- LBS 492 (§4)-

Darwin Bicentennial

Michigan State University
Spring 2009
Dr. Robert T. Pennock

Course Info | Grading | Professor Contact Info | Textbooks | Class Schedule
Study, Paper & Exam Tips | Academic Integrity | Discussion Guidelines
Additional Info | Useful Links | Blogs

- Announcements -
Check here periodically for late-breaking news

• Here is a link with the Darwin week events at MSU.

• Extra-credit talk option: Barbara Oakley “Bad to the Bone: Horrors!–Can Our Genes Help Make Us Act Badly?” Time: March 26th, 2009, 7:30 pm Place: Room 118 Psychology Building (between Farm Lane and Physics Road) Michigan State University.

• Assignment: Term paper proposal guidelines.

• Extra-credit talk option: Kay Holekamp, Department of Zoology, MSU speaking on: NATURAL SELECTION FAVORING THE EVOLUTION OF INTELLIGENCE Monday April 27, 5:30-7:00 p.m., 116 Natural Science Bldg

Course Info

Room: 136 Akers Hall

Time: MW 3 pm to 4:50 pm

Course Description:

February 12, 2009 is the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. 2009 is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. This course will join in the scientific celebrations nationally and internationally that will be happening to mark these important anniversaries, by reading some of Darwin’s key works in the original—including his Autobiography, the Origin itself, as well as excerpts from The Voyage of the Beagle, The Descent of Man and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals—while considering the scientific as well as the cultural revolution that they brought.

This course will be conducted primarily in seminar format, emphasizing class discussion and student-led presentations. We will work to develop skills of effective group discussion and oral presentation. Students will also write and defend a thesis in a major research paper.



- Attendance – 10% (minus 1% per absence)
- Regular, active class participation - 10%
- Two formal seminar presentations - 10% each
- Blog (Reading journal) –10%
- Mid-term exam – 20%
- Research proposal (5 pages) – 5%
- Research project/essay (15 – 20 pages) - 25%

• Grade scale: For your final course average, the 100 pt scale will be translated to grades as follows:
- 90 or above – 4.0; 85 to 90 – 3.5; 80 to 85 – 3.0; 75 to 80 – 2.5;
- 70 to 75 – 2.0; 65 to 70 – 1.5; 60 to 65 – 1.0; Below 60 – 0.0

• I do not round up averages that fall below a cut-off, but resolve borderline grades entirely on the basis of optional extra-credit assignments completed before the last class period. You may earn up to two (2) percentage points by such options, which I will announce periodically during the semester. A common extra-credit option is to attend some relevant university guest speaker talk and turn in a reflective paper about it.

• Late assignments will be accepted, but will be docked half a grade per day (e.g, from an equivalent of 4.0 to 3.5).

• As a seminar-style tutorial course, at least half of each period will be devoted to discussion of the material. Class participation means not only attendance (5%, see below), but also regular and active participation in class discussions, workshops, simulations etc. (10%). It is not possible to have a meaningful discussion or to get the most out of lectures unless you come to class having read and thought about the assigned material. Be prepared to answer questions I may ask about the reading and to engage in thoughtful, productive reflection upon it together with your classmates. Often we will break into small discussion groups, and it will waste your colleagues’ valuable time if you have not read the material or completed an assigned exercise in advance.

• Academic Dishonesty: Your work should always be your own. The penalty for cheating or plagiarism will be a failing grade of 0.0 for the course. You are expected to have read MSU’s policies on academic integrity <www.vps.msu.edu/splife/rule32.htm> and the Briggs honor code.

• Attendance. Everyone is allowed one unexcused absence. Thereafter, one percentage point is deducted for each unexcused absence. Days missed due to sickness will be excused if you have a doctor's note. Days missed because of a team commitment or a religious holiday will be excused, but only if you let me know in advance. If for any reason you do miss a class, you are responsible for getting notes and assignments from a fellow student. Class will start promptly. Please be on time. Arriving late or leaving early counts as a half absence, or more if it causes disruption or inconvenience to your colleagues in class.

• If you are having problems, don't wait until the end of the course to do something about it. See me right away. Helping you learn how to learn is what I'm here for. Welcome to the course!


Professor Contact Info

Please don't hesitate to contact me to talk about anything substantive related to class. Face-to-face discussions are always the most effective and enjoyable, so the best options are to drop by my office hours or talk to me after class. Send me an e-mail message to set up an appointment if you can't see me another time. (Whenever you send me e-mail or leave a phone message, be sure to give not just your name, but also indicate what course you are in.) I'm always happy to talk philosophy or to discuss your thoughts about your learning. However, if you were absent from class and need to get assignments, notes or other material you missed, you should get that from someone in your base group.

Office: Holmes Hall W-35.
Office hours: Mon. 9 am - 10 am, Wed. 1-2 pm. or by appointment or by open door.
Phone: 432-7701.

E-mail: pennock5[at]msu.edu
To prevent spread of viruses, NEVER send me any attachment to an e-mail unless we have specifically arranged it in advance.



Charles Darwin: Voyaging by Janet Browne. Princeton Univ. Press (1996)

Charles Darwin: The Power of Place by Janet Browne. Princeton Univ. Press. (2003)

From So Simple a Beginning.Darwin's Four Great Books (Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals). Edited by E.O. Wilson. W. W. Norton & Company. (2008)

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin: 1809-1882 by Charles Darwin. Edited by Nora Barlow. W. W. Norton & Company.


Class Schedule

NOTE: This is a tentative reading list. Any changes will be announced in advance. Read the assigned selections before the class period.

Week 1 Beginnings
Jan 12 Introductory Business
No readings
Jan 14

Read: Voyaging: Collector Ch 1-3

Week 2
Jan 19 MSU Holiday (No class)
Jan 21 Read: Voyaging: Collector Ch 4-6
Blog #1 due
Week 3
Jan 26

Read: Voyaging: Traveller Ch 7-8, Beagle Ch 1-5 (skim), Muir "Hetch Hetchy Valley"
Blog #2 due
Guest speaker: Dr. Michael Nelson

Jan 28

Read: Voyaging: Traveller Ch 9-11, Beagle Ch 6-12
Blog #3 due

Week 4
Feb 2

Read: Voyaging: Traveller Ch 12-14, Beagle Ch 13-17
Blog #4 due

Feb 4 Read: Voyaging: Naturalist Ch 15-16; Beagle Ch 18-21 (skim)
Blog #5 due
Week 5
Feb 9

Read: Voyaging: Naturalist Ch 17-19
Blog #6 due

Feb 11

Read: Voyaging: Naturalist Ch 20-21
Blog #7 due
Special event: Darwin's England

Week 6  
Feb 16

Read: Power of Place: Author Ch 1-2; Origin Ch 1-2
Blog #8 due

Feb 18 Read: Power of Place: Author Ch 3-4; Origin Ch 3-4
Blog #9 due
Presenters: Kevin Do & Brian Wlosinski
Week 7
Feb 23

Read: Power of Place: Experimenter Ch 5-6; Origin Ch 5-8
Blog #10 due
Presenters: Andrew Cuda & Eric Czuprenski

Feb 25 Read: Power of Place: Experimenter Ch 7; Origin Ch 9-11
Blog #11 due
Presenters: Dominic Coccittii-Smith & Blain Wetzel
Week 8
Mar 2 Read: Power of Place: Experimenter Ch 8; Origin Ch 12-14
Blog #12 due
Presenters: Scott Taylor & Christian Benvin
Mar 4 (MT) Mid-Term Exam
Mar 9 Spring Break
Mar 11 Spring Break
Week 9
Mar 16 Read: Power of Place: Celebrity Ch 9; Descent Ch 1-2
Blog #13 due
Presenters: Max Braverman & Ross Tanis
Mar 18 Read: Descent Ch 3-5
Blog #14 due
Presenters: Kevin Do & Eric Czuprenski
Week 10
Mar 23

Read: Descent Ch 6-7
Blog #15 due

Mar 25

Read: Descent Ch 8-12 (esp 8 & 13, Skim others)
Blog #16 due
Presenters: Karen Metha & Varun Avula

Week 11
Mar 30

Read: Descent Ch 13-21 (esp 17, 19 & 21, Skim others)
Blog #17 due
Presenters: Scott Taylor & Blain Wetzel

Apr 1

Read: Hodge "What is Darwinism?"
Blog #18 due
Joint class with Anthropology on creationism

Week 12
Apr 6 Read: Expression of Emotions Ch 1 - 5
Blog #19 due
Presenters: Jerry Dekker & Dominic Coccittii-Smith
Apr 8 Read: Expression of Emotions Ch 6 - 10
Blog #20 due
Presenters: Christian Benvin & Karen Metha
Week 13
Apr 13

Read: Power of Place: Celebrity Ch 10; Expression of Emotions Ch 11 - 14
Presenters: Andrew Cuda & Max Braverman
Term paper proposal due

Apr 15 Research instruction at MSU Library w/ Emily Alford (meet at library instruction desk)
Week 14
Apr 20

Read: Power of Place: Celebrity Ch 11; Autobiography pp 21-95
Blog #21 due
Guest speaker: Dr. Norm Sauer

Apr 22

Read: TBA
Blog #22 due
Presenters: Jerry Dekker & Brian Wlosinski

Week 15
Apr 27 Read: Read: Power of Place: Celebrity Ch 12; Autobiography pp 95-118
Blog #23 due
Presenters: Ross Tanis & Varun Avula
Apr 29

Read: Find and read an on-line article from a major journal, magazine or newspaper about the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth or the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin. (Send me the link.)
Blog #24 due

Final Exam Week  
Thu, May 7, 3pm-5pm

Term paper due through Turnitin.com by NOON.  Hard copy due at beginning of class.  You should be prepared to give a 10 minute explanation/defense of your thesis.




Study, Paper & Exam Tips Philosophy courses can sometimes be intimidating for students who are used to standard courses where the task is to learn a bunch of facts. In philosophy, the key task is to learn how to improve one's thinking, so the focus is not so much on the conclusions themselves but rather on the arguments on which conclusions are based. This requires that you study in quite a different way than you might be used to. To help, I have written a short guide that you may find useful. Click here.  

Academic Integrity This is sufficiently important that it is worth repeating: Your work should always be your own. I expect that all students understand how to properly document sources; this is not something for which one may plead ignorance. If you are not sure what counts as plagiarism, find out before you turn in an assignment. The penalty for cheating or plagiarism will be a failing grade of 0.0 for the course. I expect you to have read MSU’s policies on academic integrity and the Briggs honor code.  

Discussion Guidelines

Here I will include the guidelines that you generated and we agree to govern ourselves by for class discussion.

  • Raise hand to be called by moderator
  • Be prepared to argue, with reason
  • Allow evveryone to participate
  • Stay (mostly) on topic
  • Be as concise as necessary
  • Offer constructive criticism

Additional Info

What is a blog? The term "blog" is a contraction of "web log". A blog is essentially a journal of one's thoughts about some subject that is posted on a web page for the world to read. Blog entries are usually short, typically no more than a paragraph or two. They may be of varying levels of formality, depending upon one's audience.

For us, the subject is the course readings, so think of it as a reading journal. What I expect is that you will keep a regular log of your thoughts as you are doing the assigned reading. Try to write something about each reading. What I expect to see is evidence that you are thinking about what you are reading as you go along. In particular, I want to see that you are identifying and reflecting upon the philosophical issues that arise. The purpose of the blogs is to make you engage the material and start to form your own views about the topics we will be discussing in class.

What about length? These are not meant to be essays. I'm looking to see a paragraph or two for each reading. What that should come to is about a page a week, if you were to print it out.

On the day blogs are due, you should send them to me by email in the following manner:
- The subject line of the message should say: 492 - Blog # - Your Name.
- Repeat that same information -- 492 - Blog # - Your Name-- as the first line of the body of the message, in the same way you would submit a paper or assignment.
- Cut the text from your document and paste it into the body of the email message to send to me. <pennock5@msu.edu>
- DO NOT send your blog to me as an attachment. (5 pts off for doing that.)
- As a check to see that your email was delivered, you should cc yourself.
- Your blog must be emailed before you come to class on the day that it is due.

Public posting is optional. If you do want to set up a real blog page with your thoughts so your fellow students (and the world!) can read them, you should do so on your AFL space. Send me the URL with your assignment and I'll post that link on this web page. You may do this as an extra-credit option to earn half a percentage point added to your final course average. (However, do keep in mind that the blog is an official graded assignment, so the primary audience should be your professor--me--in the same way that other written assignments are.)



Here is an example of a blog from a student in a previous class. Sarah Vinyard's Blog

Here will be links to blogs of students in class who make their blogs public.

Christian Orlic's blog



Useful Links

I'll put links here that are relevant to what we are discussing. If you come across items that you think would be worth sharing, send me the URL.



Page created: 1/10/2009. Last updated: 4/27/2009
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