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Immortality studies centered at UC Riverside get $5-million gift

July 31, 2012 |  1:34 pm

Even a multimillion-dollar donation does not ensure a spot in heaven. Or at least that’s what most religions believe.

But a $5-million academic grant, to be centered at UC Riverside, may go a long way toward gaining insights into the possibility of an afterlife and delving into what science and culture say about immortality.

The Pennsylvania-based John Templeton Foundation -- founded by the late Wall Street mutual funds pioneer to help explore spirituality -– has announced the award and said it will be paid out over three years.

UC Riverside philosophy professor John Martin Fischer will receive $1 million of that to host conferences on campus about the afterlife, to support post-doctoral students and to run a website for research on the topic. Then Fischer will administer competitions to dole out the remaining $4 million to researchers worldwide in the sciences, social sciences, philosophy and theology, he said.

Reports of near-death experiences with visions of an afterlife may be an important subject for psychologists and neuroscientists, Fischer said from Germany, where he has a fellowship until December.

“It doesn’t mean we are trying to prove anything or the other. We will be trying to be very scientific and rigorous and be very open-minded,” he said. Fischer described himself as skeptical about an afterlife but said he believed that “endless life without death could be a good thing.”

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-- Larry Gordon

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