This course will explore the profound changes in our conception of space and time brought about by Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity. As a University Seminar, it will also integrate writing and discussion about these topics into the class and explore the philosophical and technological context in which the ideas were developed.
Human behavior is a result of the complex interplay between our genes and the environment, both of which have been shaped by evolutionary forces over millions of years. To what extent does natural selection shape our behavior today? Are humans naturally monogamous? Why do conflicts arise even in our most intimate relationships? Is human behavior ultimately in the service of reproductive success, ensuring that our genes are passed into the next generation? This course reviews the history of evolutionary theories of mind and behavior, as well as current ideas about the ecological and genetic components of behavior. We will examine key principles of neurobiology, sociobiology, and evolutionary psychology to critically evaluate evolutionary interpretations of human behaviors, including those comprising cultural traditions and social institutions. Specific topics to be addressed include human mate choice, parenting strategies, interpersonal conflict, and altruism. The course is structured as a seminar, with emphasis on discussion and formation of logical arguments.
2013 marked the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the double helix of DNA and the 10th anniversary of the sequencing of the first human genome. Advances in genetics (the study of individual genes), and genomics (the study of an entire genome) have fundamentally altered our understanding of biology. In this seminar, we will focus on topics covered by the mainstream press. We will explore the science behind the news and discuss the philosophical, ethical and societal concerns raised by these scientific advances. Topics will include: the dangers and benefits of genetically modified crops; genetics and the conservation of endangered species; learning about human biology and disease from yeast, flies, worms and fish; the use and potential misuse of genetic fingerprinting by government agencies; genetic testing; personalized medicine; and issues of genetic privacy.
Plants have always been the basis of medicinal treatments, and as they continue to be essential to modern forms of medicine, alternative and traditional alike. In this course, we will consider the history of how humans have used particular plants for medicinal purposes, such as the cinchona tree (Cinchona officinalis) for quinine, willow bark (Salix) for aspirin, and the yew tree (Taxus baccata) for the cancer medication paclitaxel. By investigating how a plant is used medicinally through time, we will also come to understand the culture that used it and how they conceived of health in relationship to nature. We will read texts that show how a plant’s medicinal uses can be tied to colonialism and global exploration. For example, the first botanical gardens were collections of medicinal plants cultivated for use and experimentation, often containing non-native plant-based cures discovered through colonial contact. While this is not a course in botany per se, we will be discussing basic plant biology, cultivation practices, and the contemporary science of using plants as the basis for pharmaceutical cures. Students should be active course participants in class discussion and on field trips. Writing instruction will focus on research-based argument, and students will complete a researched essay focusing on a medicinal plant of their choice.
Is science objectively neutral in that true scientific knowledge would be independent of the discoverer? In this view, the scientific discoverer is more like a midwife that brings forth pre-existing knowledge to the world. Or – is scientific knowledge guided and shaped by the people who practice science, in which case it is influenced by the social context in which it occurs, making the scientist more like a sculptor who creates something new using the tools that are currently available. In this course we will examine this second question by looking specifically at the relationship of gender to science through several lenses. One approach we will use is make case studies of the lives of major women scientists and the way that their gender impacted their work, from the type of scientific research they pursued, the kind of support and encouragement that they obtained as they proceeded in their careers, to the rewards and recognition (or the lack of them) that their work received from their peers. Using a more conjectural line of inquiry, we will also consider the role that gender might have played in developing scientific theories and whether there can be such categories as “masculinist” and “feminist” science. We will conclude this part of our inquiry with an analysis of the current state of science and how well these approaches reflect the way science is pursued today. A third issue involves looking at the relationship of gender and science but from the opposite direction. In other words, we will consider how science has influenced our understanding of gender, rather than how gender has influenced science. Over time, scientific ideas about the physiological and intellectual differences between males and females have changed dramatically several times with major political and sociological ramifications. Consequently, we will examine the science of gender in its cultural and political context from antiquity through the twentieth century. In order to explore these interweaving threads, we will be taking an interdisciplinary approach that will draw on the history and philosophy of science (particularly Thomas Kuhn’s The Revolution of Scientific Ideas), as well as on anthropology and cultural theory. By the conclusion of the course we will have examined the scientific evidence that has supported assumptions about gender in various philosophical paradigms, including humanism, rationalism (i.e., Enlightenment philosophy), nineteenth century moralism, modernism, and postmodernism.
USNA287S – ***
USNA288I – ***
An interdisciplinary venture. This seminar will focus on law in literature by examining representations of the legal process in poems, plays, short stories, and novels. It will provide a taste of the vastness and variety of human life–and will broaden and deepen students’ understanding of the role law plays in society.
This seminar is structured to expose students to the opportunities and challenges of working in and running non-profit organizations. Students will explore the importance and significant roles non-profit organizations play in our society. The class will learn how non-profits are organized and regulated and the importance of the organization’s mission is to determining the impact of the non-profit organization in the community. Additionally, the students will learn how non-profits are funded and how these organizations maintain their financial stability and sustainability in the community. These goals will be accomplished through group analysis of non-profit organizational principles, and investigation of existing non-profit organizations.
This course will explore the cross cultural, self-care approaches to health problems. It covers substance-based (e.g., herbs, acupuncture), mind-body (e.g., yoga, qigong), spiritual (e.g., prayer) and social (e.g., communal, family) approaches that have been used to manage chronic diseases and promote wellness in various cultural settings.
Since the beginning of recorded human civilization, locally dominant societies have risen, prospered, decayed and finally ended, with new ones taking their place. Starting in the 15th century, however, Europe established global dominance and maintained it for four centuries, from the age of New World exploration through the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. Then came the rise of the United States, which in the late 20th century became the world’s only superpower, economically, industrially, militarily and, increasingly, culturally. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, we are witnessing the “flattening” of the world due to the technological revolution, a phenomenon brought about by the instant and worldwide generation of and access to information. Two major consequences of this evolution are: a) Individuals are more empowered than at any time in history and the traditional societal structure is under constant challenge; b) Companies have changed their business structures and practices and have begun to operate on a truly global scale. The main goal of the course is to help students learn the lessons of history and use them to develop an educated argument as to whether the US will continue in its prominent leadership role, or whether one or both of the emerging Asian economic powerhouses, China and India, will supplant it and become dominant.
This seminar addresses two major questions: How do the contexts in which we live or work affect ethical behavior? And how can we manage to struggle through personal and organizational challenges if we find they present us with something ethically compromising? In this course, we look to religion, spiritual teaching and cultural upbringing to understand sources of personal values and standards of behavior that might help structure one’s life in the midst of difficult contexts. One way we consider this is through practical exercises including development of your own personal code of ethics, an iterative process designed to help you articulate the principles of your own moral construction. These can serve as a foundation for leadership integrity and moral courage for ethical decisions throughout life and work.
Recent decades have seen a growing income and opportunity disparity in America. In our seminar, we will examine a variety of overlapping issues related to this crisis, with special attention to the impact of race, class and educational levels in determining how people fare in society. The larger set of issues includes poverty, income inequality, job loss and its effect on the industrial city, the concept of a “living wage,” affordable housing, education, and sentencing and incarceration. Readings, class discussions, and student papers will all explore these topics. In urban communities such as Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, the income and opportunity divide is especially visible and persistent. Recognizing this, we have incorporated a novel approach to experiential learning in our seminar. Case Western Reserve students will interact with a similarly sized group of students incarcerated at Lorain Correctional Institution, a state prison located in nearby Grafton, Ohio. The two groups will conduct workshops together and will hold joint discussions via teleconference throughout the semester. The incarcerated students will be studying the same material on the same schedule and will be sharing their views with students in the seminar. We believe there are several benefits to this dialogue. We have two Northeast Ohio institutions – our university and the prison – which are neighbors but whose residents are largely from opposite sides of the divide. It will be useful to consider the income and opportunity divide from both perspectives and to share ideas and experiences related to the overall problem of inequality. A bilateral discussion and interaction will not only enhance the students’ educational experience, but also, we hope, will foster greater understanding. Procedures will be in pace to ensure strict confidentiality and anonymity in any and all exchanges of views between CWRU students and students at the prison.
USSO291B – ***
This course explores the history of Paris as it became the center of French national life, international culture and politics in the 19th century and a global city in the late 20th. The course acquaints students with the history of Paris as a dynamic environment deeply influenced by industrializing forces during this period. We will study contemporary writings, art and popular culture economic developments, political and military events, and architectural and engineering projects that have profoundly shaped the city and popular responses to it.
USSY291C – ***