The Survival of the Whitest: Two Centuries of Racism and Evolutionary Theory
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|Course Dates||Weeks||Meeting Times||Status||Instructor(s)||CRN|
|July 15, 2013 - July 26, 2013||2||M-F 9A-11:50A||Waitlisted||Magnus Hansen||10480|
“It’s just human nature…” is a common argument in politics used to support statements about everything from financial policy to criminal justice or family values. Throughout history such notions about human nature have been used to argue in favor of racial segregation, genocide, forced sterilization of the poor and those with heritable diseases, and for both laissez-faire capitalism, for communism and even for anarchism.
But what does Evolutionary Theory have to say about human nature, if anything? Is it valid to base political arguments on biology? Is it at all possible to make a political argument without basing it in ideas about human nature? And can one make an argument about human biology that doesn’t have political ramifications?
In this course you will examine the ways in which Evolutionary Theory has been used and abused to provide a basis for ideologies about human nature. We will look at political and social ideologies based on Darwinism in Victorian England, early 20th century US eugenics policies and contemporary uses of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology for political purposes. And we will critique the ways these ideologies use evolutionary theory for political ends.
The course provides a critical introduction to evolutionary theory and related ideologies and concepts: Social Darwinism, Eugenics, Scientific Racism, Biological reductionism and the nature/nurture debate. The course aims at developing your critical scientific reasoning by introducing you to the complex theoretical framework of evolutionary theory and by giving you the tools to critically evaluate whether applications of this framework outside of science are supported by the theory. It will also introduce you to anthropological ways of thinking about the relations between nature and culture. How is it that humans are both restricted by biology yet capable of developing highly variable cultures with little in common? This critical basis will provide a background for further studies in biology, anthropology, psychology and political sciences. And the critical reasoning skills that you will develop will be an important tool in any pursuits of higher learning.