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Dr. Robert Pennock publishes new book on scientific character

February 28, 2020

In October, the MIT Press published the latest book by University Distinguished Professor Robert T. Pennock, entitled An Instinct for Truth: Curiosity and the Moral Character of Science.

Book cover of An Instinct for Truth: Curiosity and the Moral Character of ScienceCharles Darwin once described his scientific character as having “an instinct for truth, knowledge, and discovery.” In this book, which takes its title from that quote, Robert Pennock argues that an exemplary scientist's quest for the truths of nature is reflected not only in his or her practices, but also in their character and mindset. In a philosophical analysis that draws on historical sources and a sociological study of hundreds of scientists, Pennock explores character virtues like curiosity, veracity, skepticism, humility to evidence, and other scientific virtues and vices, arguing that curiosity provides science with a moral structure.

The deeper message of the book is that the impact of the scientist's moral character is not confined to science, but has implications for society, democracy, and human flourishing. Rush D. Holt, CEO and Executive Publisher at the American Association for the Advancement of Science endorsed the book, writing, “In An Instinct for Truth, ... Robert T. Pennock shows that not only is curiosity a powerful motivator in the drive for reliable knowledge, it also, if guided by a virtuous scientist, leads to socially beneficial outcomes. Any practicing scientist or student of science can benefit from Pennock's observations about why we do science, or more, how to do science right.”

Find the book on the MIT Press website