The Hebrew Scriptures, what Christians call the “Old Testament” and Jews call the “Bible,” are the basis of both Judaism and Christianity, and stand behind many debates in our contemporary culture wars. In this course we shall survey how this work of literature, through interpretation and re-interpretation, spawned and spawns a wide variety of truths.... Read more about One Book, Two Religions, Many Truths (Gen Ed 1149)
Human beings are the only creatures in the animal kingdom properly defined as worriers. We are the only ones who expend tremendous amounts of time, energy, and resources trying (sometimes obsessively) to understand our futures before they happen. While the innate ability of individual people to predict has not changed much in the past few millennia, developments in mathematical and conceptual models have inordinately improved predictive systems.... Read more about Prediction: The Past and Present of the Future (Gen Ed 1112)
Is the United States a beacon of liberal, democratic, diverse values and practices, that also has a pattern of racial injustice – or is the US at its core a white supremicist society, in which some people aspire to creating a genuinely tolerant liberal democracy?
How do we manage issues of race, ethnicity, and immigration in a polarized political era? What role did race play in the election of President Trump, after eight years of the presidency of Barack Obama? How can we be good citizens of the world when Americans have such mixed views and take such mixed actions in engaging with racial hierarchy, identity, or interaction?... Read more about Race in a Polarized America (Gen Ed 1052)
Advances in brain science have the potential to diminish many forms of human suffering and disability that are rooted in disordered brain function. But what are the ethical implications involved in altering the structure and function of human brains? What’s at stake when we have the ability to alter a person’s narrative identity, create brain-computer interfaces, and manipulate social and moral emotion? In this course, you will ask and attempt to answer these questions, and discuss the implications of mechanistic explanations of decision-making and action for widely-held concepts of moral agency and legal culpability.... Read more about Brains, Identity, and Moral Agency (Gen Ed 1064)
The myths of ancient Greece and Rome embody both our worst nightmares and our most fabulous fantasies. Heroism, happy endings, and everlasting love blend with disturbing themes of parricide, cannibalism, incest, misogyny, and unthinkable violence. The resulting stories have fascinated generations of artists, writers, and thinkers, and this course will serve as an introduction to this distant but strangely familiar world. We will move from the very first works of Greek literature through the classic Greek tragedies and the Roman tales in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.... Read more about Classical Mythology: Myth in Antiquity and Today (Gen Ed 1110)
How much of your impression of the ancient world was put there by Hollywood, music videos, or orientalist musings out of the West? How accurate are these depictions? Does it matter? This course examines the quintessential example of the “exotic, mysterious ancient world” – Ancient Egypt – to interrogate these questions. Who has “used” ancient Egypt as a construct, and to what purpose? Did you know that pyramids, mummies, King Tut, and Cleopatra represent just the (overhyped) tip of a very rich civilization that holds plenty of life lessons for today?... Read more about Pyramid Schemes: What Can Ancient Egyptian Civilization Teach Us? (Gen Ed 1099)
The world’s economic and political order reels under mounting challenges: the global financial crisis, the austerity debacle, a slowdown in economic growth and productivity, the aggravation of inequality and the inadequacy of conventional responses to it, the discrediting of the Washington Consensus, the globalization backlash, the re-emergence of nationalist politics in Europe and the United States, and a contest over the meaning, value, and requirements of democracy. We examine connections among these phenomena and explore alternative ways of thinking about contemporary market economies and their reconstruction.
How and why did humans evolve to be the way we are, and what are the implications of our evolved anatomy and physiology for human health in a post-industrial world? Why do we get sick, and how can we use principles of evolution to improve health and wellbeing?... Read more about Human Evolution and Human Health (Gen Ed 1027)
Most of us were taught that the Civil War between the Confederacy and the Union was fought on battlefields chiefly in the American South between the years of 1861-1865. In this narrative, the North won and the South lost. But what if the issues that resulted in such devastating bloodshed were never resolved? What if the war never ended? This course demonstrates the ways in which the United States is still fighting the Civil War, arguably THE defining event in U.S. history.... Read more about Is the U.S. Civil War Still Being Fought? (Gen Ed 1133)
What is it about Earth that enables life to thrive? This question was reinvigorated with the 2016 ground-breaking discovery of a habitable planet around the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. A decade of exploration confirmed that such planets are common in our galaxy, and the commonality of habitable planets has raised anew some age-old questions: Where do we come from? What is it to be human? Where are we going? Are we alone in the universe?... Read more about Life as a Planetary Phenomenon (Gen Ed 1070)
Who are you? We typically answer this question with a name and a collection of identity terms. Our identities may be ascribed or chosen; we often experience them as simply given, and we sometimes struggle against them. We use these identity categories, in turn, to structure decisions, negotiate relationships, and otherwise shape our lives.... Read more about Who Do You Think You Are? The Ethics of Identity (Gen Ed 1009)
How should governments respond to the problem of climate change? What should happen to the level of greenhouse gas emissions and how quickly? How much can the present generation be expected to sacrifice to improve conditions for future generations?... Read more about Ethics of Climate Change (Gen Ed 1015)
When does history begin? To judge by the typical history textbook, the answer is straightforward: six thousand years ago. So what about the tens of thousands of years of human existence described by archaeology and related disciplines? Is that history too?... Read more about Deep History (Gen Ed 1044)