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Surprising Science

Scientists to Probe Immortality With $5 Million Fund

An award from the John Templeton Foundation will seek to answer important scientific questions about immortality, such as how experiences of the afterlife vary across cultures.

What’s the Latest Development?

Over the next three years, a $5 million research fund will be distributed to scientists, philosophers and theologians seeking to study immortality. Called the Immortality Project, the effort “may look at questions like how belief in an afterlife influences human behavior and how near-death experiences vary across cultures. In America, for example, many who survive such events report seeing a tunnel with a light at the end. For Japanese people, the experiences often involve visions of tending a garden.” The fund will award grants ranging from $100,000 to $250,000.

What’s the Big Idea?

Thanks to advances in neuroscience, many vexing questions about immortality are ripe for study. Whether the brain’s physiology predisposes humans to believe in an afterlife and whether people who believe in an afterlife are more likely to behave morally are just two questions expected to be researched by the project. The increasing interest in possibilities for extending human life through science has also given fresh impetus to immortality studies. Futurists such as Ray Kurzweil, for example, believe that immortality will be achieved by uploading one’s consciousness onto a computer. 

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