Templeton Technology & Religion Project

Research Grant Opportunities for Projects focused on the Interaction of Technology, Religion/the Human Spirit

In 2010 Wartburg College received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to fund discussion and research about the relationship and interaction between technology and religion/the human spirit. The thematic range for research sponsored by the grant includes the complex relationships between technology, the natural world, and human identity or spirit; the relationship between science and religion as well as the philosophy of technology; and the interdisciplinary study of technology, including philosophies about technological progress, theories of human selfhood found in literature, psychology, and the humanities, and contemporary theories on environmental protection proposed by political scientists, theologians, and natural scientists.

Part of the grant is devoted to supporting undergraduate research. The Wartburg-Templeton initiative is offering up to $2,500 to support summer research focused on a topic relevant to the grant.

The topic area is broad, but grants will be awarded, in part, based upon the appropriateness of the project to the specified range of themes. Some possible research topics are described below as examples of the kind of projects that would fit the themes of the grant.

Applications must include the following items:
- A description of your project, both its theme and the envisioned product(s) of the research
- A schedule for completion of the proposed work
- A budget (books, travel, equipment). Your budget may propose a living stipend appropriate to the duration of the research or assume an hourly rate of $10/hour.
- A resume, including a list of course work completed at Wartburg College
- A letter of recommendation from a member of the faculty with whom you have worked

Applications for the 2011 grants will be accepted through May 16th, 2011, and an announcement of the award will be made on May 30th.
Grant applications should be submitted by the due date at the office of the grant administrator, Dr. Brian Jones, Grossmann Hall, 102E. You may contact Dr. Jones for more information by email at brian.jones@wartburg.edu or by phone at 319-352-8324.

Flood Recovery and the Human Spirit: the Activation of Social and Spiritual Resources Subsequent to the 2008 flood in NE Iowa. This research project is designed to document and analyze the psycho-social and spiritual strategies and processes that enabled (or failed to enable) recovery after the devastating NE Iowa flood in 2008. Data will be collected primarily through interviews with victims of the flood, city officials and area ministers, as well as through visits to sites where recovery efforts are proceeding. Although economic factors will be evaluated as part of the study, the focus of the project will be the affective challenges that confront flood victims and the psychological and spiritual strategies they have used to meet those challenges.

The Effect of Social Networking Technologies on Volunteerism. This research project will document and analyze the effectiveness of social networking technology within the community of Waverly, Iowa, for promoting and organizing volunteerism in response to specific needs: the NE Iowa flood, the destruction caused by hurricane Katrina, and the Feed My Starving Children initiative. Robert Putnam's analysis of different modes of civic engagement will provide a paradigm for analyzing the kinds of involvement elicited by social networking strategies.

Music and Mood: Seeing the World through an MP3-Player. This project will focus on the effect of music on mood and perception while moving through public spaces. The phenomenon of living inside a private world of sound while moving through public space has become common in contemporary society. This study will seek to understand how both mood and perception of immediate surroundings are affected by continuous music. (I don't know how one would gather data for this study. It might not be possible.)

Brain Science and the Experience of the Divine. Recent research using various types of brain scanning devices has opened a discussion about the nature of religious experience. At the center of the discussion is the question whether religious experience involves contact with a transcendent other (e.g., God, a spiritual force, universal consciousness) or whether it is strictly a biological phenomenon the reality of which is limited to the material realm. In short, are spiritual experiences really spiritual? This project will investigate this question from two angles involving the fields of science and philosophy. First, the project will review the empirical research that has examined religious experiences using brain scanning devices. It will evaluate the results of this research in terms of both the design and execution. Secondly, relevant literature from the last decade will be surveyed and evaluated using the perspective of William James as expressed in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) and the counter perspective of Daniel Dennet, as expressed in his books Consciousness Explained and Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.

The Use of Machine Metaphors for Representing Humans and Society in Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, Henry James and Kurt Vonnegut. This is an attempt to document through time how the use of machine metaphors to represent humans and society have changed. Electronic searches of those texts that are available in machine readable format, or for which there exist concordances, will be used to facilitate the discovery process.