Anecdotal reports of glimpses of an afterlife abound, but there has been no comprehensive and rigorous, scientific study of global reports about near-death and other experiences, or of how belief in immortality influences human behavior. That will change with the award of a three-year, $5 million grant by the John Templeton Foundation to John Martin Fischer, distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, to undertake a rigorous examination of a wide range of issues related to immortality. It is the largest grant ever awarded to a humanities professor at UC Riverside, and one of the largest given to an individual at the university.
Half of the $5 million grant will be awarded for research projects. The grant will also fund two conferences, the first of which will be held at the end of the project’s second year and the second at the end of the grant period. A website will include a variety of resources, from glossaries and bibliographies to announcements of research conferences and links to published research. Some recent work in Anglo-American philosophy will be translated for German philosophers who, in the last 30 years, have been increasingly studying the work of American philosophers.
Tip: The Anomalist
Templeton has a history of giving to some questionable research causes due to their mission to support research on subjective subjects like complexity, creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will.
This grant will give many scholars pause due to the inherent problems that could arise from studies on near-death experiences, out of body experiences, etc., most of which have turned out to be unimpressive. This project promises to be rigorous but…
“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. “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.”
Yeah, they always say they are careful. The tricky part is actually pulling it off. I suppose I’m cautiously hopeful that they may come to biological conclusions as has been suspected in the past – brain functions and the like. I don’t hold expectation it will (or can) show anything supernatural. Science just does not cross that line by definition.