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Robert T. Pennock
Robert T. Pennock, Ph.D.
University Distinguished Professor

Department: HPS
Address: W-34 Holmes
Phone: (517) 432-7701

Robert T. Pennock is Professor of HPS in Lyman Briggs College, and also holds appointments in the Philosophy Department,  the Department of Computer Science, and the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior graduate program.  He is one of the Co-PIs of the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, an NSF Science and Technology Center. In 2019, he was named University Distinguished Professor.

Dr. Pennock’s research involves both experimental and philosophical questions that relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science, such as the evolution of altruistic behavior, complexity, inference and intelligence.  He uses digital evolution (Avida as well as evolving neural networks) to investigate the emergence of intelligent behavior.  Rather than trying to build intelligent systems from the top down, he is interested in investigating how such systems evolve from the bottom up.  His Evolving Intelligence (EI) group has focused on the evolution of elements of intelligent behavior, including phenotypic plasticity, short-term and associative memory, environmental information processing, purposeful movement control, and cooperation.  His research in these areas has been published in numerous journals and featured in Discover, New Scientist, Science Daily, Slashdot, US New & World Report, and many other national and international periodicals

Dr. Pennock is also involved with various national initiatives to support undergraduate education about evolutionary biology and more generally about the nature of science.  He leads the NSF funded Avida-ED project, which develops and assesses software and curricular materials to use evolutionary computation to help teach these concepts.  He was an expert witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board case that ruled that Intelligent Design creationism is not science, but sectarian religion, and that teaching it is the public schools is unconstitutional.  He was the co-founder and first president of the citizens action group Michigan Citizens for Science.

Dr. Pennock also studies the relationship of epistemic and ethical values in science.  Scientific methodology itself comes with tacit norms that govern appropriate professional behavior.  His work in this area deals with what he calls the scientific virtues, which is a new way to think about some issues in responsible conduct of research.  He is currently writing a book on this topic.

In recognition of his education and public outreach work, he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Sigma Xi National Distinguished Lecturer, and a National Associate of the National Academies of Science, and has received a number of awards, including the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of Darwin Award (2003) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences Outstanding Service Award (2009)..

    2017 -International Society for Artificial Life Education & Outreach Award as lead for Avida-ED.
    2012 -MSU Phi Kappa Phi Excellence Award in Interdisciplinary Scholarship. For Avida-ED Project.
    2012 -MSU Phi Kappa Phi Excellence Award in Interdisciplinary Scholarship. For Avida-ED Project.
    2011 -MSU Distinguished Faculty Award
    2010 - Thomas Jefferson Religious Freedom Lecture. University of Mary Washington.
    2009 -American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) Outstanding Service Award.
    2009 -25th Annual Alfred E. Stiernotte Lecture. Quinnipiac University.
    2009 -Springer Lecture. International History and Philosophy of Science Teaching Group.
    2009 -Outstanding Service Award, American Institute of Biological Sciences
    2008 -National Associate, National Academies of Science (since 2008)
    2008 -National Associate of the National Academies of Science. Elected
    2008 -Academy of Scholars Senior Lecture. Wayne State University, Detroit.
    2006 -Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Elected.
    2006 -Provost’s Convocation/Helen Edison Lecture. Univ. of California, San Diego.
    2006 - Silverstein Lectures. Northwestern University Medical School.
    2006 -Sagan National Colloquium Lecture. Ohio Wesleyan University.
    2006 -Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (since 2006)
    2005 -Comstock Speakership. Minnesota State University Moorhead. Minnesota.
    2004 - Matheny Lecture. Southeastern Louisiana University.
    2003 -National Center for Science Education Friend of Darwin Award.
    2003 -Friend of Darwin Award, National Center for Science Education
    2002 -Judith Weller Harvey Quaker Scholar, Guilford College
    2002 - Judith Weller Harvey Quaker Scholar. Guilford College.
    2002 -Branigan Lecturer. Institute for Advanced Study, Indiana University.
    2000 -Sigma Xi National Distinguished Lecturer (2000-2002)
    1990 -Sigma Xi National Distinguished Lecturer. (2000-2002)

    National Science Foundation, (Goodman, Pennock, Holekamp, Lenski, Ofria), BEACON: An NSF Center for the Study of Evolution in Action [2015 -2020] $22,500,000
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute Education, (Pennock, LaDuca, Chivukula, Krajcik, Urban-Lurain), LEVERS: Leveraging Engagement and Vision to Encourage Retention in STEM [2014 -2019] $1,500,000
    National Science Foundation, (Pennock, Smith, Lenski, Mead, Ofria), Active LENS: Learning Evolution and the Nature of Science using Evolution in Action [2014 -2019] $2,315,094
    John Templeton Foundation, (Pennock, Miller), The Scientific Virtues: A National Survey of the Ethical Perceptions of Scientific Leaders [2013 -2017] $1,055,139
    John Templeton Foundation, (Pennock), The Scientific Virtues: Planning Grant for a National Survey of the Ethical Perceptions of Scientific Leaders [2012 -2012] $99,765
    National Science Foundation, (Goodman, Pennock, Ofria, Lenski, Holekamp, Getty, Cheng, McKinley), BEACON: An NSF Science & Technology Center for the Study of Evolution in Action [2010 -2015] $25,000,000
    National Science Foundation, (PI: Robert T. Pennock), Avida-ED: Technology for Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science using Digital Organisms - Supplemental Grant [2008 -2009] $24,137
    National Science Foundation, (Pennock), CRI:IAD -- A Testbed for Evolving Cooperative and Adaptive Behavior among Autonomous Systems. [2008 -2009] $188,100
    Cambridge Templeton Consortium, (PI: Robert T. Pennock), Emerging Intelligence: Contingency, Convergence and Constraints in the Evolution of Intelligent Behavior. [2006 -2008] $309,187
    National Science Foundation, (PI: Robert T. Pennock), Avida-ED: Technology for Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science using Digital Organisms. [2004 -2008] $255,836

    2018 Cory Kohn, Robert T. Pennock, Jim Smith, Michael J Wiser, and Louise S Mead. “A Digital Technology-based Introductory Biology Course Designed for Engineering and Other Non-life Science STEM Majors” Computer Applications in Engineering Education. (2018; DOI: 10.1002/cae.21986)
    2018 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)
    2018 Eric Berling, Chet McLeskey, Michael O’Rourke, Robert T. Pennock. “A New Method for a Virtue-based Responsible Conduct of Research Curriculum: Pilot Test Results” Science & Engineering Ethics. (2018, doi:10.1007/s11948-017-9991-2)
    2018 Amy M Lark; Gail Richmond; Louise S Mead; James J Smith; Robert T. Pennock. “Exploring the relationship between experiences with digital evolution and students’ scientific understanding and acceptance of evolution.” American Biology Teacher (2018, 80(2):74-86; DOI 10.1525/abt.2018.80.2.74)
    2017 James J Smith; Wendy R Johnson; Amy M Lark; Louise S Mead; Michael J Wiser, Robert T. Pennock. “An Avida-ED digital evolution curriculum for undergraduate biology.” Evolution: Education and Outreach (2016, 9(9), 1-11; DOI 10.1186/s12052-016-0060-0)
    2016 R. T. Pennock. “Evolution and Computing.” In Jonathan B. Losos & Richard E. Lenski (eds.) How Evolution Shapes Our Lives: Essays on Biology and Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (2016, pp. 206-219)
    2016 Michael J Wiser, Louise S Mead; James J Smith; Robert T. Pennock. “Comparing Human and Automated Evaluation of Open-Ended Student Responses to Questions of Evolution.” In Gershenson, C., Froese, T., Siqueiros, J.M., Aguilar, W., Izquierdo, E.J. and Sayama, H. (eds.) Artificial Life XV: Proceedings of the of the Fifteenth International Conference on Artificial Life. (2016, pp. 116-122)
    2016 R. T. Pennock “Experimental Evolution in the Classroom: The Active LENS Project.” Envisioning the Future of Undergraduate STEM Education: Research and Practice Symposium. (April 2016)
    2016 Robert T. Pennock and Michael O’Rourke. “Developing a Scientific Virtue-Based Approach to Science Ethics Training.” Science & Engineering Ethics. (First Online 2016, 27 January. pp. 1-20; 2017, 23(1), 243-262, doi:10.1007/s11948-016-9757-2)
    2015 R. T. Pennock. “Fostering a Culture of Scientific Integrity: Legalistic vs. Scientific Virtue-Based Approaches.” Professional Ethics Report (2015, 28(2):1-3)
    2014 Amy Lark, Gail Richmond, Robert T. Pennock. “Modeling Evolution in the Classroom: The Case of the Fukushima Butterflies.” American Biology Teacher (2014, 76(7):450-454)
    2013 R. T. Pennock. “Evolution and Computing.” In J.B. Losos (ed.) The Princeton Guide to Evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (2013, pp. 780-785)
    2013 Laura M. Grabowski, David M. Bryson, Fred C. Dyer, Robert T. Pennock and Charles Ofria. “A Case Study in the De Novo Evolution of a Complex Odometric Behavior in Digital Organisms.” PLoS ONE (2013; 8(4):e60466)
    2012 R. T. PENNOCK. “Are Pre-existing Condition Exclusion Clauses Just: Lessons from Causal and Ethical Considerations Regarding Genetic Testing” In R. Rhodes, M. P. Battin and A. Silvers (eds.) Medicine and Social Justice: Essays on the Distribution of Health Care (2nd edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press. (2012, pp. 387-399)
    2012 Jeff Clune, ROBERT T. PENNOCK, Charles Ofria and Richard Lenski. “Ontogeny tends to recapitulate phylogeny in digital organisms” The American Naturalist, Vol. 180, No. 3 (July 2012) E54-E63.
    2011 Jeff Clune, Kenneth O. Stanley, ROBERT T. PENNOCK, and Charles Ofria. “On the Performance of Indirect Encoding Across the Continuum of Regularity” IEEE Transactions On Evolutionary Computation, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 346-367. (June 2011)
    2011 Laura M. Grabowski, David M. Bryson, Fred C. Dyer, ROBERT T. PENNOCK and Charles Ofria. “Clever Creatures: Case Studies of Evolved Digital Organisms” Proceedings of the European Conference on Artificial Life 11 (August 2011)
    2011 R. T. PENNOCK. “Negotiating Boundaries in the Definition of Life: Wittgensteinian and Darwinian Insights on Resolving Conceptual Border Conflicts” Synthese (2012, Vol. 185 No. 1 pp. 5-20) DOI: 10.1007/s11229-011-9873-0 (Online: 15 Feb. 2011)
    2010 'The Postmodern Sin of Intelligent Design Creationism.' Science & Education 19.6-8 (2010): 757-78.
    2010 'HybrID: A Hybridization of Indirect and Direct Encodings for Evolutionary Computation.' Proceedings of the 2009 Evolutionary Conference of Artificial Life (ECAL). Berlin: Springer, 2010 (with Jeff Clune, Benjamin E. Beckmann, and Charles Ofria).
    2010 'Should Students Be Able to Opt Out of Evolution?: Some Philosophical Considerations.' Evolution Education & Outreach 3 (June 2010): 163-69.
    2010 'Early Evolution of Memory Usage in Digital Organisms.' Proceedings of the International Conference on Artificial Life (ALife XII), August 2010 (with Laura M. Grabowski, David M. Bryson, Fred C. Dyer, and Charles Ofria).
    2010 'Selective pressures for accurate altruism targeting: Evidence from digital evolution for difficult-to-test aspects of inclusive fitness theory.' Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278 (7 March 2011): 666-74 (published online 15 September 2010; with Jeff Clune, Heather Goldsby, and Charles Ofria).
    2009 'Cockroaches, Drunkards, and Climbers: Modeling the Evolution of Simple Movement Strategies Using Digital Organisms.' Proceedings of IEEE Symposium on Artificial Life (ALIFE 2009). Symposium Series on Computational Intelligence. [Piscataway, NJ]: IEEE, 2009. 92-99 (with Wesley R. Elsberry, Laura M. Grabowski, and Charles Ofria).
    2009 'Evolving coordinated quadruped gaits using the HyperNEAT generative encoding.' Proceedings of IEEE on Evolutionary Computing. Special Section on Evolutionary Robotics. Trondheim, Norway: IEEE, 2009. 2764-71 (with Jeff Clune, Benjamin E. Beckmann, and Charles Ofria). [GECCO best paper award winner]
    2009 'Can’t Philosophers Tell The Difference Between Science and Religion?: Demarcation Revisited.' Synthese (April 2009).
    2009 'The Sensitivity of HyperNEAT to Different Geometric Representations of a Problem.' Proceedings of the 2009 Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO ’09), Montreal, Canada. New York: Association for Computing Machinery, 2009. 675-82 (with Jeff Clune and Charles Ofria).
    2009 'Using Avida-ED for Teaching and Learning about Evolution in Undergraduate Introductory Biology Courses.' Evolution Education & Outreach 2.3 (2009): 415-28 (with Elena B. Speth, Tammy Long, and Diane Ebert-May).
    2008 'On the Evolution of Motility and Intelligent Tactic Response.' Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO ’08). New York: Association for Computing Machinery, 2008. 209-16 (with Laura Grabowski, Wesley Elsberry, and Charles Ofria).
    2008 'How A Generative Encoding Fares as Problem-Regularity Decreases.' In G. Rudolph et al. (eds.), Parallel Problem Solving in Nature. Berlin: Springer, 2008. 358-67 (with Jeff Clune and Charles Ofria).
    2008 "Science Education and Religion in American in the 21st Century: Holding the Center" In Ariela Keysar & Barry A. Kosmin (eds.) Secularism & Science in the 21st Century. Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture. 2008, pp. 9-32. (with Jon Miller)
    2007 "How Not to Teach the Controversy about Creationism." In Jones, Leslie S. and Michael J. Reiss (eds.) Teaching About Scientific Origins While Taking Account of Creationism. Peter Lang Publishers. (2007, pp. 59-74)
    2007 'God of the Gaps: The Argument from Ignorance and the Limits of Methodological Naturalism.' In Andrew Petto and Laurie Godfrey (eds.), Scientists Confront Creationism and Intelligent Design. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2007. 309-38.
    2007 'Models, Simulations, Instantiations and Evidence: The Case of Digital Evolution.' Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 19.1 (2007): 29-42.
    2007 'Investigating the Emergence of Phenotypic Plasticity in Evolving Digital Organisms.' In F. Almeida e Costa,, L. M. Rocha, E. Costa, I. Harvey, and A. Coutinho (eds.), Advances in Artificial Life. Berlin: Springer, 2007. 74-83 (with Jeff Clune and Charles Ofria).
    2007 'Biology and Religion.' In Michael Ruse and David Hull (eds.), Cambridge Companion to Philosophy of Biology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 410-28.
    2007 'Learning Evolution and the Nature of Science using Evolutionary Computing and Artificial Life.' McGill Journal of Education 42.2 (2007): 211-24.
    2006 'Scientific Integrity and Science Museums.' Museums and Social Issues 1.1 (Spring 2006): 7-18.
    2006 'The Pre-Modern Sins of Intelligent Design.' In Phillip Clayton (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Science and Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. 732-48.
    2006 'Pre-Existing Conditions: Genetic Testing, Causation and the Justice of Medical Insurance.' In Rosamond Rhodes, Leslie Francis, Anita Silvers (eds.), Blackwell Guide to Medical Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. 407-24.
    2005 'On Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science.' In J. Cracraft and R. Bybee (eds.), Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation. Colorado Springs, CO: Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, 2005. 1-12.


But Is It Science? The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy,<br />Updated Edition book image
But Is It Science? The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy,
Updated Edition
Updated Edition On December 20, 2005, a U.S. district court in Dover, Pennsylvania, ruled in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board that teaching Intelligent Design in public school biology classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The judge explained that Intelligent Design is not science and "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents." This case was just the latest attempt by proponents of Intelligent Design or Creationism to undermine the teaching of evolution in high school biology classes. The emotionally charged controversy, which has been going on since the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, shows no sign of letting up.
Pages: 577
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Date Published: January 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1591025825
Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics:<br />Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives book image
Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics:
Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives
The last decade saw the arrival of a new player in the creation/evolution debate--the intelligent design creationism (IDC) movement, whose strategy is to act as "the wedge" to overturn Darwinism and scientific naturalism. This anthology of writings by prominent creationists and their critics focuses on what is novel about the new movement. It serves as a companion to Robert Pennock’s Tower of Babel, in which he criticizes the wedge movement, as well as other new varieties of creationism. The book contains articles previously published in specialized, hard-to-find journals, as well as new contributions. Each section contains introductory background information, articles by influential creationists and their critics, and in some cases responses by the creationists.
Pages: 825
Publisher: The MIT Press
Date Published: December 2001
ISBN-13: 978-0262162043
Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism book image
Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism
The face of creationism has been through some major plastic surgery in the past decade or so. The leading proponents of "intelligent design theory" have left the ranting flat-earth types behind and found respected positions in the academic world from which to launch attacks on mainstream science. Philosopher of science Robert T. Pennock has explored all sides of the ongoing debate, which remains (despite the protestations of many creationists) more about biblical inerrancy than scientific evidence.
Pages: 440
Publisher: The MIT Press
Date Published: March 1999
ISBN-13: 978-0262661652