William B. Provine, born on February 19, 1942 and died September 1, 2015, he was an American historian of science and of evolutionary biology and population genetics.
He was the Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor at Cornell University and was a professor in the Departments of History, Science and Technology Studies, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
William was born in Tennessee. He held a B.S. in Mathematics (1962), and an M.A. (1965) and Ph.D (1970) in History of Science from the University of Chicago.
He joined the Cornell faculty in 1969. He suffered seizures in 1995, due to the growth of a brain tumour. However, he survived for 20 more years.
In 1970, Provine was instrumental in the founding of Cornell’s Risley Residential College. He was the first faculty member in residence.
William was an atheist, philosopher, and critic of intelligent design. He engaged in prominent debates with theist philosophers and scientists about the existence of God and the viability of intelligent design.
He debated the founder of the intelligent design movement Phillip E. Johnson and the two had a friendly relationship.
William stated that he started his course on evolutionary biology by having his students read Johnson’s book Darwin on Trial.
William was a determinist in biology, but not a determinist in physics or chemistry, thus rejecting the idea of free will in humans.
William believed 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.
Professor Provine appeared in Ben Stein’s movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
William 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.
William Provine died September 1, 2015 at age 73.