Coursera: Human Evolution: Past and Future

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This is a free online course beginning January 21, 2014. You can sign up at the link below.

Introduction to the science of human origins, the fossil and archaeological record, and genetic ancestry of living and ancient human populations. The course emphasizes the ways our evolution touches our lives, including health and diet, and explores how deep history may shape the future of our species.



About the Course

This course covers our evolutionary history across more than seven million years, from our origins among the apes up to the biological changes that are still unfolding today. If you enroll, you'll encounter the evidence for the earliest members of our lineage, as they begin the long pathway to humanity. You'll see how scientists are learning about the diets of ancient people, using microscopic evidence and chemical signatures in ancient teeth. We will explore together the exciting fossil discoveries of the last ten years, which have shaken up our notions of the origin of human culture and our own genus. 

Genomics has fundamentally transformed the way we understand our evolution, in many ways opening the direct evidence of our history to anyone. The course will teach you how to look inside the genomes of humans, Neandertals and other ancient people.  If you have used personal genomics to get your own genotypes, the course will guide you in connecting genetics to your ancestry among ancient humans.

The course brings a special focus on the rapid evolutionary changes of the last 10,000 years. You'll learn about the consequences of our shift to agriculture, and the ways that people of industrialized nations are still changing today. At the end, we trek forward to anticipate what evolutionary changes may be in store for humanity in the future, using our knowledge of history and scientific understanding to inform our speculations.

Written By: John Hawks
continue to source article at coursera.org

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  1. I’ve been signed up for this since it was announced. I highly recommend “A Brief History of Humankind” I’m taking now from Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Just started a couple weeks ago so plenty of time to catch up. I did the first week’s lectures at a single sitting- it was like a book I couldn’t put down. We have only progressed to a point 70,000 years ago so far.

    Great theories and info on early humans, why religions came to be, etc. Don’t let the school name fool you- highly secular approach and very good presenter.

    • In reply to #4 by rjohn19:

      I’ve been signed up for this since it was announced. I highly recommend “A Brief History of Humankind” I’m taking now from Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Just started a couple weeks ago so plenty of time to catch up. I did the first week’s lectures at a single sitting- it was like a book I could…

      Ditto. The way the material is presented makes it flow like an interesting story, and the instructor is not reticent to say that religions belong in the mythology department.

  2. Rod- best I can do here- Go to coursera.org and at the top click “courses”. In the search type in “History Humankind.” When I do it, it recognizes me and I “go to class.” The regular courses page lists only those not yet started- didn’t used to do this. But marvel at the offerings and the number of top-tier schools. And it’s all free!

  3. I am also taking the Brief History of Humankind course and am signed up for the Human Evolution course. I liked the explanation of the cognitive revolution and the role of gossip and religion. Religion is explained as the ability to imagine things and share a belief in things that do not exist. The professor discussed things like money and the limited liability corporation as examples.

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