Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
The Missing Link
This course explores the history of the "missing link," an intermediate evolutionary form between humans and apes. We will consider famous hoaxes such as the Piltdown Man, and films and stories such as King Kong and Planet of the Apes, as well as serious scientific work such as that of Eugène Dubois, the paleoanthropologist and geologist who discovered Homo erectus (first called Java Man and then Pithecanthropus erectus) and first developed the notion of a missing link. We will take an interest not only in scientific aspects of missing-link theories but in their accompanying political, social and cultural implications. More broadly, we will consider the history of evolutionary science and debates surrounding the evolutionary place of human beings in the natural world. And we'll watch some classic monster films.