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Dr. Robert T. Pennock given one of MSU's highest honors

Dr. Robert T. Pennock

Lyman Briggs professor at the juncture of biology and philosophy named University Distinguished Professor

Lyman Briggs College Professor Robert T. Pennock has been named a University Distinguished Professor, one of the highest distinctions an MSU faculty member can achieve.

At its June 21, 2019 meeting, the MSU Board of Trustees voted on and approved the designation of honored faculty including Pennock.

Pennock is a professor of history, philosophy and sociology of science at Lyman Briggs College and holds appointments in many MSU departments, including the Department of Philosophy, the Department of Computer Science & Engineering, and the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior Program. His research involves empirical and philosophical questions that relate to evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and the scientific character. His interdisciplinary philosophy of science work aims to help improve public understanding of science, to foster science ethics, and to advance STEM education nationally.

Pennock has been on the faculty of Lyman Briggs College since 2000, teaching both lower and upper division courses on topics including artificial life, philosophy of biology, philosophy of technology, scientific method, evolution and creationism, applied Darwinism, scientific practice, and scientific virtues. Holding degrees in biology, philosophy, and the history and philosophy of science, he has thrived here, bringing his expertise to a college that advances an integrated understanding of science in its societal, philosophical, and historical contexts.

Pennock has published a vast array of scholarly articles, and his most recent book is An Instinct for Truth: Curiosity and the Moral Character of Science (The MIT Press, 2019). His most well-known book is Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism (The MIT Press - A Bradford Book, 1999).

He is a PI of the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, an NSF-funded research center at MSU, and PI of the Scientific Virtues Project. He served as an expert witness in the historic Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board Intelligent Design new creationism case. Pennock develops software (Avida-ED) and curricula to help students learn about evolution and the nature of science using digital organisms. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a National Associate of the National Academies of Science.

The title of University Distinguished Professor is awarded to those, at the recommendation of the provost and president, who are nationally and internationally recognized for the importance of their achievements. Awardees have teaching skills that encompass the breadth and depth of their discipline, a distinguished record of public service, and scholarly, creative, and artistic achievements.