Human Biological Variation

3 credits


College of Arts and Science

(cross-leveled with ANTHRO 7540). The study of human biological variation is not an exercise in simply opening our eyes and recording what we see. Every one of us makes sense of the people we interact with by assigning them to meaning-laden categories that are specific to where and when we live. Scientists and their authoritative statements on human biology have played an influential role in reinforcing or re-imagining these categories and meanings. Whether deliberate or not, describing and interpreting human biology has been a powerful “social weapon” and often contributed to entrenched discrimination through a deterministic view of poverty, crime, gender roles or sexuality, and racial or ethnic difference. The initial readings, class discussion, and assignments in this course will require you to consider cross-cultural diversity in racial categories and more universal cognitive structures for category making. Later units explore the history of what scientists think they know about human variation and its repercussions that are most obvious in medicine and law. The following units provide a state of the art view of human global genetic diversity and a series of case studies on adaptation to various environmental conditions such as infectious disease, climate, and diet. Both emphasize how human biodiversity emerged through biological and cultural mechanisms. The final weeks of the course focus on understanding human behaviors including intelligence, athleticism, aggression, and sexuality. Prerequisites: ANTHRO 2050 or ANTHRO 2051 or BIO_SC 1010.