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A new round of fellowships will equip tenured philosophers and theologians to dive deeply into the empirical sciences

From the origin of the universe and the emergence of life to the meaning of human existence, certain “Big Questions” are so big that they transcend individual disciplines and beg to be examined from multiple perspectives.     

In order to help spur more fruitful interdisciplinary engagement, the John Templeton Foundation is offering a new round of $220,000 fellowships to provide recently tenured philosophers and theologians the opportunity to spend up to three academic years in “academic cross-training” in deep engagement with the empirical sciences.

Initial applications for these 2020 fellowships are being accepted through May 1, 2020, with full invited proposals due in mid-July, and awards announced this fall. The course each grant takes will be shaped by the interests and concerns of the individual grantees, but all will allow fellows to undertake a sustained course of study in physics, psychology, biology, genetics, cognitive science, neuroscience, or sociology. Fellows may choose to audit relevant courses, spend time in residence in research labs, or complete an academic degree in an empirical science.

The Academic Cross-Training (ACT) Fellowship program has several cohorts underway. The University of California, Davis philosopher Alyssa Ney was awarded a fellowship in 2017 to study quantum theories in order to learn how to use contemporary analytic metaphysics to consider non-spaciotemporal quantum reality. Fordham University’s Nathan Ballantyne, of the 2018 cohort, was awarded a fellowship to supplement his epistemology expertise with graduate studies in cognitive psychology, in order to better understand the psychology of intellectual humility, expertise, and inquiry. For 2019, the cohort of grantees included Fuller Theological Seminary’s Kutter Callaway, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in psychological science in order to help advance a new field of inquiry — tentatively called “experimental theology” — focusing on the psychological and theological aspects of people’s transitions from religious belief to non-belief.

“In the way that physical cross-training helps an athlete improve skills in their primary sport by practicing elements from other disciplines, our vision for academic cross-training aims to give philosophers and theologians new tools and sharpened skills to do great work both within their disciplines by drawing on other fields of study,” says Alexander Arnold, the John Templeton Foundation’s Senior Program Officer for Philosophy & Theology. “As with our previous cohorts, for 2020 we are looking for grantees with the potential to undertake substantive, high-quality interdisciplinary research relating to Science and the Big Questions.”


Applications will be limited to Ph.D. (or equivalent) faculty tenured within the past decade who hold appointments within an accredited university’s philosophy, religious studies, religion, or theology department. More information on eligibility — and past cohorts — can be found in the program’s request for applications page.