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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Small Research Teams Win Large Grants

The Science and Transcendence Advanced Research Series, a program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, has awarded grants worth 200,000 dollars to two interdisciplinary research groups (which earlier received grants of 120,000 dollars). "Their continuing research is at the center of a wide range of scientific area spanned by the 27 STARS grants: from fundamental physics and evolutionary biology to the neurosciences and mathematics," says Robert Russell, STARS principal investigator, founder and director of CTNS, and the Ian G. Barbour Professor of Theology and Science in residence at the Graduate Theological Union. "The implications for our understanding of human spirituality, virtue ethics, the scientific question of the origin of life, and the meaning of 'ultimate reality' are very promising."
One research team will study "The Rationality of Ultimate Value: Emotion, Awareness, and Causality in Virtue Ethics and Decision Neuroscience." According to the researchers, led by Warren Brown, a professor of psychology at the Fuller Theological Seminary, and Gregory Peterson, a professor of philosophy and religion at South Dakota State University, the project "has created exciting new approaches to research on moral action and virtue. Most remarkably, the project has yielded a novel approach to neuroscience and psychological study of virtuous exemplars within a laboratory context."
The other team, led by Andrew Robinson, an honorary university fellow at the University of Exeter, and Christopher Southgate, a research fellow at the school, will study "Information and the Origin of Life." The researchers say their "new philosophical definition of 'interpretation' is providing a novel approach to the scientific question of the origin of life. We have begun to generate models and proposals that are already starting to demonstrate the advantage that even very simple entities gain by interpreting their environment. The theological part of our proposal is that these three-fold patterns in the world also provide ways of talking about the Christian understanding of the life of God and God's interaction with the world."