Why do humans get sick? Why are diabetes and obesity on the rise? Why have cancer and cardiovascular diseases become so prevalent? Is there a mismatch between the environments in which we evolved and environments in which we now live? Why did cholera, measles, mumps, whooping cough, and malaria become epidemic diseases? Why has evolution failed to make us immune to disease? Based in cutting-edge genetic and evolutionary biology research conducted at Rutgers, “Genetics, Evolution, and Human Health” explores what science can tell us about what it means to be human and why humans get sick. How can genetics be used and misused? What social, political, environmental, and medical changes would be required to improve human health in the 21st century?
- Human evolution and migration
- Adaption to changing environments
- Why evolution made us vulnerable to diseases such as diabetes, and cancer
- Coevolution with other plants and animals
- Misuse of genetics (eugenics)
Course Learning Goals
At the end of this course students will be able to discuss (with evidence) the following topics. In addition they will be able to discuss how science can be used to help deal with social issues.
- What does it mean to be human from Genetic and Evolutionary Biology points of view. This will include the evidence that all extant humans are members of a single species (Homo sapiens ) sharing common traits.
- That the environment in which we live is not the environment in which we evolved. That is means that there is an environmental mismatch, That is, our bodies were shaped for environments far different from those we live in, and this mismatch gives rise to much disease.
- That any individual will be more or less vulnerable to diseases. Genetics and Evolution can provide clues as to why disease happens.
- That human evolution is due to a great part to technological intervention. Technological intervention can be both positive and negative. The masteries of fire and cooking were conditions that changed future evolution. (Smaller guts, larger brains smaller jaws and reduced tooth size). The invention of agriculture allowed population growth but also allowed many diseases (cholera, measles, mumps, whooping coughs, malaria) to become epidemic.
- That humans coevolved with many other organisms and in certain environments. We have 300 to 1000 species of bacteria in our intestines a that are vital to our health. We ingest or smell plants that provide important component including regulating our moods.
- That genetic and evolutionary advances, like any scientific advance, can be positive or negative. For example, misunderstanding of the nature of genetic differences contributed to the eugenics movements that occurred throughout the 2oth century (and have never really gone away) .
SAS Learning Goals
21st Century Challenges [21C] and Natural Sciences [NS].
Exams, Assignments, and Grading Policy
Weekly quizzes & reflective writing, recitations including written assignments, course project, final exam.
Required Course Materials
- Spencer Wells. The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey ISBN: 0-8129-7145-9 (Paperback)
- Rob Dunn. The Wild Life of our Bodies, ISBN: 978-0-06-180648-3
If the course is closed there are no special permission numbers. The stop point is the right at the number of seats in the room.
Dr. Terry McGuire
Nelson Biology Labs B420
Contact by email only please -
** All information is subject to change at the discretion of the course coordinator