Support the Café

Search our Site

Studying immortality

Studying immortality

The LA Times reports that UC Riverside philosophy professor John Martin Fischer recieved a $5-million Templeton grant to study immortality “in this world or another — and whether everlasting might just prove to be ever-boring.”

And just the existence of the Immortality Project has set off blogosphere comments from believers who contend an afterlife has already been proven and skeptics who think the $5-million grant, the largest to a UC Riverside humanities professor, could have better uses to improve life this side of heaven.

The project expects to bring together theologians, philosophers, research and social scientists.

With the help of expert jurors, Fischer expects to give 10 research awards of $250,000 each this spring to neuroscientists, physicians, psychiatrists, sociologists and others to conduct experiments and studies about, among other things: Can out-of-body experiences be simulated? Will it be possible to extend life by extraordinary amounts? Does belief in a heaven or hell make people less likely to commit crimes? About 75 scholars from around the world have applied for the grants.

Next year, an additional $1.5 million is to be distributed among 15 philosophers and theologians, financing research for essays and books about differing aspects of immortality. The remaining $1 million will support, among other things, conferences at UC Riverside, essay contests and a publicwebsite that is building a bibliography and posting essays about various religions’ views of the afterlife.

The size of Fischer’s funding “is pretty much unheard of” in the philosophy world, said Ben Bradley, the philosophy department chairman at Syracuse University, who writes about ethical issues surrounding death.

Some academics feared the foundation would impose a religious agenda on research, but scholars with other Templeton grants have found that they have full freedom, said Bradley, who received a $28,000 award last year for a lecture series.

With medicine and computer technology advancing so fast, Bradley said, it’s important for a philosophical voice like Fischer’s to guide discussion about the prospects — and desirability — of very long life.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Perhaps it might be worth while to include the ideas or thoughts of people who are dying. After all they’re facing immortality as a reality.

Lan Green


We might also remember the myth of Tithonus

as a cautionary tale.

Marshall Scott


If you take a really range view immortality does not seem desirable. See Phil Plait’s SF story Deep. Scientific background here.

[Glenn — Please sign your name when you comment. Thanks ~ed.]

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café