June 2, 2003

Christopher Stawski, Metanexus Institute
(215) 687-4060
[email protected]

Phoebe Resnick, Resnick Communications
(610) 872-2689
[email protected]


Metanexus Institute in Philadelphia Announces 24 Recipients

Philadelphia, PA (June 2003)... Seeking to understand the phenomena of spiritual transformation and how it occurs — through both secular and religious experiences — distinguished researchers from many disciplines at leading educational institutions in the United States and other countries will soon be conducting the first multidisciplinary scientific investigations of this kind.

Twenty-four grants, ranging from $70,000 to $150,000 and totaling more than $2 million, have been awarded to well-known researchers in the fields of anthropology, biology, neurosciences, psychiatry, psychology, sociology, theology, and religious studies. The awards were announced on June 2, 2003 by Dr. Solomon Katz, president of the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science and principal investigator for the Institute's Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program, based in Philadelphia, PA.

"Through these studies, we have an opportunity to create a new field of inquiry, freed from the prejudices of the past, to examine diverse religious and spiritual phenomena with scientific rigor," says Dr. Katz. "It is a very exciting program, with the potential for many new insights and practical applications."

Throughout history and in our own time, humans have had profound experiences with a spiritual dimension of reality. Individuals testify that their lives are no longer the same in the aftermath of these experiences, that they have been "transformed." Independent observers often bear witness to these changes as well. Through these research projects on spiritual transformation, scientists and scholars hope to better understand these dramatic changes in people's beliefs and behaviors.

The first-of-its-kind, multi-million dollar Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program was launched in the fall of 2001 with the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation. Following a call for proposals, 60 finalists were chosen from a pool of 470 applicants from 22 nations, representing many of the top research institutions in the United States and abroad. These 60 prospective investigators attended a unique research conference in October 2002 presented by the Metanexus Institute in order to refine their proposals.

From the finalists, eleven projects were selected to be fully funded for a two-year research program. In addition, because of the high quality of so many of the applications, the Templeton Foundation augmented its funding plan to include thirteen projects under a matching grant program.

Recipients of the fully-funded projects are:

  • Mario Beauregard, Université de Montréal (Canada): "The Neurobiology of the Mystical Experience"
  • Brenda Cole, University of Pittsburgh (PA) Cancer Institute: "A Spiritual Transformation Scale for Cancer Patients"
  • Harold Delaney, University of New Mexico (Albuquerque): "Antecedents of Transformation: Spiritual Formation"
  • Alvin C. Dueck, Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Psychology (Pasadena, CA): "Spirituality, Language and Behavioral Transformation"
  • Peggy C. Giordano, Bowling Green (Ohio) State University: "Spiritual Transformations and Desistance from Crime"
  • Gail Ironson, University of Miami (FL): "Spiritual Transformation in the Face of Illness: AIDS"
  • Dacher Keltner, University of California (Berkeley): "A Prospective Study of Awe and Spiritual Transformation"
  • Michael E. McCullough, University of Miami (FL): "Spiritual Transformations Across the Life Span"
  • Mark D. Regnerus, University of Texas (at Austin): "The Context and Consequences of Spiritual Transformation"
  • Roberta Sands, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia): "Baalei Teshuvah's Spiritual Transformational Soul Work"
  • Thomas W. Smith, National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago (IL): "National Spiritual Transformation Study"

Recipients of the projects requiring matching-grants are:

  • Nina P. Azari, University of Nijmegen, Heyendaal Institute (The Netherlands): "Brain Representations of Spiritual Transformation"
  • Leonard M. Hummel, Vanderbilt University Divinity School (Nashville, TN): "Cancer & Spiritual Transformation: A Practical Theology"
  • Sung Joon Jang, Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge): "Spiritual Rebirth and Maturation Among College Students"
  • Jerome Kagan, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA): "Contribution of Temperament to a Spiritual Outlook"
  • Robert F. Kraus, Juneau Recovery Hospital (Alaska)/University of Kentucky (Lexington): "Spirituality in an Alaska Native Alcohol Treatment Program"
  • Jean L. Kristeller, Indiana State University (Terre Haute): " Living with Cancer: Spiritual Shifts and Transformation"
  • Sandra Lane, SUNY Upstate Medical University (Jamesville, NY): "Childbirth as a Pathway to Spiritual Transformation"
  • Donald E. Miller, University of Southern California (Los Angeles): "Varieties of Spiritual and Social Transformation"
  • Carol J. Nemeroff, Arizona State University (Tempe): "Psychological Maturity and Religious Conversion"
  • Douglas W. Oman, Public Health Institute/University of California (Berkeley): "Learning by Spiritual Examples: Measures and Intervention"
  • Elizabeth A. R. Robinson, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor): "Spiritual Transformation in Recovery from Alcoholism
  • Jeffrey Samuels, Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green): "Children in Robes: Aesthetics, Ritual, and Language"
  • W. Bradford Wilcox, University of Virginia (Charlottesville): "Spiritual Transformation and Marriage in Urban America"

"Science and religion tend to be viewed as opposite ends of the spectrum, with a great deal of emotional overlay. As a result, scholars have often avoided studying 'spirituality' and 'transforming experiences' the way they study other phenomena," says Dr. Katz. "The fact that researchers are now applying scientific disciplines to the how-and-why of beliefs and behaviors is itself a marvelous transformation."

More detailed information about researchers and their projects available on request.

The Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program seeks rigorous investigation into the nature of the biological, psychosocial, and cultural conditions and factors that underlie spiritual transformations of individuals and groups. Research conferences and funded projects are designed to help create an interdisciplinary field in the human sciences for researching spiritual transformation. Cutting edge methodologies and experimental designs will be used that have the potential to provide fresh insight into the phenomena under investigation.

Principal Investigator of the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program is Solomon H. Katz, president of the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science and director of the Krogman Center for Research in Child Growth and Development and professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Collaborators in the study include David Hufford, director of the Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine and Interim Chair of Humanities at Penn State College of Medicine, and Byron Johnson, director and distinguished senior fellow at the Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania. Advisory board members and consultants include: Edward Foulks, Tulane University; Philip Hefner, Zygon Center for Religion and Science; Joan Koss-Chioino, Arizona State University; Kenneth Pargament, Bowling Green State University; Lawrence Sullivan, Harvard University; and Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University.

The Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science advances education, research, and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion. Metanexus is part of a growing network of individuals and groups in communities and campuses throughout the world who are exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature, and culture. Metanexus sponsors public lectures, faculty training, research seminars, course development, Internet publications, and community events. Metanexus also hosts an online magazine and discussion forum with more than 7000 subscribers in 57 different countries with more than 40,000 weekly page views.

The mission of the John Templeton Foundation is to pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodology, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise.

Interviews may be arranged through: Christopher Stawski, Metanexus Institute; (215) 687-4060,
[email protected]

Sponsored by Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science
and the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love

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