Objectives in order to receive a grade for second-year Western courses.

ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT: All students should carefully read Part V, Sections 501 507 of The Miami Student Handbook which deals with academic misconduct. If you have any questions about this material, please ask your instructor for interpretation.

HUMAN NATURE POSTER PRESENTATION GUIDELINES: Poster sessions are effective for communicating research and are commonly employed in academic meetings of all disciplines. Each team (typically two people) should plan to lead class on the day of the poster session:

  • 15 minutes presenting the poster;
  • 15 minutes leading a discussion on the topic of the poster;
  • 30 minutes on leading a more general discussion of the week's readings, or conducting an activity based upon the readings, or gathering data for your Human Nature Field Project. Each team should critically evaluate at least two original sources drawn from the readings for the week. Allow time to get the sources through interlibrary loan. Poster board can be picked up at the Peer Science Center.

    Poster and discussion sessions will be each Wednesday beginning week 4.

    Your poster should:

    Poster topics should be directly linked to your Human Nature Field Project. The Field Project requirements are shown below:

    The Nature of Human Nature Field Project, 2001

    Student Research Database: Feedback and Peer Review

    Your Human Nature Field Project foundation will develop from your Poster Topic. If you are ready, you can Enter Your Own Research Proposal or Discussion Topic NOW . Or, respond to a particular research submission! Perhaps you have some insights that can help! To do so, browse the works in progress by clicking on the research area of your choice. Then add your response!

    All projects should be well thought-out and scientifcally sound (See the Windate Writing Center's Perspective on Critical Thinking: Detecting Bias) All projects must include graphs and statistical analyses in the WWW postings. You must also include files of your data (excel files are perfect!). Need help with your submission of Images, Graphs, and Data? Download the WWW Posting Help Sheet! Hays will also host a help session on how to post your projects to our WWW database.

    The Nature of Human Nature, 2001- The "4-Step Program" and Class Postings

    Human Nature, Research Submissions

    Search for Submissions Entered....

    Examine Progress Reports .....

    Research Ideas

    in the last 10 days

    Visit the Progress Report Page

    Research Proposals

    Complete Poster

    Final Human Nature Report


    Lectures: Mondays 9-9:50
    Discussions: Wednesdays & Fridays


    **Note: Complete each reading for the Wednesday session of class each week. Lectures are each Monday, 9-9:50am.

    Week 1 (1/9-1/11) THE DEBATE
    Read : Wright, Introduction & Chapter 1
    Sociobiology Timeline!!
    **sign up for poster topic

    Week 2 (1/16-1/18) THE DEBATE II No Monday Lecture--Martin Luther King Holiday

    Read: Wright, Chapters 2 & 3; Goodall Chapter 2

    Week 3 (1/23-1/25) FINDING THE PERFECT MATE(S)
    Read: Wright, Chapters 4 & 5; Goodall Chapter 9
    Chris' Mate Choice Overhead

    Week 4 (1/30-2/1) FINDING THE PERFECT MATE(S) II
    Read: Miller (egg auction) (Reader); Wright, Chapter 6
    Possible Poster Topics: mate choice, homosexuality, rape, beauty
    **Idea for Human/Nature Field Project due (one paragraph-- post to web )

    Read: Wright, Chapters 7 & 8, Goodall Chapter 4 & 11 "The Classification of Life"

    Chris' Kinship/Altruism Selection
    Possible Poster Topics: sibling rivalry, kin selection, parental manipulation

    Read: Wright, Chapters 9 & 10, Goodall Chapter 17 "Chordate Evolution"
    Possible Poster Topics: friendship, loyalty, jealousy, reciprocal altruism

    Week 7 (2/20-2/22) (M/T switch day, Lecture on Tuesday, Poster on Wednesday) YOUR SOCIAL STATUS
    Read: Wright, Chapters 11 & 12; Goodall Chapter 10
    Jane Goodall "Learning from Chimpanzees: A Message Humans Can Understand"
    Possible Poster Topics: hierarchy, dominance & submission, guilt
    ** Complete Proposal for Human/Nature Field Project Due (about 5 pp)

    Week 8 (2/27-3/1) YOUR SOCIAL STATUS II
    Read: Wright, Chapters 13 & 14
    Possible Poster Topics: deception & self-deception, aggression &
    criminal behavior

    Week 9 (3/6-3/8) EVOLUTIONARY ETHICS
    Read: Wright, Chapters 15-18
    Possible Poster Topics: Good & Evil, morality, honor, sacrifice
    ** Online Progress Report for Human/Nature Field Project due


    SPRING BREAK WEEK (3/12-3/19)


    Week 10 (3/20-3/22) MEASURING HEADS
    Read: Measuring Heads; Sociology & Biological Reductionism (Reader)
    Possible Poster Topics: Human variation, mismeasurment by race/class/gender, Cultural Materialism

    Week 11 (3/27-3/29) RELIGION
    Read: Stevenson & Haberman, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4
    Possible Poster Topics: Any topic from readings for this week
    ** Online Progress Report for Human/Nature Field Project due

    Week 12 (4/3-4/5) PHILOSOPHY
    Read:Stevenson & Haberman, Chapters 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
    Possible Poster Topics: Any topic from readings for this week
    ** Nature Autobiography (Go Here for an Example) due and discussed in class


    Primate to Primate: From the Cloud Forests of Monteverde (Quicktime movie)


    Week 13 (4/10-4/12) THE BIOPHILIA HYPOTHESIS
    Read: Biophilia & the Cons. Ethic; New Guineans & Their Natural World; The Truth About Dogs; The Same River; Talk is Cheap (Reader)
    Possible Poster Topics: Any topic from readings for this week
    ** Online Progress Report for Human/Nature Field Project due

    Week 14 (4/17-4/19) THE VALUE OF LIFE
    Read: Values; Human Values Towards Large Mammals; The Face of a Spider (Reader)
    Possible Poster Topics: Any topic from readings for this week
    Visit Senior Project Presentations

    Week 15 (4/24-4/26) FINAL REFLECTIONS
    Read: Biophilia--Unanswered Questions (Reader); Stevenson & Haberman, Chapter 12; Goodall Chapter, 18. All projects must include graphs and statistical analyses in the WWW postings. You must also include files of your data (excel files are perfect!).
    Need help with your submission of Images, Graphs, and Data? Download the Help Sheet! Hays will also host a help session on how to post your projects to our WWW database.

    Week 16--Final Exams--Take Home Exam. Be sure to read the Final Exam Requirements. Final Human/Nature Field Project due in hard copy and posted to the web , with project assessment.

    Here's a further boost in your research for your Poster and Field Project!!

    Library Resources

    Miami Link

    Search the Ecology WWW Database!

    Got Mac OS 9?   Download the Sherlock Plug-In

    Try it, you'll like it!

    This database is an extension of these web pages. From evolution, severe weather, to hurricanes, satellite imagery, computer modeling, climate change (el nino, greenhouse warming), evolution, origins, astronomy, paleontology, earth science resources, tropical ecosystems, biodiversity, marine ecology, herpetology, research feedback--it's all there (over 300,000 web pages!).

    Enter some key words to search by:

    Find pages with of these words and return results.

    Document Summaries Search Phonetically Begins With Searching 

    Search This Entire Web Site--Research Projects, etc.

    Search the Database to Examine Previous Year's Projects, Progress Reports and Postings

    Enter some key words to search by:

    Find pages with of these words and return results.

    Books, Articles, Journals, Library Resources

    The world's largest bookstore!

    Newspaper Editorials
    Atlanta Constitution Boston Globe Chicago Tribune Houston Chronicle Miami Herald
    New York Times San Francisco Chronicle San Jose Mercury-News South China Morning Post The Guardian (London)
    Times of India Washington Post      

    The Library of Congress

    The Current Issue of Scientific American

    Science Magazine

    Other Library Resources

    Miami Link

    Ohio Link Electronic Journals--Amazing Online Resource

    Search the Ohio Link Journal Index

    Earth & Planetary Sciences
    Environmental Sciences
    Physics & Astronomy
    Life Sciences

    Other Cool Library Stuff!

    FIRST SEARCH    Biology/Zoology Science Citation Index Applied Science & Technology    Environment and Ecology
    AGRICCOLA   Geology    GEOBASE Life Sciences   General Periodicals  

    Search Engines-Search Worldwide


    Searching with WebCrawler(TM)


    Spring has started! The Swans are Courting one day late in March! (Quicktime movie)

    Visit the rest of the site!

     Weather & Earth Science Resources

    |Weather & Environmental Sites | Radar & Severe Weather |Earth Science Resources | Astronomy| Global Change |

    Tropical Ecosystem Courses

    Images: Tropical Marine Ecology of the Florida Keys, Everglades, and San Salvador, Bahamas

    Images: Tropical Ecosystems of Costa Rica

    2001 Syllabus:Tropical Ecosystems of Costa Rica

    2001 Syllabus :Tropical Marine Ecology of the Florida Keys, Everglades, & San Salvador, Bahamas

     Tools & Other Stuff

    Necessities: Macintosh Resources | Search Engines | Library Resources | Server Stats |

    Any mail, comments or suggestions? E-mail or Chris Myers

    Thanks for Stopping In!