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Updated 11:00 AM January 9, 2006
 

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The science of evolution populates LSA theme semester

Evolution, the process of change that Charles Darwin called "descent with modification," is the subject of the winter LSA theme semester.

The theme semester, which runs through May 6, will feature special course offerings across many of LSA's 46 departments, programs and institutes, as well as a distinguished speaker series, a film series, a museum show, workshops for students and teachers, and a tie-in to the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads event.
The evolution theme semester Web site aggregates campus-wide resources.

The popular "Saturday Morning Physics" series of public lectures largely will be devoted to evolutionary science as well. Keynote speakers will include Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, primatologist Frans DeWaal, molecular anthropologist Svante Pääbo and biologist Richard Lewontin.

"You can see by the volume of activities we're offering that evolution is a very robust topic around which to develop a liberal arts theme semester," says Terrence J. McDonald, dean of LSA. "Evolution works. It explains what we've already discovered in the natural world, and it gives biologists a framework for further experimentation and discovery."

The Exhibit Museum of Natural History is launching a special show called "Explore Evolution," which depicts some of the latest thinking on evolutionary theory through the work of seven scientists, including U-M paleontologist Philip Gingerich who has found some of the "missing links" in whale evolution. The display is funded by a National Science Foundation grant and is being duplicated simultaneously in five other university museums around the country.

"Darwin's publication of the theory of evolution was a watershed event in science," says Amy Harris, director of the Exhibit Museum and chair of the theme semester steering committee. "Few scientific theories survive nearly 150 years, let alone grow stronger with each passing year, as evolution has."

This year's Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program is themed "Revolutions in Science" and will focus on the book "The Beak of the Finch," by Jonathan Weiner. The author will make a public appearance in Ann Arbor during the term, as will Princeton University biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant, whose work is featured in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

In addition to science courses, there will be several evolution-related offerings in the humanities and social sciences, including classes in English, Honors, linguistics, the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, philosophy, psychology and the Residential College.

For full details on the theme semester, speaker series and museum exhibition, visit: www.umich.edu/evolution.

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