LSO570 - The Emergence of Complexity: Big History

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Last revision date Dec 7, 2020 10:48:23 AM
Last review date Dec 7, 2020 10:48:44 AM

Subject Title
The Emergence of Complexity: Big History

Subject Description
Everything that exists has a history: each person, plant, animal and object, our planet, the entire universe. Each of these histories offers valuable insights, and collectively they reveal even more. Big history is an emerging academic discipline that examines the long timeframes of history from the big bang to the present. It employs a multidisciplinary study of the cosmos, earth, life and humanity using the latest scientific methods and empirical evidence. It weaves evidence and perspectives from many disciplines into a single modern origin story ? one that explores who we are, how we got here, how we are connected to everything around us, and where we may be heading.
This Big History course begins with the origins of the universe, and goes on to discuss the origins of stars and planets, of life on earth, the emergence of human beings, and the various types of human societies that have existed up to the present day. History on this sort of scale encourages each of us to consider our place in the global world of the twenty-first century, and to think of how we might contribute to the future of that world.  By the end of this course, students will be able to provide thoughtful and accurate responses to the following questions:

  • What are some of the traditional origin stories?
  • How have traditional origin stories served humanity?
  • How and when does modern science suggest the universe was formed?
  • How and when were stars and galaxies formed?
  • How and when were the chemical elements formed?
  • How and when were our sun and solar system formed?
  • How and when was the earth formed?
  • What forces shaped the history of the earth?s lands, seas and atmosphere?
  • How and when did life first appear on earth?
  • How did life assume the variety of forms we see today?
  • When does human history begin, and why?
  • How and when did modern humans evolve?
  • How did the earliest human communities live?
  • How and when did agriculture first appear?
  • How and when did the first cities and states emerge?
  • How did agrarian civilizations function over 4,000 years of history?
  • What are the origins of modern industrial society?
  • Why did the ?modern revolution? take a European form?
  • Does the 20th century differ from all previous periods in human history?
  • Does a study of history on this scale help us predict the future?
In addition to the professor responsible for and the primary lecturer of the course, students may be exposed to the specialized knowledge of a variety of occasional guest lectures.

Credit Status
One lower level Liberal Studies Option credit in the Social Science category for Seneca Degree programs.

Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this subject the student will be able to:

Upon successful completion of this course the student will be able to:           

  1. Identify central ideas and concepts of Big History and discuss these in written and verbal form.
  2. Recall and explain the eight thresholds of increasing complexity.
  3. Articulate a reasoned description of the ninth (future) threshold.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of notions of emergence, energy flow, complexity and the Goldilocks conditions.
  5. Discuss at an introductory level, examples of the interaction of ideas and events in the sciences and humanities as they relate to Big History.
  6. Place in order the major events of cosmic history as outlined by Big Historians.
  7. Understand, describe and restate the major traditional origin stories.
  8. Understand and apply the scientific explanation of the formation of the universe and in particular the stars, galaxies, chemical elements, the solar system, earth, life, and human societies through and understanding of the emergence of complexity.
  9. Represent, in debate, and in written prose form, different perspectives on the ninth threshold using the ideas and concepts learned in the course.
  10. Prepare a “little” Big History illustrating the use of a Big History methodology on a relatively small more personally relevant phenomenon.
  11. Be able to place themselves, families, and cultures within the larger notion of humanity.
  12. Discuss and analysis issues of hierarchy, social control, colonization, racism, and sexism and understand their origin, ‘purpose’ and thoughtful responses to them.
  13. Evaluate the Big History methodology as a tool for social understanding and social change and for academic advancement.

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Accommodation for Students with Disabilities
The College will provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities in order to promote academic success. If you require accommodation, contact the Counselling and Accessibility Services Office at ext. 22900 to initiate the process for documenting, assessing and implementing your individual accommodation needs.