How is the course structured?
There are six units which can be taught individually as supplements to other courses, or they can be used as a self-contained short course that uses one trait, intelligence, as a model to study evolutionary processes. Academic readings have not been assigned for each unit because it is expected that the instructor will have his or her own preferences in this regard. Each unit uses a science fictional work to explore the points raised. These main references are listed tegether in the Readings. At the end of each unit are a few sample questions and an assignment.
Who is this course/web site geared for?
As written, it is intended for college freshmen or sophomores, or advanced high school students. It could easily be made either more or less complex by changing the kind and extent of the readings and the level of the questions.
Into which academic discipline does this course fit?
It cuts across several disciplines. Without modification, the course most closely fits in an evolutionary biology curriculum. A study of the principles of evolution, using intelligence as a model evolving trait, would fit either in a general biology class or a more specialized class concentrating on evolution. There are also elements of cognitive and animal psychology that could be interesting within the framework of psychology classes on those topics. There is a philosophical component, as well as some chemistry and physics. With adaptation to the particular instructor's needs, the use of science fiction to study the ramifications of the evolution of intelligence can be a thought-provoking component of a range of classes.
Where can the science fiction works be found?
Some of the work is classic and still readily available, even if not necessarily in the anthologies I cite. Others are out of print or hard to find. Interlibrary loan may offer a solution for some of the more obscure titles.
Why use science fiction rather than the standard approach using academic references?
There is a necessary element of seriousness in education that distinguishes it from entertainment. However, learning at its most basic is a form of play, and attitudes of enjoyment and interest definitely help the process along.
How should the site be used?
It can be used in a consecutive manner, following the outline of topics in the syllabus, or it can be subdivided into single-class segments, or used in any other fashion that suits your purposes. Navigation from or to any point in the site should be a simple matter using the links at the top and side of every page.
How can your own content be included if you're unfamiliar with writing html?
If there are many requests for this feature, text areas that can be filled in will be included in the next version. For now, please just get in touch with me, Mia Molvray at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll customize a solution. (Please remove "nospam_" from the address line before sending.)
What is the best way to view this site?
All graphical elements have text equivalents, either elsewhere on the page or in "Alt" fields, so the site should be fully handicapped-accessible. If there are problems in this regard, I'd be very grateful if you'd let me know!
Is this material free?
All the text material I have authored, which is all the material not attributed to someone else, can be used freely for any non-commercial educational purpose on condition that the source is cited and you send me notification that you have used the site. I'd really appreciate your help on this if you find the site useful!
What is the author's background?
My terminal degree, as they appropriately call it, is in biology, specializing
in evolution and in botany. The organisms I have spent the most time studying
are mistletoes and orchids and the geographic region I have spent the most
time in (scientifically speaking) is Australasia and the Pacific. I've taught
college biology for over twenty years at all kinds of ranks, from graduate
teaching assistant to professor. I've been interested in reading science fiction
since childhood, and have published a few stories of my own in the last few
years. I particularly enjoy speculating about the evolution of aliens. More
information about my science fiction is here: http://www.sff.net/people/mmolvray/index.htm.
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