Will Provine

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Will Provine
William B. Provine, HSS 2008.jpg
William B. Provine in 2008
Born 1942

William B. Provine is an American historian of science and of evolutionary biology and population genetics. He is the Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor at Cornell University and is a professor in the Departments of History, Science and Technology Studies, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.


Provine was born in Tennessee. He holds a B.S. (1962), M.A. (1965) and Ph.D (1970) from the University of Chicago. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1969.

Education reform[edit]

In 1970, Provine was instrumental in the founding of Cornell's Risley Residential College. He was the first faculty member in residence.


Provine is an atheist, philosopher, and critic of intelligent design. He has engaged in prominent debates with theist philosophers and scientists about the existence of God and the viability of intelligent design. He has debated the founder of the intelligent design movement Phillip E. Johnson and the two have a friendly relationship. Provine has stated that he starts his course on evolutionary biology by having his students read Johnson's book Darwin on Trial.[1]

Provine is a determinist in biology, but not a determinist in physics or chemistry, thus rejecting the idea of free will in humans.[2] Provine believes that there is no evidence for God, there is no life after death, there is no absolute foundation for right and wrong, there is no ultimate meaning for life, and that humans don't have free will.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

Professor Provine appeared in Ben Stein's movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Provine supervised the thesis written by Bad Religion member Greg Graffin. Graffin was a student of paleobiology at Cornell. Provine also supervised the sociology thesis of Steve Leveen in 1982.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics, 1971, ISBN 0-226-68465-2
  • Mayr, E. and W. B. Provine, eds. The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology, 1980 ISBN 0-674-27225-0
  • Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology, 1986, ISBN 0-226-68473-3
  • Provine, W. B., ed. Evolution: Selected papers by Sewall Wright, 1986, ISBN 0-226-91053-9
  • "Geneticists and race", 1986, American Zoologist 26:857-887.
  • "Progress in evolution and meaning in life", 1989, In: M. Nitecki, ed., Evolutionary Progress, ISBN 0-226-58692-8
  • Cain, A. J. and W. B. Provine "Genes and ecology in history" in Berry, R. J., T. J. Crawford, G. M. Hewitt, eds. Genes in Ecology: 33rd Symposium of the British Ecological Society, 1992 ISBN 0-521-54936-1
  • The "Random Genetic Drift" Fallacy, 2014, ISBN 9781500924126.


  1. ^ http://www.arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/pjlect.htm
  2. ^ Provine, William (12 February 1998). "Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life". Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  3. ^ http://www.cjas.org/~leng/provine.txt

External links[edit]