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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 16, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 30
Grant to Promote Conversations About Science, Religion

Johns Hopkins team brings together faculty in the sciences and humanities

By Amy Lunday

A team of professors in the sciences and humanities at Johns Hopkins is one of two university-based groups to receive 2007 Templeton Research Lectures grants, three-to-four-year project grants of up to $500,000 to promote important conversations at the forefront of the field of science and religion. Johns Hopkins and the other winner, Boston University, were selected through an international competition managed by the Philadelphia-based Metanexus Institute, which announced the winners on Wednesday.

Led by Steven Gross, an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, the Johns Hopkins project, "Evolution, Cognition and Culture," will explore the explosion of interdisciplinary research in the cognitive science of religion and its implications, specifically for religion, public policy and the general understanding of evolution, cognition and culture. Much of this will be accomplished through interdisciplinary study groups and an annual distinguished lectureship.

Gross, who specializes in the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and metaphysics, said the grant is of great importance to Johns Hopkins because it will supply a much-needed catalyst and opportunity for its widely dispersed scholars of religion to exchange ideas both with one another and with Johns Hopkins' scientific community.

"Johns Hopkins is thrilled to receive this funding from Metanexus," Gross said. "Researchers are only just beginning to understand the complex interactions among evolution, cognition and culture, and religious belief and practice have provided some of the most fertile ground for thinking about these matters. This exciting interdisciplinary work not only promises to shed light on the role of religiosity in human lives but also offers a particularly fruitful site for reflection on the place and limits of a scientific understanding of ourselves."

Participants in the proposal, in addition to Gross, were William Badecker, Cognitive Science; Fenella Cannell, Anthropology; Veena Das, Anthropology; Howard Egeth, Psychological and Brain Sciences; Lisa Feigenson, Psychological and Brain Sciences and Cognitive Science; Eckart Forster, Philosophy, German, and Humanities Center; Robert Frank, Cognitive Science; Justin Halberda, Psychological and Brain Sciences and Cognitive Science; M. Ali Khan, Economics; Naveeda Khan, Anthropology; Sharon Kugler, university chaplain; Barbara Landau, Cognitive Science and Psychological and Brain Sciences; Theodore Lewis, Near Eastern Studies; Kenneth Moss, History; Lawrence Principe, Chemistry and History of Science, Medicine and Technology; Hent de Vries, Humanities Center and Philosophy; and Michael Williams, Philosophy.

The Metanexus Institute is a think tank that advances scientific research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion. It sponsors dialogue groups, lectures, workshops, research, courses, grants and publications; leads and facilitates more than 400 projects in 43 countries; and hosts an online journal with more than 9,000 subscribers in 57 countries.

"As the pace of scientific discovery and innovation accelerates, there is an urgent cultural need to reflect thoughtfully about these epic changes and challenges," said William Grassie, executive director of the Metanexus Institute, who manages the international grant competition. "The challenges of the 21st century require new interdisciplinary collaborations, which place questions of meanings and values on the agenda. We need to put questions about the universe and the universal back at the heart of the university."

The Templeton Research Lectures are made possible by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, whose mission is to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in areas engaging "life's biggest questions." These questions range from explorations into the laws of nature and the universe to questions on the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness and creativity.


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