Templeton Grantees Respond to the Coronavirus
At the beginning of 1665, a deadly plague shuttered Cambridge University and sent a 23-year-old Isaac Newton back to his family estate. There, in relative seclusion, Newton thought and wrote and calculated — making breakthroughs in calculus, motion, optics, and gravitation. Newton’s annus mirabilis has become an oft-repeated (and at times embellished) chestnut in the history of science, but it gets at the truth that when the world is turned upside-down and many possibilities are foreclosed, others can open up.
Today, as then, tragedy, uncertainty, and massive shifts in the rules of everyday life are touching all of us in different ways. During times of turmoil brought on by the coronavirus, we are grateful that many of the grantees we work with are lending their talents and the fruits of their research to contribute to the difficult questions we all are facing — of what human flourishing and service to others can look like in a state of social isolation and pandemic.
Below we’ve highlighted a few of their efforts. We know this is just the tip of the iceberg. We invite you to let us know if there are other ways that our community of grantees is exemplifying a spirit of service, insight, and innovation in a time of need.
- Grantees Lee Cronk and Athena Aktipis of the Human Generosity Project have put together a team of interdisciplinary scientists and scholars, including social psychologists, anthropologists, and a physician, to investigate how people are cooperating during the COVID-19 pandemic and to test what factors influence people’s willingness to cooperate with others during this time.
- Elaine Howard Ecklund has recently published two op-eds in Time and Christianity Today in response to COVID-19: How Religious Leaders Can Help Stop the Spread of Coronavirus and It’s Hard to Close Black Churches amid COVID-19. She was also interviewed in an episode of NPR’s On Point, titled Coronavirus: How Religious Communities Are Worshiping Together While Apart.
- “Looking on the ‘bright side’ or seeking the ‘silver lining’ of something like a lockdown is an exercise of one’s God-given will,” says grantee Andreas Widmer, a US professor who is currently on lockdown in Rome. Read more about his experience in this article, Using the lockdown for good: CUA professor shares his family’s experience.
- Grantee Richard Weissbourd, faculty director of the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard, has been quoted in several articles for families and educators, including How to answer 7 big questions kids have about the coronavirus pandemic, Redesigning College Admission: COVID-19, Access And Equity, and Supporting One Another in Times of Crisis.
- Grantee Tyler VanderWeele penned an article in Psychology Today on Flourishing Amidst Coronavirus.
- Children and adolescents draw their sense of safety from their parents. The Center for Parent and Teen Communication, co-founded by grantee Dr. Ken Ginsburg, shared this article on Five Ways to Make Your Family Home Feel Safe in Times of Crisis.
- Transforming Chaplaincy is holding a webinar for healthcare chaplains about pandemic ethics on Monday, March 30. Learn more and register here.
- The Greater Good Science Center has published an online Guide to Well-Being during Coronavirus, including advice about approaches for practicing character virtues during the outbreak, and resources for families and teens dealing with the challenges of school closings and social distancing.
- AAAS/DOSeR (the American Academy for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science and Religion) has a list of resources ranging Science magazine’s latest coronavirus news and commentary to the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Community and Faith Leaders and news coverage of the ways religious leaders worldwide are responding to the pandemic.
- The National Constitution Center is offering free lectures and remote learning resources including daily live constitutional conversations for middle school, high school, and college students.
- Grantee Jamie Aten, founder of the Wheaton Humanitarian Disaster Institute, has created a set of free online resources for churches in a time of pandemic, with a webinar, online summit, and a free manual on how to prepare churches for COVID-19 offered in three languages. Follow Aten or the hashtag #COVID19church on Twitter for ongoing updates.
- Character Day founder Tiffany Shlain is issuing an open call for people to participate in a global “cloud film” response to COVID-19 by filming themselves reading the poem “Lockdown” by Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM. The submissions will be edited into a film similar to Shlain’s first global collaborative film, A Declaration of Interdependence.
- Character Lab offers this tip to help children follow the hygiene protocols needed to help stop COVID-19’s spread: Wash Your Hands for Grandma: How to close the intention-behavior gap.
- Network theorist Albert-Lazlo Barabasi, who has received multiple John Templeton Foundation grants, is offering unprecedented peer and public access to his lab’s work on COVID-19. Barabasi aims to leverage his lab’s previous work on other viruses to quickly analyze the interactions between the virus’s proteins and those of the human cells it invades to understand the human network neighborhood perturbed by COVID-19, identify potential drug targets, existing or experimental drugs or combinations of drugs that could disrupt the virus’s effects.
- The Veritas Forum is offering a series of online discussions related to coping with the challenges of COVID-19. On March 24, the first virtual Veritas Forum brought together David Brooks (NY Times), Andy Crouch (Praxis, formerly John Templeton Foundation), Lydia Dugdale (Columbia Medical), and Andrew Schuman (Veritas Forum) around the topic “Coronavirus and Quarantine: What Big Questions Can We Be Asking?”
- The PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown spoke with Northeastern University psychologist David DeSteno, who studies periods of stress and trauma.
- DeSteno also had an extended conversation on Sinai and Synapses with grantee Rabbi David Mitelman about how to maintain personal and spiritual connections during social distancing.
- Psychologist Everett Worthington, who has received JTF grants for his research on forgiveness, offers advice on How hope can keep you healthier and happier
- Daryl Van Tongeren, who is leading an ongoing Templeton grant on using intellectual humility to navigate existential challenges, spoke with the Associated Press about possible ways around society’s less-helpful reactions to the epidemic: “If we think of this as an enemy we might have to outsmart instead of outmuscle, then we start to think differently,” he says.