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Templeton Report: 2009

The Templeton Report is a twice monthly electronic newsletter featuring items on current research, initiatives, and events supported by the Foundation. The Templeton Report is available online and by email subscription.

December 16, 2009

Better Decisions, Better Lives

Photo: Better Decisions, Better Lives

Nicholas Epley wants to read people’s minds, but he is no aspiring psychic. A professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Epley  believes that a deeper understanding of human psychology can make us "better at intuiting others’ thoughts" and thus more capable of "social coordination."

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December 2, 2009

Growing Up in Today's Britain

Photo: Growing Up in Today's Britain

“We want to find out what makes these kids tick, in the sense of moral formation, character, values, and how they see themselves in the community.” So said James Arthur, professor of education and civic engagement at the University of Birmingham in England.

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November 18, 2009

The First Religions

Photo: The First Religions

“Imagine a great mound 70 feet high and about 750 feet wide, made up of mud-brick houses built on top of each other.” That is how the archaeologist Ian Hodder of Stanford University describes the site known as Çatalhöyük (pronounced cha-tal-HU-yuk) in central Turkey.

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November 4, 2009

India's Path Forward

Photo: India's Path Forward

“The Indian economy is at a crossroads,” says Jagdish Bhagwati, a leading authority on free trade and globalization and a prestigious University Professor at Columbia University in New York. “India is moving from the completion of conventional economic reforms, such as removing industrial licensing requirements,” to what he calls “second-generation reforms” in areas like health care and education.

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October 21, 2009

Forgiveness and the Resilient Survivor

Photo: Forgiveness and the Resilient Survivor

“The bottom line is that you survived and you do the best, and you tried everything to help . . . but if you can’t help, you have to live with it—you accept it and go on, and go on, and go on.” That is how one Holocaust survivor described to Roberta Greene his attitude toward building a new life after the trauma of World War II.

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October 7, 2009

Science for Ministry

Photo: Science for Ministry

“It is important that ministers of religion should not fear science but be able to welcome its insights,” said the theologian and particle physicist John Polkinghorne of the University of Cambridge, praising the launch earlier this year of the Science for Ministry Initiative. "They need the intellectual confidence to argue for the compatibility of science and religion, whose understandings, rightly understood, complement each other rather than standing in conflict.”

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September 23, 2009

The "Give and Glow" Show

Photo: The "Give and Glow" Show

“There are 72,000 foundations in America, and most people can’t name one of them,” says Michael Guillen, the chairman and president of Philanthropy Project, "but we can change that." Launched in 2007 with major support from the John Templeton Foundation, Philanthropy Project aims to raise awareness about the extent and variety of philanthropic activity in America—and to inspire more Americans to get involved.

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September 9, 2009

S.T. Yau and Mathematical Creativity in China

Photo: S.T. Yau and Mathematical Creativity in China

Students in China may have a reputation for excelling in mathematics, but Professor Shing-Tung Yau of Harvard University worries that young people in his home country are falling behind. “There are many bright and hardworking students in China,” he told the Templeton Report, “but due to government policy and the established education system, there is enormous pressure to do well in standardized examinations.

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July 20, 2009

"A Davos for Human Rights"

Photo: "A Davos for Human Rights"

“Statistics and government pronouncements cannot capture the experiences of individuals under tyranny,” says Thor Halvorssen, president of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation. If you want to get people involved in the struggle for individual freedom, Halvorssen told the Templeton Report, they need to hear “the stories of heroic figures who have stood up for this noble purpose.”

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July 8, 2009

The Neuroscience of Creativity

Photo: The Neuroscience of Creativity

Rex Jung has been studying the interaction between creativity and intelligence for a decade, hoping to discover whether creativity is the preserve of "a few geniuses like Einstein and Mozart” or can be found, in some form, in all individuals. Now, thanks to a three-year, $600,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation, Jung and his colleagues at the Mind Research Network (MRN) are beginning to find some answers.

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June 24, 2009

Who Should Win the Next Templeton Prize?

Photo: Who Should Win the Next Templeton Prize?

The nomination process for the Templeton Prize has been greatly simplified in recent years, according to Judith Marchand, the director of the program, and the Foundation hopes to receive a flood of new candidates for the 2010 Prize before the nominating deadline of October 1, 2009.

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June 10, 2009

Standing Up For Religious Liberty

Photo: Standing Up For Religious Liberty

“We were cursing the darkness, trying to oppose religious persecution but not doing enough to prevent it,” according to Thomas Farr, who served as the first director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom after it was established in 1998. “This was an important issue,” he told the Templeton Report, “and after four years I became convinced we weren’t doing it well.”

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May 29, 2009

Myth-Busting, from Galileo to Heisenberg

Photo: Myth-Busting, from Galileo to Heisenberg

"The idea that Galileo was tortured by the Catholic Church for his views on astronomy encapsulates for many people the history of science and religion," says Ronald Numbers, a leading historian in the field and a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The editor of a new volume called Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, Numbers explained to the Templeton Report that Galileo, in fact, was never subjected to the Inquisition's harsh punishments.

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May 13, 2009

"Does evolution explain human nature?"

Photo: "Does evolution explain human nature?"

That is the Big Question answered by twelve distinguished scientists and writers in the Templeton Foundation’s latest essay series, which has been advertised this spring in publications across the U.S. and the UK.

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April 29, 2009

"And the winner is..."

Photo: "And the winner is..."

Prize-giving is hardly a new tool for sparking technological innovation and recognizing exemplary achievement. In 1714, the British Parliament established the Longitude Prize, which inspired the clockmaker John Harrison to develop the marine chronometer, thus greatly improving high-seas navigation. The Food Preservation Prize established by Napoleon resulted in the invention of the canning techniques that are still used today. And the Nobel Prizes have long set the standard for scholarly and humanitarian excellence.

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April 15, 2009

Bernard d'Espagnat's "Ultimate Reality"

Photo: Bernard d'Espagnat's "Ultimate Reality"

The announcement in Paris on March 16 that this year’s Templeton Prize would be awarded to Bernard d’Espagnat, professor emeritus of theoretical physics at the University of Paris-Sud, generated news coverage and commentary around the world. As the BBC reported, “Professor d’Espagnat’s scientific pedigree put him at the centre of the growth of quantum mechanics, working with Nobel laureates in the field including Enrico Fermi and Niels Bohr.

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April 1, 2009

Evolution at the Vatican

Photo: Evolution at the Vatican

In the Catholic world, all roads still lead to Rome, particularly when it comes to the vexed relationship between science and faith. In 2003, the Pontifical Council for Culture, with major grant support from the Templeton Foundation, began a project at the Vatican called Science, Theology, and the Ontological Quest (STOQ).

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March 18, 2009

Courage, from Aristotle to 9/11

Photo: Courage, from Aristotle to 9/11

“Courage is a foundational virtue. If you don’t have courage, none of the other virtues can be protected.” So says Charlotte Hays, editor of In Character, in explaining why the new “courage issue” of the Templeton Foundation’s tri-annual journal of the “everyday virtues” is so important. “You might believe all the right things,” she continues, “but not have the courage to defend them.”

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March 4, 2009

The Humble Approach Initiative

Photo: The Humble Approach Initiative

In January, a dozen scholars gathered in Cape Town, South Africa for a four-day symposium entitled “Homo Symbolicus: The Dawn of Language, Imagination, and Spirituality.” They were there to discuss the implications of a recent discovery that sent shock waves through the archaeological world: 75,000-year-old shell beads and engraved ochre found at the Blombos Cave, about 200 miles east of the meeting site.

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February 18, 2009

Darwin Among the Faithful

Photo: Darwin Among the Faithful

On November 27, 1878, Charles Darwin wrote a letter to John Brodie Innes, his friend and local vicar: “There is no reason why the disciples of [religion and science] should attack each other with bitterness, though each upholding strictly their beliefs.” Given how tense the dialogue between religion and science has become at times during the 150 years since the publication of On the Origin of Species, it is worth noting that history’s preeminent biological thinker repeatedly called for moderation on all sides.

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February 4, 2009

The Foundation, from A to Z

Photo: The Foundation, from A to Z

Over the next month the John Templeton Foundation will be busy mailing out several thousand copies of its 2008 Capabilities Report. Published every two years (and now also available online), the report provides an overview of the Foundation's efforts to make good on the late Sir John Templeton's ambitious vision for addressing the Big Questions of human nature and purpose.

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January 22, 2009

Purpose and the “Encore Career”

Photo: Purpose and the “Encore Career”

In our youth-centered culture, Marc Freedman points out, social innovation is often considered the exclusive province of idealistic strivers in the early years of their work lives. Freedman, founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based group Civic Ventures, thinks it is time to change our notion of who can be a social entrepreneur.

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January 7, 2009

In Kigali with the "Pioneers of Prosperity"

Photo: In Kigali with the "Pioneers of Prosperity"

According to the United Nations, foreign investment in Africa earned an average return of 31 percent last year, the highest rate among the world's developing nations. With numbers like these, Andreas Widmer argues, it is clear that the expansion of business, not foreign aid, is the key to raising the standard of living among Africans.

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