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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
22-May-2013

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Contact: Bettye Miller
bettye.miller@ucr.edu
951-827-7847
University of California - Riverside
@UCRiverside

UC Riverside announces science research grants related to immortality

The Immortality Project awards $2.3 million to study near-death experiences, beliefs in an afterlife and the ageless hydra

IMAGE: This image shows John Martin Fischer, University of California, Riverside.

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Phenomena related to near-death experiences, immortality in virtual reality, and genes that prevent a species of freshwater hydra from aging are among the first research proposals funded by The Immortality Project at the University of California, Riverside.

Grants totaling $2.3 million will be awarded to 10 research teams from the United States and Europe in the scientific component of The Immortality Project, said John Martin Fischer, distinguished professor of philosophy at UC Riverside. The recipients were selected from among 75 proposals, which were reviewed by a panel of seven judges drawn from the disciplines of neuroscience, biological science, philosophy, and psychology.

The Immortality Project was established at UC Riverside in 2012 with a $5 million, three-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation to undertake a rigorous examination of a wide range of issues related to immortality. Fischer is the project's principal investigator.

"The research should push forward the frontiers of knowledge about death and immortality in various ways," Fischer said. For example, "I expect that we will advance our understanding of the prospects for increasing human longevity and of the ability of certain creatures (hydra) to achieve a kind of immortality by reproducing themselves; that we will achieve a more refined evaluation of the nature, significance, and impact of near-death experiences; and that we will gain a better understanding of the relationship between our 'commonsense' or 'natural' beliefs about personhood, religion, or the deceased and our views about immortality.

"Hamlet famously said about death, 'No one comes back from that country.' But one of the projects hopes that we can gain some insights about death and the afterlife from immersion in a virtual reality that depicts a kind of survival after death. The projects thus explore a fascinating and wide range of issues through, broadly speaking, empirical research into the great questions about death and immortality."

The research teams include international collaborations, and some involve cross-cultural studies, Fischer added.

Preliminary results of the science research projects will be presented at a conference in June 2014. Final results, and the results of philosophy and theology research proposals to be funded in spring 2014, will be presented at a capstone conference June 2015. Both conferences will be open to the public.

Research projects funded through The Immortality Project are:

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The John Templeton Foundation, located near Philadelphia, serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. The foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. It encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers and theologians, and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights. The foundation's vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton's optimism about the possibility of acquiring "new spiritual information" and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The foundation's motto, "How little we know, how eager to learn," exemplifies its support for open-minded inquiry and its hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.



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