Syllabus for SIC-520



The Species, the Individual, and Community is an interdisciplinary course in which students explore “human nature” using theories and tools from cosmology, biology, and many of the social sciences, including archeology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology. Students study these theories through their reading of the required texts and recent scholarly works and ultimately formulate their own understanding of “human nature” and apply their own insights to social situations at home, school, work, or the wider community.


After completing this course, you should be able to:  

  1. Outline the natural history of the universe.
  2. Explain conscious artificial selection, unconscious artificial selection, and natural selection.
  3. Describe humanity’s physical evolutionary development.
  4. Explain humanity’s psychological evolutionary development.
  5. Discuss human cultural development.

After successfully completing the course content objectives, you should be able to:

  1. Evaluate specific major contemporary problems such as racism and sexism.
  2. Critique commentaries on current events that purport to explain or predict human behavior.
  3. Relate scientific theory to other theories or notions of the humanities encountered in the MALS curriculum.
  4. Apply the major insights of the human behavioral sciences to your work and personal lives.

This course forms part of the MALS curriculum in four major ways:

  1. The ideas and methodologies discussed in this course stem directly from the ideas and methodologies discussed in the first three core courses (LAP-500, SAM-501, and SAM-502).
  2. This course explains why human conflict is rampant and why modifying human behavior is extremely difficult [CCR-610: Conflict, Change, and Resolution].
  3. This course explains the biological causes of human technological advancement [THC-625: Technology and the Human Community).

  1. Finally, as explained in LAP-500: Liberal Arts and Professional Life, intensive study of the liberal arts is an eminently practical undertaking. Specifically, knowledge of human evolution, correctly applied, can be a powerful tool of understanding.


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. The required textbooks are available from the University's textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

Required Textbooks

  • David Christian, Cynthia Brown, and Craig Benjamin, Big History: Between Nothing and Everything (McGraw-Hill, 2013)

ISBN-13: 978-0073385617

  • David Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History (University of California Press, 2011)

ISBN-13: 978-0520271449

Additional Readings

An accessory bibliography of non-required readings:

Bogin, Barry. 2001. The Growth of Humanity. Wiley-Liss.

Boyce, A. J., and V. Reynolds, eds. 1995. Human Populations: Diversity and Adaptation. Oxford University Press.

Chaisson, Eric. 2005. Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the Cosmos. Columbia University Press.

Diamond, Jared M. 1999. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. W. W. Norton and Co.

Ehrlich, Paul R. 1986. The Machinery of Nature: The Living World Around Us and How It Works. Simon and Schuster.

Feder, Kenneth, and Michael Alan Park. 2006. Human Antiquity: An Introduction to Physical Anthropology and Archaeology, 5th ed. McGraw-Hill.

Hogan, Craig J. 1999. The Little Book of the Big Bang: A Cosmic Primer. Copernicus.

Holcomb III, Harmon R. 1993. Sociobiology, Sex and Science. SUNY Series in Philosophy and Biology. State University of New York Press.

Jolly, Clifford, and Fred Plog. 1986. Physical Anthropology and Archeology, 4th ed. McGraw-Hill.

Kaku, Michio. 1995. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension. Anchor.

———. 2006. Parallel Worlds: A Journey through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos. Anchor.

Keller, Evelyn Fox, and Elizabeth A. Lloyd. 1998. Keywords in Evolutionary Biology. Harvard University Press.

Kitcher, Philip. 1983. Abusing Science: The Case against Creationism. MIT Press.

Leroi-Gourhan, Andre. 1982. The Dawn of European Art: An Introduction to Paleolithic Cave Painting. Cambridge University Press.

McClary, Andrew. 1975. Biology and Society: The Evolution of Man and His Technology. Macmillan.

McCrone, John. 1991. The Ape That Spoke: Language and the Evolution of the Human Mind. William Morrow and Co.

Megarry, Tim. 1995. Society in Prehistory: The Origins of Human Culture. NYU Press.

Montagu, Montague. 1997. Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, 6th ed. AltaMira Press.

Morgan, Elaine. 1995. The Descent of the Child: Human Evolution from a New Perspective. Oxford University Press.

Smith, John Maynard. 1982. Evolution and the Theory of Games. Cambridge University Press.

Spier, Fred. 2011. Big History and the Future of Humanity. Wiley-Blackwell.

———. 1996. The Structure of Big History: From the Big Bang until Today. Amsterdam University Press.

Stringer, Christopher, and Robin McKie. 1998. African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity. Holt Paperbacks.

Tattersall, Ian. 2008. The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know about Human Evolution, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press.

Wood, Michael. 1992. Legacy: A Search for the Origins of Civilization. Network Books.

———. 1999. Legacy: The First Civilizations, 3000 BC to AD 2000. BBC Books.

Wright, Robert. 1995. The Moral Animal, Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. Vintage.


The Species, the Individual and Community is a three-credit online course, consisting of four modules. Modules include a study materials and activities. Module titles are listed below.


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in online discussion forums, written assignments and four formal papers. See below for more details.

Consult the Course Calendar for due dates.

Discussion Forums

You are required to participate in eleven graded discussion forums and an Introductions Forum in Module 1.  Discussion forums are on a variety of topics associated with the courses modules.

Located within the Evaluation Rubrics section of the course Web site is the online discussion forum rubric used to aid in the grading of all online discussion assignments.

Written Assignments

You are required to complete three written assignments. The written assignments are on a variety of topics associated with the course modules. These assignments will vary in length and depth.

Each written assignment should be more than just a mere report of basic information. A good written assignment is structured around a basic argument. The arguments/issues are laid out in the assignments. Be sure to present the variety of perspectives addressed in the readings/the course on any given topic.

Remember to:

See modules for more details.

Located within the Evaluation Rubrics section of the course Web site is the written assignment rubric used to aid in the grading of all research exercises within this course.

Formal Papers

You are required to complete four formal papers. Each formal paper must be at least five (5) pages in length or 1250 words. See the Formal Papers section of the course Web site for more details. Papers are on a variety of topics associated with this courses.

Located within the Evaluation Rubrics section of the course Web site is the formal paper rubric used to aid in the grading of the final project for this course.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:


















Below 73

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or higher on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., assignments, discussion postings, projects, etc.). Graduate students must maintain a B average overall to remain in good academic standing.


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to maintaining academic quality, excellence, and honesty. The University expects all members of its community to share the commitment to academic integrity, an essential component of a quality academic experience.

Students at Thomas Edison State University are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

All members of the University community are responsible for reviewing the Academic Code of Conduct Policy in the University Catalog and online at

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State University expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the University insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty can take the following forms:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to helping students understand the seriousness of plagiarism, which is defined as using the work and ideas of others without proper citation. The University takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing are subject to discipline under the academic code of conduct policy.

If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, or without identifying it as a direct quote, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > “Citing Sources.”)

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else’s. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

For examples of unintentional plagiarism, advice on when to quote and when to paraphrase, and information about writing assistance and originality report checking, click the links provided below.

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

Writing Assistance at Smarthinking

Originality Report Checking at Turnitin

Disciplinary Process for Plagiarism

Acts of both intentional and unintentional plagiarism violate the Academic Code of Conduct.

If an incident of plagiarism is an isolated minor oversight or an obvious result of ignorance of proper citation requirements, the mentor may handle the matter as a learning exercise. Appropriate consequences may include the completion of tutorials, assignment rewrites, or any other reasonable learning tool in addition to a lower grade for the assignment or course. The mentor will notify the student and appropriate dean of the consequence by e-mail.

If the plagiarism appears intentional and/or is more than an isolated incident, the mentor will refer the matter to the appropriate dean, who will gather information about the violation(s) from the mentor and student, as necessary. The dean will review the matter and notify the student in writing of the specifics of the charge and the sanction to be imposed.

Possible sanctions include:

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