In public discussions of ideas, an unfortunate intellectual insecurity and unwarranted intellectual arrogance often prevent innovation from becoming influential. The intellectual insecurity makes it difficult to move beyond scholarly conventions and formulate bold generalizations. The arrogance deems academic writing more important than communicating with a general audience. As a result, the answers to the big questions—for example, concerning the relationship between science and spirituality—tend to remain hidden and latent in innovative thinking, and thus unexpressed and without public impact.
FIRST THINGS Writing Fellows: From Intellectual Innovation to Public Influence will bring the work of innovative thinkers to a broad forum by sponsoring residencies for scholars (FIRST THINGS Writing Fellows, or WFs) in the sciences, philosophy, and theology. They will hone the craft of writing for a wider audience and gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual humility necessary for popular writing.
To pilot the program, FIRST THINGS (FT) has pre-selected Francesca Murphy, who has agreed to serve as the initial WF. She will be in residence at FT for ten months (February-November 2015) and will write six feature-length essays for publication in FT or other magazines, as well as regular online contributions.
After the pilot year, FT hopes to continue the program for an additional three-year term, to empower three additional creative scholars to write effectively for the public and be mentored in the art of combining scholarship with effective public writing. Combining cutting-edge scholarship with an expert editorial staff and a large audience, FT is well-equipped to execute this program.
The potential enduring impact of this program resides in its capacity to launch the public-intellectual career of Francesca Murphy in 2015, plus up to three additional thinkers in future years, thus enabling them to shape the minds and hearts of innumerable others.