Evolution and Human Affairs - Online biology courses | Arts and Science ONLINE

Evolution & Human Affairs

BIOL 350/3.0

An exploration of how evolutionary thinking can affect our understanding of our lives, our species, and our ability to share the planet with other species.

Please note: This course is typically offered in the winter term

Learning Outcomes

After completing BIOL350, students will be better equipped to:

  1. identify and define the urgent challenges facing human civilization today, and why many authorities warn that ‘business as usual’ cannot be sustained;
  2. describe how and why the effects of Darwinian evolution have brought us to this critical stage in the history of humanity;
  3. explain how an understanding of this ‘human journey’ helps to account for a wide range of contemporary human affairs and cultural norms; 
  4. evaluate why philosopher, Blaise Pascal considered that, “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone” (Pensées, 1670) ― and why poet, T.S. Eliot mused, “…humankind cannot bear very much reality” (No. 1 of Four Quartets, 1943);
  5. predict how the genetic legacies inherited from our ancestors, and how our continuing evolution as a species — informed by both natural selection and cultural selection — are likely to affect our human natures, our social lives, and our cultures in future generations;
  6. participate in prescribing a way forward for the design of a new, more sustainable, and more humanistic model of civilization for our descendants.



The 'project' of civilization is failing. If we want to know where we are headed, we need to understand how the past brought us to where we are now. In BIOL350, we examine the evolutionary roots of human motivations, culture, social life, and civilization, the evolutionary roots of the challenges that currently face our species, and hence the evolutionary roots of our future. Specifically, lecture topics explore how biological and cultural evolution interact in affecting how we think and behave, and hence how this interaction affects our understanding of a wide range of human affairs, including why we have arrived at our present predicament – the 'human condition'. An appreciation of this historical human journey is essential for guiding a new and improved Project of Civilization to replace the old one. Students in BIOL350 have an opportunity to be among the architects of this new project.


Winter 2023
Course Dates: 
Jan. 09 - April 10, 2023
Exam Dates: 
April 14 - April 27, 2023


10% - Topic Sessions (live)

  • Questions of the Day Survey (1 x 2%)
  • Participation in Topic Sessions (2 x 2%)
  • Survey and Reflection (2 x 2%)

10% - Media Critique

  • Critique Submission (1 x 5%)
  • Peer Feedback (1 x 5%)

20% - Poster Gallery

  • Poster Submission (1 x 15%)
  • Peer Feedback (1 x 5%)

20% - Couse Concepts

  • Concept Map Submission (2 x 5%)
  • Participation Evaluation (2 x 5%)

40% - Proctored Final Exam

*Please NOTE: Students must attempt the Final Exam in order to pass the course.

**Evaluation Subject to Change**

Live Sessions

This course has required live sessions (e.g. webinars, synchronous activities). Please consult the Timeline in the first week of class.

Proctored Exams

  • Students who have on-campus courses (or course sections) will write their final exams in-person and on-campus. These final exams will be administered through the central Exams Office.
  • Students who have courses (or course sections) that are remote or online, but who have other on-campus courses (or course sections) in their timetable, will write all of their final exams in-person and on-campus. These final exams will be administered through the central Exams Office.
  • Students who have only remote or online courses (or course sections) in their timetable, and who require remote proctoring, will have their exams proctored using Examity.

Location and Timing of Final Examinations

Once the exam schedule has been finalized the exam date will be posted on your SOLUS account. The exam dates for each Term are listed on the Faculty of Arts and Science webpage under "Important Dates." Student exam schedules for the Fall Term are posted via SOLUS immediately prior to the Thanksgiving holiday; for the Winter Term they are posted on the Friday before Reading Week, and for the Summer Term they are individually noted on the Arts and Science Online syllabi. Students should delay finalizing any travel plans until after the examination schedule has been posted. Exams will not be moved or deferred to accommodate employment, travel/holiday plans or flight reservations.


Professor Lonnie Aarssen (aarssenl@queensu.ca)

Time Commitment

Students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours per week (120 hours per term) on study/practice and online activity for this course.

Course Resources


SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.

About OnQ

onQ is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into onQ to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the onQ site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA or BSc requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a high speed internet connection as well as a microphone and speakers to be able to watch videos, hear sounds, and participate in interactive online activities. A webcam is recommended but not necessary.

System Requirements:

Computer Specifications

  • Windows 8.1 or newer
  • OSX 10.13 (High Sierra) or newer
  • Dual Core 2 GHz processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Soundcard
  • USB Headset
  • Webcam

Supported Browsers

  • Chrome (preferred - latest version)
  • Firefox (latest version)
  • Safari is not recommended as it causes several known issues in onQ
  • Edge is not recommended as it causes several known issues in onQ

Internet Connection

  • Wired high speed access: Cable or better
  • Wifi is not recommended


  • Latest version

Media Player

  • Flash (latest version)

Adobe Reader

  • Latest Version


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Upcoming Application Dates section.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point

GPA Calculators
Have your SOLUS grade report handy and then follow the link to the Arts and Science GPA calculators.

How does this affect my academics?
See the GPA and Academic Standing page.

Follow the link above for an explanation of how the GPA system affects such things as the Dean’s Honour List, requirements to graduate, and academic progression.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Grading Scheme
Please follow this link to the FAQ's

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for Summer Term 2018 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Domestic students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $685.90; for a 6.0-unit course, $1371.80 See also Tuition and Fees.

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.