Spring 1997

[Text] [Course Description/Objectives] [Course Outline] [Evaluation/Assignments] [Attendance]

COURSE TITLE: Disease and Human Behavior

COURSE NUMBER: Anthropology 301

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Paul E. Voninski

OFFICE: 219 Mahar and 8 Snygg Hall

TELEPHONE EXTENSION: 3276 (Mahar) and 3055 (Snygg)


OFFICE HOURS: In room 219 Mahar Tu/Th, 9:30am-11:30 and 1:15-2:15pm

(or by appointment)




The development of homo sapiens has been paralleled by the evolution of diseases that have been exclusive to or shared with their human host. Diseases have shaped our biological and social development. The development and impact of various diseases on human behavior and biology have been significant and enduring. It is this past, present, and future relationship between disease and human behavior that will be established and discussed. The nature of the relationship between disease and human behavior is continuing and changing, the dynamics of this association will be explored.



  1. Development of an understanding of the relationship between disease and human evolution
  2. Appreciation of the nature of the past, present, and future relationship between disease and human behavior.
  3. Develop an understanding of the anthropological (and other discipline centered) problems in studying disease as a factor in shaping and influencing human behavior.



  1. Introduction to the course and student projects.
  2. Human evolution and the development of disease
    1. Principles of evolution as applied to human populations
    2. Principles of evolution as applied to disease
    3. Evolution of human populations and disease
      1. Mammalian diseases and relationship to human evolution
      2. The case of non-human primate diseases and humans as an 'accidental' host
    4. Examples of humans as a 'primary' host for diseases
  3. Human populations and the evolution of diseases
    1. Size and density as evolutionary factors
    2. Diseases in hunting and gathering societies
    3. Disease in agricultural societies
    4. Disease in urban societies
    5. Disease as a population control mechanism
  4. Role of disease in influencing human society
    1. Epidemics and human behavior
    2. Examples of disease and their impact on political leadership
    3. Disease as a stabilizing or destabilizing event in human history
  5. Diseases and recent human social evolution
    1. Diseases of poverty
    2. Diseases of affluence
  6. Human physical conflict and disease development
    1. use of disease as a weapon of war
    2. planned genocide by use of disease vectors
    3. future of disease and human conflict
  7. Pain as a human experience
    1. Role of infectious and chronic diseases in producing 'pain'
    2. Development of various methods and procedures for dealing with pain
  8. Risk taking behavior and its relationship to disease (e.g. sexual behavior, smoking, drug usage)
  9. Healing and recovery -- search for solutions to disease
    1. Traditional medical development in different societies
    2. Modern technology and disease
    3. Alternative medical approaches to disease
  10. Coming Plagues -- future human diseases
    1. Human behavior as a factor in current evolution and spread of disease


  • Exams
    There will be two (2) examinations. The examinations will test your knowledge and control of discussion topics and assigned reading assignments.

  • Semester Projects
    There will be a semester project to be done either individually or as a group project. Your chosen project will require the production of a 10-15 page paper and a discussion of 'your' disease in class near the end of the semester. The papers are DUE no later than Tuesday, April 30th.

    Choose one:

  • Points

    First Exam

    400 points

    Second exam

    400 points

    Disease Project

    200 points


    1000 points



    Students will not be allowed more than two (2) absences from this course.



    NOTE: E-mail and network (world wide web) usage class will be scheduled outside of the usual class time -- time to be announced soon!

    top of this syllabus

    back to Dr. Voninski's home page