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Course Description

We apply scientific methods and principles to questions of value. By questions of value we mean: What do I want? How can I get it? How do I know? Here we inclusively define "want" to encompass material and ethical considerations, narrow individual and broader humanitarian, biophilic, and environmental interests, near and distant ends and means.

Many of us want to live well and die at peace. To do these things we accurately discern and effectively realize value. We figure out what we want, get it, and feel satisfaction when we do. Each of us sometimes falls short at one or another point in this process. With valuescience practice we can reduce frequency and severity of such failures. To that end course participants examine methods by which we've responded to questions of value, and learn to practice valuescience with growing consciousness and consistency to evolve our responses to be better bases for living well and dying at peace.

The valuescience thesis is: (1) Ideas about what we want and how to get it rest on predictions that we'll feel as we expect when we get what we want, and that action to satisfy want will be effective; (2) Science is sole demonstrated means for predicting with success greater than we can achieve by chance; therefore, (3) Science is how we improve in knowing and getting what we want; it is how we more accurately discern and more fully realize value.

This course is without prerequisites or sequels. PSYC136A/236A, offered autumn quarter, and PSYC136B/236B, are complementary. You may enroll in one or both, and in either prior to the other.

For a more extensive course description please see: Course Description.

Course Objectives

  • Construct an ecological framework for understanding self and surrounds, and use this framework to explain the evolutionary import of human culture, and to describe how culture is embodied and communicated, and how we can evolve individual and collective cultural information to be more adaptive. For more detail please see: Framework.
  • Evolve a more inclusive, consilient, science-based world-view which includes a method for discerning and realizing value—for living and dying well—and a set of ideas about value generated by this method. For more detail please see: Worldview.
  • Practice valuescience to realize value more fully, and communicate to others how they can do this. For more detail please see: Praxis.

Instructional Team

Teaching team members typically check email once(!) per day M-F and less often on weekends. Please plan accordingly. For urgent matters, call 650 323-7333.

Office Hours

Each participant meets briefly (~15 minutes) bi-weekly with a teaching team member.

  • Tu, Th: 10-10:30am by appointment.
  • Tu, Th: 11:50am-1pm drop-in, or by appointment.
  • Other times by appointment.


Valuescience is a a synthesis of work in many disciplines, and we tap diverse learning resources. During a typical quarter participants read, listen to, and view excerpts (often brief) from more than one hundred sources. We've listed below a representative selection containing key ideas.

For more detail on resources and questions we address with them please see: Resources.


  • Andrews, Frank. (1990). The Art and Practice of Loving.
  • Bonner, John Tyler. (1980). Evolution of Culture in Animals.
  • Brafman, Ori. (2009). Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior.
  • Catton, William. (1980) Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change.
  • Cialdini, Robert. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
  • Duhigg, Charles. (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.
  • Edwards, David. (1999). Burning All Illusions.
  • Frankl, Viktor. (1959). Man’s Search for Meaning.
  • Graeber, David. (2012). Debt: The First 5,000 Years.
  • Hagen, Steve. (1998). Buddhism Plain and Simple.
  • Heilbroner, Robert. (1999). The Worldly Philosophers.
  • Kelly, Marjorie. (2003). The Divine Right of Capital: Dethroning the Corporate Aristocracy.
  • Meadows, Donella H., et al (1972). The Limits to Growth.
  • Ponting, Clive. (1991). A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations.
  • Schrom, David. (2008). Valuescience.
  • Seavoy, Ronald. (1986). Famine in Peasant Societies.
  • Shepard, Paul. (1996). The Only World We’ve Got.
  • Totman, Richard. (1985). Social and Biological Roles of Language.
  • Whorf, Benjamin Lee. (1956). Language, Thought and Reality.
  • Wilson, Edward O. (1998). Consilience.

Online Resources

  • AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment link
  • AAAS Science for All Americans Online link
  • US Debt History of Money and Banking link
  • Wikipedia link
  • Worldometers link


  • Beck, Roy. (2010). Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs. link
  • Global Footprint Network. (2015). Sustainable Development: 1980-2011. link
  • Martenson, Chris. (2014). Exponential Growth. Video segment from 8:12 to 10:12. link
  • Population Connection. (2000). A Graphic Simulation of World Population Growth. link
  • Reilly, John. (2006). Bystander. link


  • Daly, Herman. (1993). "Steady State Economics: A New Paradigm." New Literary History. link
  • Emmanuel, Ezekiel. (2014). "Why I Hope to Die at 75." The Atlantic. link
  • Engelman, Robert. (2011). "An End to Population Growth: Why Family Planning Is Key to a Sustainable Future." Solutions for a Sustainable and Desirable Future. link
  • Gilbert, Daniel, et. al. (2009). "The Surprising Power of Neighborly Advice." Science. link
  • Harvey, Joe. (1990). "Growth in Perspective." Rocky Mountain Institute Newsletter. link
  • Krugman, Paul. (2011). "Markets Can Be Very, Very Wrong." New York Times. link
  • Leeb, Steven. (2013). "Dangerous Times As Energy Sources Get Costlier To Extract." Forbes Magazine. link
  • Nikiforuk, Andrew. (2011). "You and Your Slaves." The Tyee. link
  • Norton, Michael and Ariely, Dan. (2011). "Building a Better America−One Wealth Quintile at a Time." Perspectives on Psychological Science. link
  • Strauss, Mark. (2012). "Looking Back on the Limits of Growth." Smithsonian Magazine. link
  • Tainter, Joseph. (1996). "Complexity, Problem Solving, and Sustainable Societies." Getting Down to Earth: Practical Applications of Ecological Economics. link

Course Policies and Expectations


View or listen to pre-recorded presentation(s) on Canvas prior to class meeting for which they are assigned.

For more detail on presentations please see: Presentations.

Class Meetings

We devote class meetings to discussion and other interaction. Please notify a member of the instructional team prior to any class from which you will be absent.

For more detail on class meetings please see: Class Meetings.


Students complete weekly or semi-weekly written quizzes. Quiz questions are taken directly from final exam.

For more detail on quizzes please see: Quizzes.


Students working independently or in teams of 2-4 research and create media to communicate a valuescience argument.

For more detail about project purpose, criteria, and grading please see: Project.

Final Exam

Each student completes a written, closed-book final exam at a time and place scheduled by the registrar. For a current list of potential final exam questions please see: link.

For more detail about final exam, please see: Final Exam.


Practicum enrollees practice personal behavioral change, record practice, and write reflections.

For more detail about practicum please see: Practicum.


Participants Enrolled for 3 Units

  • 0-33% Quizzes
  • 33% Project
  • 34-67% Final exam

Participants Enrolled for 4 Units (Practicum)

  • 0-25% Quizzes
  • 25% Project
  • 25-60% Final exam
  • 15-25% Practicum

Grading Alternatives

With consent of instructor prior to final date for electing letter grade or C/NC, a student may establish grading criteria different from above.

For more detail about grading please see: Grading.

Stanford Policies

  • Honor Code: Members of the teaching team consider the Honor Code a critical element of this course and of our lives at Stanford. We aim to be scrupulous in upholding it. We encourage you to read it here: [[1]] and to uphold it.
  • Students with Documented Disabilities: Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk. Phone: (650) 723-1066, URL:



Note: Please complete assignment prior to attending class. Please remember to download presentations prior to viewing. The audio will play only if you download the file.

Week Date Assignment
1 9/26 1. Respond to questions found here:

2. View presentation, "Valuescience: What, Why How" posted under "files" on Canvas.

1 9/28 1. For the topic Valuescience: What? Why? How?, please review the questions, watch the presentation if you've yet to do so, and read core readings. (Click on the topic name to access these items.)

2. Read Duhigg, Charles. (2012). "Keystone Habits, or the Ballad of Paul O'Neill." The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. pp. 97-126. - Duhigg makes a case that some habits are so central to our lives that by altering them we can make much other change more readily. Link

3. Submit practicum proposal.

2 10/3 1. For the topic Human Ecology: Framework for Valuescience, please review the questions, watch the presentation, and read the core readings. (Click on the topic name to access these items.) Please remember to download the presentation prior to viewing. The audio will play only if you download the file.

2. Complete "Human Ecology" quiz on Canvas by 10:30am on Tuesday, October 3rd.

2 10/5 1. For the topic Embodying, Communicating, and Evolving Culture, please review the questions, watch the presentation, and read the core readings. (Click on the topic name to access these items.)

2. Submit week 2 practicum report.

3. Complete "Embodying, Communicating, and Evolving Culture" quiz on Canvas by 10:30am on Thursday, October 5th.

3 10/10 1. For the topic World-view: Import, Sources, Evolving, please review the questions, watch the presentation, and read the core readings. (Click on the topic name to access these items.)

2. Complete "Worldview" quiz on Canvas by 10:30am on Tuesday, October 10th.

3 10/12 1. For the topic Paradigm Shift to a Consilient, Science-based World-view, please review the questions, watch the presentation, and read the core readings. (Click on the topic name to access these items.)

2. Submit week 3 practicum report. 3. Complete "Paradigm Shifts" quiz on Canvas by 10:30am on Thursday, October 12th.

4 10/17 1. For the topic Valuescience: What? Why? How?, please review the questions, watch the presentation, and read the core readings. (Click on the topic name to access these items.) Those who have been in the class from the very beginning have already done this work. We suggest that you review it. 2. Submit project proposal. 3. Complete "Valuescience: What, Why, How" quiz on Canvas by 10:30am on Tuesday, October 17th.
4 10/19 To be posted.

Submit week 4 practicum report.

5 10/24 To be posted.
5 10/26 To be posted.

Submit week 5 practicum report.

6 10/31 1. Submit project draft.
6 11/2 To be posted.

Submit week 6 practicum report.

7 11/7 To be posted.
7 11/9 To be posted.

Submit week 7 practicum report.

8 11/14 To be posted.
8 11/16 To be posted.

Submit week 8 practicum report.

9 11/28 To be posted.
9 11/30 To be posted.

Submit week 9 practicum report.

10 12/5 To be posted.
10 12/7 1. Present project.

2. Submit week 10 practicum report.