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Class topics and assignments

Unit 1. Definition of terms. Different levels of intelligence. What constitutes "higher" intelligence.

Assignment: examination of intelligence as portrayed in Daniel Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon."

Unit 2. Planetary influences on the development of life.

Assignments: the interrelationship between gravity, biology and society in Hal Clement's "Mission of Gravity;" examination of two detailed drawings from Dickinson and Schaller, "Extraterrestrials," in order to extract as much evidence as possible of the planetary and ecological conditions on a high-gravity versus low-gravity world.

Unit3. Chemical and metabolic constraints on the development of life and intelligence.

Assignment: examine Slonczewski's "The Children Star," from the standpoint of metabolism and biochemistry.

Unit 4. The evolution of intelligence; the role of natural selection; evolutionary paths that constrain the development of intelligence.

Assignment: study the imaginary world, Epona, and trace the evolution of some of the classes of organisms found on the planet.

Unit 5. Factors that tend to promote the further development of intelligence and to lead to higher intelligence.

Assignment: critique selected aliens in Barlowe's "Extraterrestrials" from the standpoint of whether the complement of biological and social characteristics described form a consistent pattern in terms of probable evolutionary trajectories.

Unit 6. Recognizing intelligence.

Assignment: examination of Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" in order to think about what is involved in recognizing intelligence.



[To be specified as needed when the class is offered.]


Academic Conduct

This course is mainly intended to provoke thought on topics related to evolution. All work is expected to be the student's own. Unattributed material from any source will be considered plagiarism and will be handled according to the guidelines for academic misconduct.