If you like your science spiced with drama, Robert Sapolsky is the professor for you. In his Stanford University course Human Behavioral Biology (iTunes), he serves up nature in all its gory glory, and narrates the tale of scientific breakthroughs as a series of fights between feuding scientists who call each other nasty names while trashing each other’s ideas. It’s what you would expect from Sapolsky, the guy who gave us The best health lecture on the Internet, and Neurobiology of sex: the birds, the bees, baboons and us.
In the first lecture, he declares that his goal is to make this course accessible to anyone, regardless of scientific background. To that end, the course is split into two sections. In the first half, he gives a whirlwind introduction to the scientific disciplines of sociobiology, genetics, ethology, neuroscience and endocrinology. Once the students have this background, in the second half of the course he explains what these disciplines have to say about a whole range of human behavior, including aggression, sexual behavior, religious belief and schizophrenia.
Give it a listen. I promise you’ll learn a lot, and will think about human behavior in a whole new way.
Update: Alert reader Deepak points out that the course is also available on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=848F2368C90DDC3D.
Here is the first lecture: