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Robert T. Pennock, Ph.D.

Robert T.  Pennock
  • University Distinguished Professor
  • LB Course Subject Area: Science and Society
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Computer Science & Engineering
  • Ecology, Evolution and Behavior graduate program
  • Holmes Hall, W-34
  • 919 E. Shaw Lane
  • East Lansing, MI 48825
  • (517) 432-7701


  • LB 133: Introduction to History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science
  • LB 327: Scientific Practice
  • LB 322B: Advances in Science and Technology
  • LB 484: Philosophy of Biology
  • LB 492: Artificial Life
  • LB 492: Evolutionary Design
  • LB 492: Scientific Virtues


As a philosopher of science, I’m interested in how organisms become knowers and how science can help systematize and improve this process.  I study this in part by combining evolutionary biology with computer science; using evolving digital organisms, we can do experiments to investigate how intelligence can evolve.  Scientific reasoning is not just a biological question, however, so I also study scientific methods and practices, and the values that underlie these.  I’m especially interested in curiosity and other character virtues that are important for excellence in scientific research, and how we can do better helping science students cultivate these.  I teach about such topics in my Lyman Briggs HPS courses and regularly mentor undergrad Professorial Assistants who want to try their hand at helping with this kind of research.


  • Ph.D., History & Philosophy of Science. University of Pittsburgh
  • B.A. w/Honors, Biology/Philosophy, Earlham College


  • International Society for Artificial Life Education & Outreach Award
  • American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) Outstanding Service Award
  • National Associate of the National Academies of Science
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • National Center for Science Education Friend of Darwin Award
  • Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer
  • Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society
  • Phi Beta Kappa


  • The Avida-ED Project: Technology for Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science using Digital Organisms  
  • The Scientific Virtues Project: Investigating the vocational virtues that underlie excellence in scientific research 
  • The Evolving Intelligence Project: Using Evolving Digital Organisms to Study the Evolution of Intelligent Behavior 
  • National Science Foundation – ER2 ($599,930). Principal Investigator. Institutional Transformation: VERITIES - Virtue-Based Education for Responsibility and Integrity To Increase Excellence in STEM.
  • National Science Foundation – STC ($22,500,000). Co-PI.  BEACON: An NSF Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.
  • National Science Foundation - IUSE ($2,315,094). Principal Investigator.  Active LENS: Learning Evolution and the Nature of Science using Evolution in Action.
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute ($1,500,000). Co-PI.  LEVERS: Leveraging Engagement and Vision to Encourage Retention in STEM.
  • John Templeton Foundation ($1,055,139). Principal Investigator.  The Scientific Virtues: A National Survey of the Ethical Perceptions of Scientific Leaders.
  • John Templeton Foundation ($95,725). Principal Investigator.  The Scientific Virtues: Planning Grant for a National Survey of the Ethical Perceptions of Scientific Leaders.
  • National Science Foundation ($25,300,000). Co-PI.  BEACON: An NSF Science & Technology Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. 2010-2015.
  • National Science Foundation - CNS ($188,100) Co-PI.  CRI:IAD -- A Testbed for Evolving Cooperative and Adaptive Behavior among Autonomous Systems. (APP 98946-00) 2008-2009.
  • Cambridge Templeton Consortium ($309,000). Principal Investigator. Emerging Intelligence: Contingency, Convergence and Constraints in the Evolution of Intelligent Behavior.
  • National Science Foundation ($255,837). Principal Investigator.  Avida-ED: Technology for Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science using Digital Organisms.


  • R. T. Pennock An Instinct for Truth: Curiosity and the Moral Character of Science. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. (2019)
  • R. T. Pennock Tower of Babel: The Evidence against The New Creationism. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press - Bradford Books.  (1999)
  • R. T. Pennock & Michael Ruse (eds.) But Is It Science?: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy (Updated Edition) Prometheus Press (2009)
  • R. T. Pennock. “Beyond Research Ethics: How scientific virtue theory reframes and extends responsible conduct of research.” In Carr, David (ed.) Cultivating Moral Character and Virtue in Professional Practices. Routledge Press. (2018, pp. 166-177 
  • R. T. Pennock and M. O’Rourke. “Developing a Scientific Virtue-Based Approach to Science Ethics Training. Science & Engineering Ethics. (2017, 23(1), 243-262)
  • R. T. Pennock. “Can’t Philosophers Tell The Difference Between Science and Religion?: Demarcation Revisited”  Synthese (2011, 178(2), 177-206)
  • R. T. Pennock. "Learning Evolution and the Nature of Science using Evolutionary Computing and Artificial Life." McGill Journal of Education (2007, 42(2), 211-224)
  • R. T. Pennock. "Models, Simulations, Instantiations and Evidence: The Case of Digital Evolution" Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence (2007, 19(1), 29-42)
  • R. Lenski, C. Ofria, R. T. Pennock, C. Adami. "The Evolutionary Origin of Complex Features."  Nature.  (2003, 423(8 May), 139-144)
  • R. T. Pennock. "Can Darwinian Mechanisms Make Novel Discoveries?: Learning from discoveries made by evolving neural networks." Foundations of Science (2000, 5(2), 225-238)


Personal website

Curriculum Vitae