Dr. Malgorzata J. Rymsza-Pawlowska, a cultural historian who specializes in the 19th and 20th centuries, visited class on Thursday to discuss social Darwinism, eugenics, and scientific racism. An energetic and engaging speaker, Dr. Rymsza-Pawlowska first showed us pictures of Chicago’s waterfront, one from 1820 and one from 1870 to remind us that Darwin’s publications coincided … More INDUSTRIALIZATION AND DARWIN


EUGENICS MEETS MATH On Tuesday, Dr. Fritz finished up the segment on eugenics, which is the belief and practice that humans can improve the gene pool by advocating reproduction with those of “higher” traits and suppressing reproduction of those with “lower” traits. It was fascinating to listen to Dr. Fritz condemn eugenics because how he … More EUGENICS MEETS MATH

Gender and Sexuality from a Biological Perspective

Gender and Sexuality from a Biological Perspective On Tuesday’s class, we moved into another effect of Darwin’s principles—and that involves our understanding of gender construction and sexuality. During Darwin’s time, gender roles were very much set in stone. The woman’s role centered around the home and raising children and the man’s role centered around the … More Gender and Sexuality from a Biological Perspective

The Connections between Frankenstein, Darwin, and Pasta

In Thursday’s class, we looked at two texts—Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein and Erasmus Darwin’s poetry. The intent was to examine the intersections between biology and literature. The representation of science in poetry or science in literature is a fascinating subject—and one that I play with. But in the 1800s, before the sciences became so specialized, … More The Connections between Frankenstein, Darwin, and Pasta

Oh, That’s Just a Theory

For those of us in the Humanities, anything that smells like a belief in “truth” is suspicious. What is “truth?” Who decides that? Isn’t all “truth” just a construction? Well, let’s pause from these questions common in the Humanities and ask: what does “fact,” “law” and “theory” mean from a biological perspective? This little word … More Oh, That’s Just a Theory

Darwin Did Not Work Alone

For the first two weeks, Dr. Fritz is talking about what exactly is natural selection and artificial selection. This is what Darwin painstakingly described in On the Origin of Species. And he did so very carefully, avoiding references to humans for the most part. So, no talk about us coming from apes in this book. … More Darwin Did Not Work Alone

Why Do I Care?

I approached Dr. Gary Fritz about creating this class last fall, right when I came to EIU. But why? I’m a poet. I basically write about my window: what’s outside it—and what’s beside it, which is my own head. Sometimes, though, I can acutely feel the limits of what I don’t know. Five years ago, … More Why Do I Care?