Oberlin Big History Project

The 2017 Syllabus
"Understanding of Nature (Big History)"


Professors: Hirofumi Katayama and Ryosuke Miyawaki
College of Arts and Sciences, J. F. Oberlin University

1. Course Content

Big History (earth and cosmic history) is a project to consider the place of humanity in cosmic history and cope with global issues while reviewing the 13.8 billion years of the universe. Big History seeks to cosmologically, philosophically and poetically consider the essence of the universe, life and humanity and the meaning of human existence in the universe throughout the 13.8-billion-year history with scientific information we can use today.

In this course, we will overview from the birth of the universe and the formation of the stars, galaxies, our solar system and Earth via the origins and evolution of life on Earth and the origins of humankinds and the emergence of civilization to modern and contemporary eras, and then look to the near future of humans.

A motto of this course is "Think Cosmically, Act Globally."

We hope that you, our students, will freely develop your own picture on the essence of the universe, life and humanity based on scientific and historical knowledge rather than to keep such knowledge in your mind. Please apply a vast vision of Big History to global problems we face today.

2. Attainment Target

(1) To be able to think of the meaning that the world and you exist from a cosmic viewpoint
(2) To be able to grasp a global issue from a cosmic viewpoint and find a solution for it

3. Lessons

4th period (2:30 – 4:00 p.m.) on Tuesday

Lecture 1 (Sep. 19)Introduction

Lecture 2 (Sep. 26)Big Bang: The Beginning of the Universe

Lecture 3 (Oct. 3)The Formation of the Solar System and the Earth

Lecture 4 (Oct. 10)The Emergence of Life

Lecture 5 (Oct. 17)Special Lecture ( 1 )

Lecture 6 (Oct. 24)Dinosaurs

Lecture 7 (Oct. 31)The Emergence of Humankinds

Lecture 8 (Nov. 7)The Origins of Agriculture

Lecture 9 (Nov. 14)The Modern Era

Lecture 10 (Nov. 21)Special Lecture ( 2 )

Lecture 11 (Nov. 28)In a Time of the Anthropocene

Lecture 12 (Dec. 05)Thinking about Peace and Symbiosis + International Exchange ( A )

Lecture 13 (Dec. 12)Extra-terrestrial Life

Lecture 14 (Dec. 19)Special Lecture ( 3 )

Lecture 15 (Jan. 16)Wrap-up + International Exchange ( B )

* Special Lectures

( 1 ) Isao Sarashina (biologist), "The Diversification of Life"

( 2 ) Shoji Kawamori (animation director), "Multidimensional Approaches to live a Big History"

( 3 ) Shuichi Ohno (Chairman, Japan Space Elevator Association), "Space Elevators and the Future of Humanity"

* International Exchanges

( A ) In November, we will exchange the comments with the students at Symbiosis International University (India). and finally wrap up the discussion.

( B ) In a final lecture, we will hold the "Big History Kamishibai Competition" of the children in Cameroon.

4. Oberlin Big History Project

Oberlin Big History Project (OBHP) is a voluntary seminar seeking for applying Big History to the modern societies.

In last Decmeber in the previous academic year, the OBHP team took part in the COP 13 (Thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity) in Cancun, Mexico and held a side event titled "Mainstreaming Biodiversity Utilizing 'Big History'."

In this academic year, the OBHP recruites the new project members to organize the international exchanges above and join the English presentation constest of the "Liberal Arts Presentation Contest (LibeCon)" at this university.

5. Textbook

Christian, David, Cynthia Stokes Brown and Craig Benjamin (2014) Big History: Between Nothing and Everything, New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

6. Assessment

You need to submit a reaction paper (about 1200 characters in Japanese) at the end of every class and a term paper at the end of a semester, whose theme is "Choose an artistic work which you regard as big history-like and describe the reasons why it has the big-history meanings or aspects." We will evaluate your performance by the following percentages.

Participation: 20%
Reaction Paper: 40%
Term Paper: 40%

7. Contact

If you have any questions and anything, please contact Katayama.
Office Hours: 4th period on Thursday, 2nd period on Friday at B411, Suteikan
E-mail: katayama@obirin.ac.jp

2016     2018