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John Templeton Foundation Grants in the “Big Questions”

February 1, 2012

The John Templeton Foundation provides grants for those seeking to answer “big questions” that they define every year. I’m honestly not certain of whether grad students can apply. It says they encourage projects involving younger researchers, but I don’t know if you can be a PI on a project yet. It does say they prefer to give the grants through institutions rather than just to individuals.

Here are the topics for this funding cycle:

Breaking New Ground in Science and Religion

“Over the past several decades the field of science and religion has produced a rich body of scholarship concerning the different purposes, methods and epistemologies of these two areas and their modes of interaction. Scholars have also addressed a range of more specific topics such as divine action, the meanings of evolution, fine-tuning, and varied elements of human nature. As productive as it has been, we at the John Templeton Foundation believe the science-religion dialogue has yet to investigate the full range of possibilities. In particular, it has largely been carried out from a perspective that is theistic (usually Christian), Western, methodologically focused, concerned primarily with the physical sciences, and has often been pitched at an introductory level. We believe that there is value in more work, particularly advanced research, which engages other scientific fields, more of the world’s religions, a wider spectrum of cultural foundations, and a greater breadth of specific topics.”

The Physics of Emergence

“Since the 1972 publication of Philip Anderson’s seminal paper, ‘More is Different,’ physicists have been interested in whether and to what extent there are phenomena best described as ’emergent.’ This interest has spread throughout a range of areas within physics, due in no small part to the fact that on some conceptions of emergence entirely new properties, entities, and behaviors appear at many different levels of complexity—novelties that ‘require research which is just as fundamental in its nature as any other.’

However, at present we lack a thorough understanding of whether and to what extent the conceptions of emergence employed by physicists and philosophers of physics are satisfied by physical phenomena. We believe that this is an opportune time to investigate such questions through rigorous scientific investigation, and it is our hope that this Funding Competition will promote such investigation.”

An Online Funding Inquiry (kind of like a Letter of Intent) is due by April 16.

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