Dec 15, 2018  
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PHS 125 - Historical Geology: The History of Life and Planet Earth

Did an asteroid really cause the extinction of the dinosaurs?  Where did life come from and how did it evolve?  Why do I find fossils of marine organisms in my back yard?  If you have ever wondered about these questions, you can discover the answers by taking this course.  This course intends to give you a perspective of the enormity of the geologic history of the Earth and the life that lives on it.  You will learn how scientists know how old a rock or fossil is and what the conditions in the past were like when it formed.  You will also investigate how scientific thinking about the geologic past have changed with respect to the age of the Earth and what the dinosaurs were like.  By looking at some bizarre groups of fossils, questions about evolution, speciation and chance will be examined.  Also, a detailed study of the local geologic past will reveal that Binghamton was on the shoreline of an ancient tropical sea about 365 million years ago.  Course includes laboratory activities.

Credits: 4
3 Class Hours, 3 Laboratory Hours
Course Profile
Learning Outcomes of the Course:

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

Geologic Time
1.  Assess the difference between catastrophism and uniformitarianism.
2.  Compare various historical attempts to age-date the Earth including the Judeo-Christian Bible, the accumlation of sediments, accumulation of salt in the oceans, and the rate of heat loss by conduction.  Compare age of the Earth estimates of each technique, appraise the assumptions and weaknesses of each of these attempts.
3.  Describe Steno's principles and apply to specific geologic situations to unravel the geologic history of each.
4.  Differentiate fossils from index fossils and explain how they are used to correlate sedimentary layers around the world.
5.  Define radioactivity and half-lives and apply these principles to sequence the events in geologic block diagrams.
6.  Prepare a geologic time scale:  Pre-Cambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic.
1.  Discriminate how science differs from religion on evolutionary thought.
2.  Assemble a history of the development of evolutionary thought from Aristotle to Darwin.
3.  Differentiate between what Darwin did and didn't say about evolution.
4.  Analyze what Darwinism is:  adaptation, random genetic variation, natural selection, sexual selection, non-constancy of species, gradualism.
5.  Organize and describe the proofs for biologic evolution.
6.  Define population, species, speciation and extinction.
7.  Identify different types of evolution:  divergent, convergent, parallel.
8.  Discriminate between evolutionary trends of gradualism and punctuated equilibrium.
9.  Differenciate between Linnean and Cladistic classification.  Examine the advantages and limitations of each.
The Pre-Cambrian
1.  Describe the formation of the solar system, especially the Earth and its early history.
2.  Differentiate between Archean and Proterozoic rocks, atmospheric conditions, life forms and orogenies.
3.  Construct the steps necessary in the Evolution of life and photosynthesis.
4.  Describe the significance of the Edicaran fauna.
The Paleozoic
1.  Organize the general characteristics of life, paleogeography, extinctions, regional examples, etc. of the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian worlds.
2.  Describe the significance of the Burgess Shale.
3.  Construct a Devonian history and paleogeography of South-Central New York State.
The Mesozoic
1.  Inventory the general characteristics of life and paleography of the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous worlds.
2.  Describe the general characteristics of the evolution and types of dinosaurs (saurischian and ornisthischian).  Discriminate between the general groups of dinosaurs.  Differentiate between the evidence for some groups of dinosaurs being endothermic, ectothermic.
3.  Sort the differing theories on the extinction of the dinosaurs.  List the pros and cons to both an extraterrestrial cause and volcanic cause of the extinction.
The Cenozoic
1.  Inventory the general characteristics and paleogeography of the Cenozoic worlds.
2.  Describe the general characteristics of the evolution and types of mammals.
3.  Explore competing theories on the evolution of humans from primate ancestors.

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