During 2015-18, the Center of Theological Inquiry will build on its record of success in interdisciplinary research by conducting an Inquiry on the Societal Implications of Astrobiology and developing an outreach program to share this research with a wider public. In the Inquiry on the Societal Implications of Astrobiology, which will be supported with funding, planning, and scientific expertise from the NASA Astrobiology Program, CTI’s experience in gathering leading thinkers in a interdisciplinary research environment converges with the purposes of our NASA colleagues around the big questions about the origin, extent, and future of life. Together with NASA, we expect that the Inquiry will create new models for dialogue between science and other disciplines, stimulate new thinking about how human values and institutions are changed by scientific exploration beyond our planet, and expand the community of scholars prepared to address these questions.
CTI’s mission to discern theology’s impact on global concerns can be significantly strengthened over the course of this Inquiry by expanding the resident research team and by providing opportunities for additional scholars to participate in the Inquiry’s symposium events. CTI’s mission also requires new, more systematic outreach efforts to make the work of our research teams available in an interactive way to leaders in the wider society. Through a series of consultations, publications, and digital media productions, CTI plans to increase its outreach to cross-disciplinary thinkers, religious thought leaders, and journalists who cover science and religion. These new programs of scholarship and outreach, for which we seek support from the John Templeton Foundation, will enhance the interdisciplinary research that is at the heart of the CTI’s program, develop CTI’s institutional capacity to lead future inquiries, and initiate new ways to share discoveries that change the way that people think and act.