man with mickey mouse hat

When Darwin Meets Disney in Brian Alter’s Class

From the file of “Why didn’t they have that class when I was in school?” comes Integrated Educational Studies 207, known to Chapman University students as the “The Pursuit of Happiness and Knowledge: Walt Disney and Charles Darwin.”

Brian Alters, Ph.D., a professor in the College of Educational Studies and director of the Evolution Education Research Center, created the course combining his two passions — Darwin, who transformed the scientific world, and Disney, who imagined fantasy worlds. “Science is what is. Disney is what ought to be. Disney has happy endings,” says Alters, who joined Chapman in 2010 and holds appointments at Harvard and McGill universities.

Chapman Trustee Emeritus Jack Lindquist, Disneyland’s first president, pays a visit each semester, too. The worlds of science and whimsy even meet in Alters’ Reeves Hall office. There he amuses visitors with automated bookshelves that can be cued to expose Disney memorabilia, or slide away to reveal his collection of replica hominid skulls. No wonder his class is so popular that it’s waitlisted every semester. But students are patient, and we’re guessing pretty careful to keep their hands, feet, arms, legs and heads — especially those — inside the vehicle at all times.

>> READ MORE: “Office Hours” on Happenings.

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