The Immortality Project Awards Third Essay Prize

UCR research project selects article examining paranormal phenomena and supposed evidence of life after death

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The Immortality Project names essay winner.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The Immortality Project, a research project funded by the John Templeton Foundation at the University of California, Riverside, has awarded its third essay prize to Jesse Bering for “Life after death: The idea of life after death lives on in near-death experiences and messages from beyond the grave. What’s the evidence?”

The essay, which discusses supposed evidence of life after death from paranormal phenomena, such as near-death experiences and communication with ghosts, was published in the Nov. 13, 2013, issue of Aeon Magazine. Bering is a former psychology professor and now a full-time writer whose work has appeared in Scientific American, Slate and The Guardian. Among his books are “The Belief Instinct” and “Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us.”

“Bering is at once open-minded and skeptical,” said John Martin Fischer, distinguished professor of philosophy at UC Riverside and principal investigator of The Immortality Project. “He is willing to go to great lengths to discover whether he can communicate with the deceased pioneer of paranormal studies, Ian Stevenson, all the while being frank about his difficulty believing in the possibility of what he has set out to do. Along with recounting his personal quest, Bering discusses some of the main themes in contemporary paranormal studies, as well as several of the research projects being funded by The Immortality Project. This article tackles a fascinating subject in a manner that is engaging, without losing sight of the proper rigor required for serious inquiry into these issues.”

One goal of The Immortality Project is to advance discussion of the project themes in popular venues by offering essay prizes. The three-year project is funded by a $5 million grant the John Templeton Foundation awarded in 2012.  A majority of the grant will be awarded to scientists, theologians and philosophers conducting research related to immortality. Winners of the science funding competition will present preliminary results of their research during a conference June 20-21 at UCR.

The John Templeton Foundation 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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