‘Becoming Human: The Science of Us’ Trinity Elective

Hello! We’d like to give you some information about the Trinity Elective ‘Becoming Human: The Science of Us’. I’m Robin Edwards, associate professor of Earth Sciences, and I’m Lara Cassidy, assistant professor in Genetics. Have you ever wondered what makes us human? What characteristics make us unique? Or how are we related to each other and the rest of the natural world? Well, if so, this the Trinity Elective for you. The quest to understand our origins was once described as ‘the problem which underlies all others’, and has puzzled thinkers from across the humanities and sciences for millennia. An accurate understanding of our past has profound implication for how we live our lives today, from human health and disease all the way through to discussions of ‘race’, migration and national identity. In this module, we’ll look at the extent to which 21st century science can provide new insights into these age-old questions. We’ll look at the ways in which fragmentary clues to our past can be recovered from bones, stones and genes. We’ll look at the challenges and rewards of combining data from multiple disciplines to produce unique insights into our journey from tropical forest-dwelling ape to global, planet-altering species. You’re going to chart how our bodies, our brains, and our behaviours evolve to adapt to new environments. And tracing the migrations across continents and oceans first to small hunter-gatherer groups and later as large-scale folk migrations that have led to the massive diversity of genes, cultures and languages we have today. Along the way, we’ll encounter hobbits, discover lost landscapes, and even meet a few surprise relatives. We’ll also see how new techniques and surprise discoveries have challenged established theories and forced fundamental revision of the human story. In this elective you’re going to engage in a series of lectures and online activities that will introduce you to the multidisciplinary subject of palaeoanthropology You’re going to learn the core concepts of genetics, geoscience, and evolutionary biology and employ these in the understanding of our history. You’ll then work in multidisciplinary groups to apply these evolutionary perspectives to a ‘big question’ of your choosing with significance for our lives today. You’ll find further details of the module content and assessment on the website. Everyone loves a good origin story – join us as we explore ours.

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