Oberlin Big History Movement

The 2018 Syllabus
"Understanding Nature (Big History)"


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

1. Course Content

Big History looks at a history from the big bang, which gave birth to the universe 13.8 billion years ago, to today until the future. Big History seeks to scientifically, philosophically, and poetically consider and express the essence of the universe, life, and humanity as well as the meaning of human existence in the cosmos, through the history of 13.8 billion years, with scientific information available today. In this sense, Big History is extremely interdisciplinary studies and movements, so it can be called an ultimate form of liberal arts.

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. We hope that you will freely develop your own picture on the essence of the universe, life and, humanity on the basis of scientific and historical knowledge rather than to keep such knowledge in your mind.

A motto of this course is "Think Cosmically, Act Globally." Please apply a vast vision of Big History to global problems we face today and to yourself.

2. Attainment Target

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

Professor Hirofumi Katayama Prof. Hirofumi Katayama

3. Lesson Plan

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

Lecture 1 (09/18)Introduction

Lecture 2 (09/25)Big Bang: The Beginning of the Universe

Lecture 3 (10/02)The Formation of the Solar System and the Earth

Lecture 4 (10/09)The Emergence of Life

Lecture 5 (10/16)The History of Evolution of Life ( 1 )

Lecture 6 (10/23)Special Lecture ( 1 )

Lecture 7 (10/30)The History of Evolution of Life ( 2 )

Lecture 8 (11/06)The Emergence of Humankinds

Lecture 9 (11/13)The Origins of Agriculture

Lecture 10 (11/20)Special Lecture ( 2 )

Lecture 11 (11/27)Modernization

Lecture 12 (12/04)In a Time of the Anthropocene

Lecture 13 (12/11)Extra-terrestrial Life

Lecture 14 (12/18)Special Lecture ( 3 )

Lecture 15 (01/15)Wrap-up

* Special Lectures

( 1 ) Hiroko Miyahara (Associate Professor, Musashino Art University), "Explaining Earth History by Cosmoclimatology" (tentative)

( 2 ) Katsumi Okuno (Professor, Rikkyo University), "Thinking about Big History from the Punan Living in Forests: Beyond the Human" (tentative)

( 3 ) Miwa Komatsu (contemporary artist), "How to Draw a Myth of the Future: Your Own Role in the Cosmos" (tentative)

* International Exchange

We will hold the "Big History Performance Challenge" for the schoolchildren learning big history in Cameroon, Africa.

4. Textbooks

Christian, David, Cynthia Stokes Brown, and Craig Benjamin (2013) Big History: Between Nothing and Everything, New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Mcquarie University Big History Institute (2016) Big History: Examines Our Past, Explains Our Present, Imagines Our Future, London: DK.

Alvarez, Walter (2016) A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves, W.W. Norton & Company.

Professor Ryosuke Miyawaki Prof. Ryosuke Miyawaki

5. Assessment

You need to submit a reaction paper at the end of every class.

You also need to submit a term paper (about 1200 characters in Japanese) at the end of a semester, whose theme is "State the meaning of human existence in the cosmos."

We will evaluate your performance by the following percentages.

Participation: 10%
Reaction Paper: 45%
Term Paper: 45%

6. Others

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

From the next academic year I will start a big hsitory seminar. Please join it.