Millions of people fervently believe in an afterlife. John Martin Fischer, a philosopher at the University of California at Riverside, is not one of them.
But Mr. Fischer does see the subject as ripe for academic research, and on Tuesday the John Templeton Foundation awarded him a windfall to make that happen—$5-million for a multidisciplinary investigation of human immortality.
The three-year effort may look at questions like how belief in an afterlife influences human behavior and how near-death experiences vary across cultures. In America, for example, many who survive such events report seeing a tunnel with a light at the end. For Japanese people, the experiences often involve visions of tending a garden.
The Immortality Project will invite research proposals from philosophers, theologians, and scientists. Stressing interdisciplinary projects, it will award grants ranging from $100,000 to $250,000. There will also be two conferences and a Web site.
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