Boston University Wins Three-Year Templeton Grant

Contact: Colin Riley, 617-353-2240 |

(Boston) – Boston University is one of the two institutions named today to receive prestigious 2007 Templeton Research Lectures grants. The Metanexus Institute, based in Philadelphia, announced the grants to Boston University and Johns Hopkins University to promote important conversations at the forefront of the field of science and religion through interdisciplinary study groups and an annual distinguished lectureship. The projects were selected through an international competition.

The grant to Boston University will be headed by Dr. Robert C. Neville, executive director of the Albert V. and Jesse B. Danielsen Institute and a professor of philosophy, religion and theology. The grant provides up to $440,000 to fund a three-to-four year series of lectures and interdisciplinary study.

“This grant will establish the Institute as a venue for important conversations between and among humanists and scientists,” Neville said. “We’re delighted to receive the Templeton grant from Metanexus because it provides the opportunity to formalize the interdisciplinary connections we’ve been building informally over the years.”

The Danielsen Institute is uniquely placed to foster collaboration among the psychological sciences and the world’s religions on questions of mental and spiritual health. This task lies at the very center of the Institute’s origins a half-century ago as a pastoral counseling program, and at the heart of its current, two-fold mission: to provide multi-disciplinary training and clinical care in mental health, and to examine the interface of psychology and religion through out-patient psychotherapy, empirical and scholarly research, and doctoral-level graduate education.

Dr. William Grassie, executive director of the Metanexus Institute, noted: “As the pace of scientific discovery and innovation accelerates, there is an urgent cultural need to reflect thoughtfully about these epic changes and challenges. 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 Boston University initiative, entitled “Religious and Psychological Well-Being,” will bring together twelve scholars representing psychology, psychotherapy, medicine, neuroscience, education, religious studies, and theology for a three-to-four year program of sustained interdisciplinary inquiry into the common ground shared by research and practice in mental and spiritual health. Stimulating and complementing the group’s discussions, in each year of the project, a different, distinguished Templeton Research Fellow will join the Research Group seminar and present a series of six public lectures, based on and leading to the publication of her or his research. The Research Group also will publish the results of its discussions each year and sponsor a graduate course designed to apprentice a cohort of emerging scholars in the interdisciplinary conversation between psychology and religion.

“Few problems at the interface of psychology and religion are as intriguing as the integration of psychological and spiritual models of ‘well being,’ and a better understanding of this has immediate application in practical help for people seeking well-being,” Neville said. “We now have the opportunity to focus discussion of this heady topic at Boston University, and also to draw in the larger community in the Boston area.”

The Johns Hopkins University project, headed by Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. Steven Gross, is entitled “Evolution, Cognition, and Culture.” It will explore the explosion of interdisciplinary research in the cognitive science of religion and its implications – specifically, for religion, public policy, and for the understanding more generally of evolution, cognition, and culture.

The Metanexus Institute advances scientific research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion. Metanexus is a leader in a growing network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature, and culture in communities and on campuses throughout the world. Metanexus sponsors dialogue groups, lectures, workshops, research, courses, grants, and publications. Metanexus leads and facilitates more than 400 projects in 43 countries. Projects include the Local Societies Initiative, the Templeton Research Lectures, and topical interdisciplinary research projects such as the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Project, Spiritual Capital, Templeton Advanced Research Program, and other endeavors. A membership organization, Metanexus hosts an online journal with more than 370,000 monthly page views and 9,000 subscribers in 57 countries.

The Templeton Research Lectures are made possible by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The mission of the John Templeton Foundation 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. The Foundation is dedicated to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship exemplified by their support for open-minded inquiry and hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

Past winners of the Templeton Research Lectures grants are the Arizona State University, Stony Brook University, University of Frankfurt, the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, the University of Arizona, the University of Southern California, UCLA, University of Montréal, Stanford University, Bar Ilan University, Columbia University, and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 31,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States. BU has 17 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the University’s research and teaching mission.