Robert T. Pennock

Robert T. Pennock is a philosopher working on the Avida digital organism project at Michigan State University where he has been full professor since 2000. Pennock was a witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial,[1] testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs,[2] and described how intelligent design is an updated form of creationism and not science,[3] pointing out that the arguments were essentially the same as traditional creationist arguments with adjustments to the message to eliminate explicit mention of God and the Bible as well as adopting a postmodern deconstructionist language. Pennock also laid out the philosophical history of methodological and philosophical naturalism as they underpin to science, and explained that if intelligent design were truly embraced it would return Western civilization to a pre-Enlightenment state.[4]

Robert T. Pennock
ResidenceEast Lansing, Michigan
Known forWitness at Kitzmiller v. Dover
AwardsOutstanding Service Award (American Institute of Biological Sciences)
Scientific career
FieldsPhilosophy of science, evolution, criticisms of creationism

Education and career

Pennock received his Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Pittsburgh, where he graduated summa cum laude. In 1997, he co-directed a National Science Foundation Chautauqua Workshop on the "Ethical Implications of the Human Genome Project." Pennock has served as president of the University of Texas at Austin Chapter of Sigma Xi[5] and is a member of the American Philosophical Association, the National Center for Science Education and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Writing and speaking

He has written and edited books and articles critical of intelligent design, using the term methodological naturalism to emphasise that the scientific method inherently explains observable events in nature only by natural causes, without assuming the existence or non-existence of the supernatural, and is not based on dogmatic metaphysical naturalism as claimed by creationists. He has also been a featured speaker at religious, freethinking, and atheist gatherings.[6]

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District

Pennock testified as an expert witness at the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was cited in the concluding memorandum by Judge John E. Jones III as evidence that "Methodological naturalism is a “ground rule” of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify" contributing to the conclusion "that ID is an interesting theological argument, but that it is not science".


In 2009 Pennock received the American Institute of Biological Sciences's Outstanding Service Award, given "in recognition of an individual's (or organization's) noteworthy service to the biological sciences".[7] Pennock has also received the "Friend of Darwin Award" from the National Center for Science Education.[8] His book on creationism, Tower of Babel, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and PEN Award, and was a finalist for the ForeWord Book-of-the-Year.[9] Pennock has also won several awards for his essays and teaching, including the Michael R. Bennett Prize, the Templeton Prize for Exemplary Paper in Theology and the Natural Sciences, Apple for the Teacher Award, and a Templeton Science & Religion Course Award.[9] In 2006 Pennock was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science for "voicing the philosophical deficits in the pro-intelligent design argument and defending against its inclusion in science teaching"[10] and in 2008 was designated a lifetime member of the National Research Council of the United States National Academy of Sciences.[11]


  • Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism ISBN 0-262-16180-X, ISBN 0-262-66165-9
  • Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives (editor) ISBN 0-262-16204-0, ISBN 0-262-66124-1


  1. ^ Lebo, L (2005-09-29). "Witness bashes intelligent design; A philosopher of science said the controversial idea rejects science". York Daily Record.
  2. ^ "No method to intelligent design, witness says". MSNBC. 2005-11-28. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  3. ^ "Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District; Trial transcript: Day 3 (September 28), AM Session, Part 1". 2005-09-28. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  4. ^ Slack G (2008). The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and a School Board in Dover, PA. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. pp. 110–123. ISBN 0-470-37931-6.
  5. ^ [site= "The University of Texas at Austin Chapter of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society"] Check |url= value (help). Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2010-08-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "AIBS honors outstanding contributions to biology". American Institute of Biological Sciences. 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  8. ^ "Friend of Darwin Awards". National Center for Science Education. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  9. ^ a b "People at LBC: Robert Pennock, Ph.D." Lyman Briggs College. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  10. ^ "'U' professors take seats among the 2006 American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellows". Michigan State University. 2006-11-27. Archived from the original on 2008-08-21. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  11. ^ "Robert T. Pennock: Curriculum Vitae". Michigan State University. 2008-08-11. Retrieved 2010-08-03.

External links


Avida is an artificial life software platform to study the evolutionary biology of self-replicating and evolving computer programs (digital organisms). Avida is under active development by Charles Ofria's Digital Evolution Lab at Michigan State University; the first version of Avida was designed in 1993 by Ofria, Chris Adami and C. Titus Brown at Caltech, and has been fully reengineered by Ofria on multiple occasions since then. The software was originally inspired by the Tierra system.


The BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action is a science and technology center in the United States, focused on experimental and applied research on evolutionary dynamics, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The consortium of universities that make up BEACON is led by Michigan State University with partner institutions of North Carolina A&T State University, the University of Idaho, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Washington.

BEACON stands for Bio/computational Evolution in Action CONsortium. BEACON's mission is illuminating and harnessing the power of evolution in action to advance science and technology and benefit society. Members of the center conduct research on evolution in both biological and digital realms, and also use evolutionary computing for engineering applications. At latest count in 2016, BEACON had 583 members, including faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students.

The director of the center is Erik D. Goodman. The other principal investigators are Richard Lenski, Charles Ofria, Robert T. Pennock, and Kay Holekamp.

Charles Ofria

Dr. Charles A. Ofria is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Michigan State University, the director of the Digital Evolution (DEvo) Lab there, and co-founder and Deputy Director of the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. He is the son of the late Charles Ofria, who developed the first fully integrated shop management program for the automotive repair industry. Ofria attended Stuyvesant High School and graduated from Ward Melville High School in 1991. He obtained a B.S. in Computer Science, Pure Mathematics, and Applied Mathematics from Stony Brook University in 1994, and a Ph.D. in Computation and Neural Systems from the California Institute of Technology in 1999. Ofria's research focuses on the interplay between computer science and Darwinian evolution.Ofria is one of the designers of Avida, an artificial life software platform to study the evolutionary biology of self-replicating and evolving computer programs (digital organisms, see also Digital organism simulators). Avida has been used extensively to study the basic processes that underlie Darwinian evolution. Avida is under active development in Ofria's Digital Evolution Lab at Michigan State University and was originally designed by Ofria, Chris Adami and C. Titus Brown at Caltech in 1993.

Creationism's Trojan Horse

Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design is a 2004 book by Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross on the origins of intelligent design, specifically the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture and its wedge strategy. The authors are highly critical of what they refer to as intelligent design creationism, and document the intelligent design movement's fundamentalist Christian origins and funding.

The book grew out of an essay, "The Wedge at Work: How Intelligent Design Creationism Is Wedging Its Way into the Cultural and Academic Mainstream" which Forrest wrote for the book Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics (2001) edited by Robert T. Pennock. It is published by Oxford University Press and has a foreword by Steven Weinberg.

Darwin on Trial

Darwin on Trial is a 1991 book by law professor Phillip E. Johnson disputing tenets of science and evolution and promoting creationism. Johnson wrote the book with the thesis that evolution could be "tried" like a defendant in court. Darwin on Trial became a central text of the intelligent design movement, and Johnson has been described as the "father of ID".Eugenie Scott wrote that, in her opinion, the book "teaches little that is accurate about either the nature of science, or the topic of evolution. It is recommended neither by scientists nor educators." Scott pointed out in a second review that "the criticisms of evolution [Johnson] offers are immediately recognizable as originating with the 'scientific' creationists".

Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns

The Discovery Institute has conducted a series of related public relations campaigns which seek to promote intelligent design while attempting to discredit evolutionary biology, which the Institute terms "Darwinism." The Discovery Institute promotes the pseudoscientific intelligent design movement and is represented by Creative Response Concepts, a public relations firm.Prominent Institute campaigns have been to 'Teach the Controversy' and to allow 'Critical Analysis of Evolution'. Other campaigns have claimed that intelligent design advocates (most notably Richard Sternberg) have been discriminated against, and thus that Academic Freedom bills are needed to protect academics' and teachers' ability to criticise evolution, and that the development of evolutionary theory was historically linked to ideologies such as Nazism and eugenics, claims based on misrepresentation which have been ridiculed by topic experts. These three claims are all publicised in the pro-ID movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the Anti-Defamation League said the film's attempt to blame science for the Nazi Holocaust was outrageous. Other campaigns have included petitions, most notably A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.The theory of evolution is accepted by overwhelming scientific consensus. Intelligent design has been rejected, both by the vast majority of scientists and by court findings, such as Kitzmiller v. Dover, as being a religious view and not science.

Intelligent design and science

The relationship between intelligent design and science has been a contentious one. Intelligent design (ID) is presented by its proponents as science and claims to offer an alternative to evolution. The Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank and the leading proponent of intelligent design, launched a campaign entitled "Teach the Controversy" which claims that a controversy exists within the scientific community over evolution. The scientific community, however, rejects intelligent design as a form of creationism. The basic facts of evolution are not a matter of controversy in science.

Intelligent designer

An intelligent designer, also referred to as an intelligent agent, is the hypothetical willed and self-aware entity that the intelligent design movement argues had some role in the origin and/or development of life. The term "intelligent cause" is also used, implying their teleological supposition of direction and purpose in features of the universe and of living things.

List of scholars on the relationship between religion and science

This is a list of notable individuals who have focused on studying the intersection of religion and science.

List of works on intelligent design

This is a list of works addressing the subject or the themes of intelligent design.

Natural theology

Natural theology, once also termed physico-theology, is a type of theology that provides arguments for the existence of God based on reason and ordinary experience of nature.

This distinguishes it from revealed theology, which is based on scripture and/or religious experiences, and from transcendental theology, which is based on a priori reasoning. It is thus a type of philosophy, with the aim of explaining the nature of the gods, or of one supreme God. For monotheistic religions, this principally involves arguments about the attributes or non-attributes of God, and especially the existence of God, using arguments that do not involve recourse to supernatural revelation.

Marcus Terentius Varro (116 BC – 27 BC) established a distinction between political theology (the social functions of religion), natural theology and mythical theology. His terminology became part of the Stoic tradition and then Christianity through Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas.

Naturalism (philosophy)

In philosophy, naturalism is the "idea or belief that only natural (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world." Adherents of naturalism (i.e., naturalists) assert that natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behavior of the natural universe, that the changing universe at every stage is a product of these laws."Naturalism can intuitively be separated into an ontological and a methodological component," argues David Papineau. "Ontological" refers to the philosophical study of the nature of being. Some philosophers equate naturalism with materialism. For example, philosopher Paul Kurtz argues that nature is best accounted for by reference to material principles. These principles include mass, energy, and other physical and chemical properties accepted by the scientific community. Further, this sense of naturalism holds that spirits, deities, and ghosts are not real and that there is no "purpose" in nature. Such an absolute belief in naturalism is commonly referred to as metaphysical naturalism.Assuming naturalism in working methods as the current paradigm, without the further consideration of naturalism as an absolute truth with philosophical entailment, is called methodological naturalism. The subject matter here is a philosophy of acquiring knowledge based on an assumed paradigm.

With the exception of pantheists—who believe that Nature is identical with divinity while not recognizing a distinct personal anthropomorphic god—theists challenge the idea that nature contains all of reality. According to some theists, natural laws may be viewed as so-called secondary causes of God(s).

In the 20th century, Willard Van Orman Quine, George Santayana, and other philosophers argued that the success of naturalism in science meant that scientific methods should also be used in philosophy. Science and philosophy are said to form a continuum, according to this view.


Neo-creationism is a pseudoscientific movement which aims to restate creationism in terms more likely to be well received by the public, by policy makers, by educators and by the scientific community. It aims to re-frame the debate over the origins of life in non-religious terms and without appeals to scripture. This comes in response to the 1987 ruling by the United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard that creationism is an inherently religious concept and that advocating it as correct or accurate in public-school curricula violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.One of the principal claims of neo-creationism propounds that ostensibly objective orthodox science, with a foundation in naturalism, is actually a dogmatically atheistic religion. Its proponents argue that the scientific method excludes certain explanations of phenomena, particularly where they point towards supernatural elements, thus effectively excluding religious insight from contributing to understanding the universe. This leads to an open and often hostile opposition to what neo-creationists term "Darwinism", which they generally mean to refer to evolution, but which they may extend to include such concepts as abiogenesis, stellar evolution and the Big Bang theory.

Notable neo-creationist organizations include the Discovery Institute and its Center for Science and Culture. Neo-creationists have yet to establish a recognized line of legitimate scientific research and as of 2015 lack scientific and academic legitimacy, even among many academics of evangelical Christian colleges. Eugenie C. Scott and other critics regard neo-creationism as the most successful form of irrationalism. The main form of neo-creationism is intelligent design. A second form, abrupt appearance theory, which claims that the first life and the universe appeared abruptly and that plants and animals appeared abruptly in complex form, has occasionally been postulated.

Pennock (surname)

Pennock is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Adrian Pennock, football manager

Herb Pennock, baseball player

Lon Pennock, Dutch artist

Robert T. Pennock, philosopher

Peter Godfrey-Smith

Peter Godfrey-Smith (born 1965) is an Australian philosopher of science and writer.

Robert Pennock

Robert Pennock may refer to:

Robert Pennock (politician) (born 1936), Canadian politician

Robert T. Pennock, philosopher

Truth in Science

Truth in Science is a United Kingdom-based creationist organisation which promotes the Discovery Institute's "Teach the Controversy" campaign, which it uses to try to get pseudoscientific intelligent design creationism taught alongside evolution in school science lessons. The organisation claims that there is scientific controversy about the validity of Darwinian evolution, a view rejected by the United Kingdom's Royal Society and over 50 Academies of Science around the world. The group is affiliated with the Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement, following its strategy and circulating the Institute's promotional materials.

Walt Brown (creationist)

Walter T. Brown (born August 1937) is a young Earth creationist, who is the director of his own ministry called the Center for Scientific Creation. The Skeptic's Dictionary considers him to be one of the leaders of the creation science movement. He proposes a specific version of flood geology called the Hydroplate Theory. He is a retired army officer with a degree in mechanical engineering.

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