L&S Curricular Connections

Big Ideas Courses

Astronomy C13 / Integrative Biology C13

Origins: From the Big Bang to the Emergence of Humans

Physical Science; Biological Science

Many of the most important scientific breakthroughs in history have dramatically reshaped humankind’s understanding of our place in the universe. Examples include the Copernican revolution, evolution by natural selection, the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, and the molecular and genetic basis of evolution. In addition to their intrinsic scientific importance, these ideas also have far reaching implications for other aspects of people’s lives (e.g., philosophical, religious, and political). This course will cover the modern understanding of origins, from the Big Bang through to the evolution of our own species. This is arguably the single most important scientific idea that non-science majors should be introduced to in their time at Berkeley. The course will cover the origin of the elements, to the formation of the Earth, origin of life, the evolution of complex life, and the origin of humans. A major theme of the course will be the scientific method and how we know what we know.

Charles Marshall faculty profile
Charles Marshall (Integrative Biology)
Eliot Quataert

Terms Offered

  • Fall 2018
  • Fall 2016
  • Fall 2014
  • Fall 2013
"It was a real pleasure to be able to learn from my co-teacher as the semester progressed about the amazing results from biology and geology that I had not known before. I think the students really benefited from our contrasting approaches, both a consequence of our different disciplines and our different methodologies. It was very satisfying to be able to cover all of the material that *should* be covered in a course on Origins, rather than being limited to the part of the material that I could comfortably teach. That's what is wonderful about the Big Ideas program."
Eliot Quataert, Astronomy
“I found my excitement for the process of scientific knowing re-invigorated by the experience, and felt we provided Berkeley undergraduates with a coherent set of deep insights that cannot be gained in any other way. In some 22 years of teaching experience, I think this was my richest.”
Charles Marshall faculty profile
Charles Marshall, Integrative Biology