Charles Darwin: the Development of his Brilliant and Dangerous Idea

Ref: C3747379

Charles Darwin was a modest, somewhat conventional Victorian gentleman whose ideas changed the way we see the world and the way we see ourselves. The theory of 'Evolution by Natural Selection', co-originated by Alfred Russel Wallace at almost exactly the same time, does not just explain the origin of species, it shows how order and design can arise in the natural world without the need for a creator. Following Darwin and Wallace we have learnt much about the origin, the structure and the function of living things and now, barely 150 years later, we can direct the evolution of species including our own. This course will look at the life and tribulations of Darwin and his family and how he came to launch a scientific and cultural revolution. We will see how his ideas have developed and have become the very foundation of biological science. We will also look at how 'Darwinism' and the concept of 'survival of the fittest' have been used and misused to further social and political ends.

Course aim

To satisfy student's curiosity and wish to know more about Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. To understand the importance of evolution for understanding the origin of mankind and why evolution by natural selection is almost certainly true.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No prior knowledge or skills are required to enjoy this course.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Explain the key events in the life of Darwin and his family and the development of his character and achievements.
  • Outline the essential features of the theory of evolution by natural selection and how Darwin came to this theory by observations and experiments.
  • Indicate the importance of evolutionary theory in biological science and its impact on wider aspects of society and culture.
  • Have an appreciation for the life-long work that Darwin carried out beyond the immediate publication of the book 'Origin of Species'
  • Understand how the idea of evolution and natural selection have been used and abused to support political, economic and social objectives. Appreciate why some people still oppose 'Darwinism' and reject its conclusions.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

The course will include time and opportunity for questions, feedback and discussion.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Charles Darwin: the Development of his Brilliant and Dangerous Idea


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