CCST9018 Science, Technology and Big Data
Origin and Evolution of Life

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)
  • The Quest for a Meaningful Life / The Universe and the Question of Meaning (UQM)

Course Description

Among the most fundamental questions we can ask ourselves as humans are: Where do we come from – how did life begin and evolve? Are we alone – is the Earth unique in our universe in supporting life? Where are we going – what is the long-term future for humankind? These questions focus on the origin, evolution and future of life, a field of study termed “astrobiology”. Answers to these questions have been sought via scientific inquiry throughout human history and technological advances have now created paradigm shifts in the way that society reconciles new scientific findings with accepted norms and belief-systems. The course will examine: (i) how the conditions for life arose on early Earth and perhaps elsewhere and how advances in science and technology have changed our perception of the origins of life; (ii) the various scientific studies supporting the emergence of life, the evolution and diversification of life beginning with simple molecular systems, compartments (cells) to the evolution of intelligent self-conscious life; and (iii) the societal implications of discovering extraterrestrial life.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe how advances in technology have influenced scientific thinking on the origin, evolution and future of life.
  2. Discriminate between scientific explanations and other belief-based explanations for the origin and evolution of life.
  3. Describe and explain the societal implications of scientific discoveries relating to the origin, evolution and future of life.
  4. Evaluate how technological advances can affect the long-term future of humankind.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 12
Reading / Self-study 40
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 15
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 15
Assessment: In-class test (incl preparation) 15
Total: 121

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Essay 25
Poster presentation 25
Group debates 20
In-class test 30

Required Reading

  • Grady, M. M. (2001). Astrobiology. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press in association with the Natural History Museum, London.
  • NASA. Astrobiology Magazine. From

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr K.H. Lemke
Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2241 5474
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr K.H. Lemke
Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2241 5474
Dr Yiliang Li
Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2859 8021