HPCC193 Section 9

Spring 2007


Page last updated: Friday, 29 December 2006


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Course title:  Humans in Nature: A 2.6 Million Year Perspective


Prerequisite: Honors Program


Course Description: Paleoanthropological evidence suggests that about 2.6 millions years ago human ancestors began making and using stone tools as part of their interactions with the environment. Although humans are not unique in terms of using tools, the ensuing changes in the lives of our technologically assisted ancestors laid the groundwork for a new form of non-genetically transmitted behaviors - culture. The seminar discusses a variety of views on whether human culture makes us an unique species that is set apart from the "natural world" or whether culture is best viewed as one form of adaptation in which our species has excelled, but not fundamentally different from any other form of adaptive specialization in the "natural world." Emphasis is placed on the conceptual and methodological challenges involved in first, creating interpretations from the archaeological record about what the behaviors of our ancestors were, and second, in evaluating what these reconstructed behaviors suggest about contemporary issues of human interactions with our environment.


Instructor: Lawrence Todd (http://www.humanpaleo.org/Todd.htm/)

                Email: lctodd@lamar.colostate.edu  (best way to contact me)

                Phone: 491-5110

                Office: General Services Building Room 346 or Morgan Library 3rd Floor East

                Office Hours:  Tuesday: 4:00-5:00 PM      Wednesday 3:00-4:00 PM




Kennedy, D. (2006).  Science Magazine's State of the Planet 2006-2007. Island Press  ISBN:1597260622

Klein, R.G. and B. Edgar (2002). The Dawn of Human Culture. John Wiley and Sons ISBN 0471252522

Diamond, J.(2004). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Viking ISBN: 0670033375


Additional Class Material: Occasional videos and outside readings. Journal articles (Science and Nature)  available as on-line text though Morgan Library


Course Objectives: Students will develop an appreciation of multiple views of human’s place in the world. The readings and discussion will help to foster a sense of the long-term interactions of humans and the environments. Students will gain an understanding of the differences between seeing  humans as an unique species as opposed to seeing humans as being “just another unique species.” An emphasis of the class will be the development of an appreciation of a variety of perception about the role that humans play in natural systems and on our rights and responsibilities as a species.


Course Topics/Weekly Schedule (each topic will be covered during a 2-week period):

Topic 1: Why are we everywhere?

Topic 2:  What is the Human Condition?

Topic 3: Humans in Nature or Controlling Nature?

Topic 4: The Future of Life: Will you be here in 2050?


Instructional Methodology: The class will meet as a single group two days a week for discussion of textbooks, additional related materials, and occasional videos.


Mode of Delivery: Classroom instruction, discussion with an emphasis on in-class ‘lively discussion.’This is a seminar class, which means that it is based on group discussion rather than lectures.


Methods of Evaluation: Each student will prepare 3 (3-5 pages each) essays that critically evaluate approximately 3 week’s readings and discussions (30% of grade).   In addition, a final 8-10 page paper  that synthesizes your thoughts on the “nature of human nature” will be due on or before May 8 (20% of grade). All students are expected to come to each class prepared to exchange ideas about the week’s assignments (30% of grade). Finally, each student must serve as a discussion co-facilitator (with the instructor) twice during the semester (20% of the grade).


Assignments:  Specific Assignments for readings, presentations, and written projects will be made in class and will be guided in large part by the discussions and interests of the group. The basic outline, however is as follows:

Weeks 1- 5  (Jan 17-Feb 14): State of the Planet -- where are we now?

                Writing assignment 1 – How is the Earth doing?

Weeks 6-10 (Feb 20-March 30):  How have humans interacted with their environments through evolutionary history. Readings in Klein

                Writing assignment 2  How is human evolution linked to contemporary issues?

Week 11-15 (April 4-May 4)):  What about the future?

                Writing assignment 3: The Future of Life?


Final Paper Topic – Discussion of interaction between human evolutionary history and future prospects?


Format of all papers will follow that of the journal American Antiquity.  The style guide (how to cite sources, how to structure references cited, etc.) is available at:


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