Robert T. Pennock

Robert T. Pennock is University Distinguished Professor of History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science at Michigan State University in the Lyman Briggs College and the Departments of Philosophy and Computer Science and Engineering. He is the author of Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism (MIT Press).

  • An Instinct for Truth

    An Instinct for Truth

    Curiosity and the Moral Character of Science

    Robert T. Pennock

    An exploration of the scientific mindset—such character virtues as curiosity, veracity, attentiveness, and humility to evidence—and its importance for science, democracy, and human flourishing.

    Exemplary scientists have a characteristic way of viewing the world and their work: their mindset and methods all aim at discovering truths about nature. In An Instinct for Truth, Robert Pennock explores this scientific mindset and argues that what Charles Darwin called “an instinct for truth, knowledge, and discovery” has a tacit moral structure—that it is important not only for scientific excellence and integrity but also for democracy and human flourishing. In an era of “post-truth,” the scientific drive to discover empirical truths has a special value.

    Taking a virtue-theoretic perspective, Pennock explores curiosity, veracity, skepticism, humility to evidence, and other scientific virtues and vices. He explains that curiosity is the most distinctive element of the scientific character, by which other norms are shaped; discusses the passionate nature of scientific attentiveness; and calls for science education not only to teach scientific findings and methods but also to nurture the scientific mindset and its core values.

    Drawing on historical sources as well as a sociological study of more than a thousand scientists, Pennock's philosophical account is grounded in values that scientists themselves recognize they should aspire to. Pennock argues that epistemic and ethical values are normatively interconnected, and that for science and society to flourish, we need not just a philosophy of science, but a philosophy of the scientist.

    • Hardcover $45.00 £38.00
  • Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics

    Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics

    Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives

    Robert T. Pennock

    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. The discussions cover IDC as a political movement, IDC's philosophical attack on evolution, the theological debate over the apparent conflict between evolution and the Bible, IDC's scientific claims, and philosopher Alvin Plantinga's critique of naturalism and evolution. The book concludes with Pennock's "Why Creationism Should Not Be Taught in the Public Schools."

    • Hardcover $110.00
    • Paperback $55.00 £45.00
  • Tower of Babel

    Tower of Babel

    The Evidence against the New Creationism

    Robert T. Pennock

    Creationists have acquired a more sophisticated intellectual arsenal. This book reveals the insubstantiality of their arguments.

    Creationism is no longer the simple notion it once was taken to be. Its new advocates have become more sophisticated in how they present their views, speaking of "intelligent design" rather than "creation science" and aiming their arguments against the naturalistic philosophical method that underlies science, proposing to replace it with a "theistic science." The creationism controversy is not just about the status of Darwinian evolution—it is a clash of religious and philosophical worldviews, for a common underlying fear among Creationists is that evolution undermines both the basis of morality as they understand it and the possibility of purpose in life.

    In Tower of Babel, philosopher Robert T. Pennock compares the views of the new creationists with those of the old and reveals the insubstantiality of their arguments. One of Pennock's major innovations is to turn from biological evolution to the less charged subject of linguistic evolution, which has strong theoretical parallels with biological evolution, both in content and in the sort of evidence scientists use to draw conclusions about origins. Of course, an evolutionary view of language does conflict with the Bible, which says that God created the variety of languages at one time as punishment for the Tower of Babel.

    Several chapters deal with the work of Phillip Johnson, a highly influential leader of the new Creationists. Against his and other views, Pennock explains how science uses naturalism and discusses the relationship between factual and moral issues in the creationism-evolution controversy. The book also includes a discussion of Darwin's own shift from creationist to evolutionist and an extended argument for keeping private religious beliefs separate from public scientific knowledge.

    • Hardcover $60.00
    • Paperback $50.00 £40.00