Explore our Family Tree

See how, 150 years later, Darwin's theory still holds up.
Upcoming Course Offerings
May 26, 2014 - July 6, 2014
Climate Change, Earth: Inside and Out, Evolution, The Link Between Dinosaurs and Birds, Sharks and Rays, Genetics, Genomics, Genethics, The Ocean System, The Solar System
July 7, 2014 - August 17, 2014
Climate Change, Earth: Inside and Out, Evolution, In the Field with Spiders, Water, Genetics, Genomics, Genethics, The Diversity of Fishes, Space, Time and Motion, The Brain:
See the full calendar.

Authoring Scientists

Joel Cracraft
Ornithologist
Dr. Cracraft is the Lamont Curator of Birds in the Museum's Department of Ornithology.
Niles Eldredge
Paleontologist
Dr. Eldredge is the Curator in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology.

About the Course

This course draws on the Museum's long-standing leadership in the fields of paleontology, geology, systematics, and molecular biology to tell a modern story of evolution. Students will learn why evolution is the fundamental concept that underlies all life sciences and how it contributes to advances in medicine, public health, and conservation. Students will gain a solid understanding of the basic mechanisms of evolution—including the process of speciation—and how these systems have given rise to the great diversity of life in the world today. We'll also look at how new ideas, discoveries and technologies are modifying prior evolutionary concepts. Read more.

Key Science Concepts

There are numerous lines of evidence that support the theory of evolution. Scientists study evolution in many ways. Charles Darwin developed his groundbreaking views on evolution by observing patterns in nature. This practice is still common today, but the tools of molecular biology and systematics add to the picture.

The Tree of Life represents evolutionary history. There are over a million species on Earth today. The basis of evolution is the theory that all living things share a common ancestor and that evolution is the mechanism that has driven that diversification. Scientists construct evolutionary trees to look for patterns of relationships between species and to examine relationships between diverse species.

Evolution happens through a variety of mechanisms. Natural selection, sexual selection, mutation, and genetic drift all influence the path of evolution as do interactions between species. We can study evolution by looking at the molecular biology of development in the new field of Evo Devo.

Many factors influence the formation of new species. Evolutionary biologists have different definitions of species and therefore subscribe to different notions about the process of speciation. Factors such as geography, environment, and population size determine the formation of new species.

Humans have a complex evolutionary history. Humans are the only species we know of that has evolved consciousness. A complex web of factors, such as geography and culture, has influenced the evolution of our own species, as well as other hominid lineages.

Evolution impacts our daily lives. Nearly one hundred and fifty years after he published On the Origin of Species, Darwin's theory still holds up. An understanding of evolution helps fight disease, grow healthy food crops, and preserve endangered species and their habitats.


Course Textbook

Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation
Author: Joel Cracraft and Rodger W. Bybee
Publisher: American Institute of Biological Sciences
Edition: October 2005
Paperback: 202 pages
ISBN: 1929614233
Buy online: Amazon | AIBS Store | Online Version

Graduate Credit

This course is approved for graduate credit and continuing education units from leading institutions at an additional cost. Read more.

Adams State UniversityCity University of New YorkFramingham State UniversityHamline UniversityNova Southeastern UniversityPlymouth State UniversityWestern Governors University

Related Courses

Interested in more from Seminars on Science? Consider these related offerings:

Sharks and Rays
Ecology, Classification and Evolution

Course Preview

Explore a 3D interactive of humans and our relatives, watch a video about the tree of life, and explore a sample discussion.

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Testimonials

"The content, the textbook, links, and interactives will all be very useful in my teaching."
—middle school science teacher
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Evaluation

73% of educators say this course was more valuable than professional development available at the local level.

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