US Philosopher Given $5M Grant To Study Immortality
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
A University of California at Riverside (UCR) philosopher will be placed in charge of a new project analyzing the concept of immortality after receiving the largest grant ever presented to a humanities professor at the school, various media outlets reported last week.
According to a July 31 UCR press release announcing the grant, the university announced that philosopher John Martin Fischer would oversee research on all aspects of immortality, including near-death experiences and the impact that believing in life-after-death has on human behavior.
The $5 million grant was presented to the school by the John Templeton Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based organization founded by the late businessman, philanthropist, and stock market pioneer that is dedicated to studying the deepest, most complex questions about the nature of life and the purpose of mankind, Los Angeles Times blogger Larry Gordon said.
“We will be very careful in documenting near-death experiences and other phenomena, trying to figure out if these offer plausible glimpses of an afterlife or are biologically induced illusions,” Fischer said in a statement, according to Christopher Shea of the Wall Street Journal.
“Our approach will be uncompromisingly scientifically rigorous. We’re not going to spend money to study alien-abduction reports. We will look at near-death experiences and try to find out what’s going on there — what is promising, what is nonsense, and what is scientifically debunked. We may find something important about our lives and our values, even if not glimpses into an afterlife,” he added.
The research, which is being dubbed the Immortality Project, will be a collaborative study involving scientists, philosophers, and theological experts. The inclusion of that last group has led to some criticism of the project, Business Insider’s Adam Taylor said.
Opponents are arguing that the religious aspects of the immortality issue have no place in serious scientific research, he said, and atheists have long been critical of the Templeton Foundation’s handling of the interaction between science and theology, Shea added.
Fischer, who is a member of the Templeton Foundation’s board, describes himself as a man who is not religious but has a great deal of respect for religion. Regardless, he told Gordon that his personal views, the inclusion of religious experts and the source of the grant “doesn’t mean we are trying to prove anything or the other. We will be trying to be very scientific and rigorous and be very open-minded.”