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Fuller Seminary’s Thrive Center Awarded $5.3 Million Grant

Published on Sunday, January 8, 2012 | 7:11 pm

A $5.3 million grant has been awarded by the John Templeton Foundation to Fuller Seminary’s Thrive Center for Human Development, in the School of Psychology, to fund a three-year project studying “The Science of Intellectual Humility.”

How do we come to hold and retain our beliefs? With today’s deepening religious, political, and societal divisions there are calls for tolerance, but can people simply decide to put aside the intellectual differences that divide them?

The project funded by this new grant will address these kinds of questions by focusing on “intellectual humility”—an openness to new ideas, receptivity to new evidence, and a willingness to revise even deeply held beliefs in the face of compelling reasons. The project is the first in a multi-phase effort to plumb the nature of intellectual humility, and to consider ways to effectively foster it in individuals and communities.

“I am delighted that Fuller has received the John Templeton Foundation’s strong support for our study about intellectual humility,” says Fuller President Richard J. Mouw. “We are deeply concerned at Fuller about the increasing divisions we see in society and we believe this project will develop new opportunities for building civil discourse.”

“Surely a critical part of optimal human development is for children and teens to have an appropriate stance when it comes to learning—to be appropriately humble about what they know and don’t,” says Justin Barrett, professor of developmental science and director of the Thrive Center—an institute within Fuller’s School of Psychology that explores the science and practice of nurturing optimal development in young people. “One core concern for the Thrive Center is how virtues develop, and intellectual humility is arguably a virtue that facilitates an effective pursuit of goodness, beauty, and truth.”

The Templeton Foundation saw Fuller’s Thrive Center as “an excellent host site for this project,” says Michael J. Murray, the foundation’s executive vice president for programs—because of the School of Psychology’s “long tradition of fostering first tier academic research in psychology, especially research that aims at understanding fundamental aspects of human nature, and how that understanding enhances our grasp and pursuit of human flourishing. In addition, Dr. Justin Barrett brings distinctive research expertise to the project because of his deep engagement with philosophical and theological topics in light of discoveries in empirical psychology.”

The three-year project will produce a significant volume of research with the goal of leading other scientists—as well as theologians, traditional philosophers, and experimental philosophers—to devote more attention to the subject of intellectual humility. The centerpiece of the project will be an open grant competition administered by Fuller’s Travis Research Institute, which will award $4 million to 16 “sub-grantees” who will engage in scientific research on the nature, implications, and ultimate causes of intellectual humility and arrogance—resulting in a body of literature and two conferences that will promote dialogue and collaboration on the topic.

The project’s ultimate goal is to inform work in philosophy, theology, and clinical psychology in ways that will lead to greater openness, more civil discourse, and flourishing in human relationships.

The Thrive Center is part of Fuller Seminary’s School of Psychology, which integrates Christian faith and theology with the study of psychology to engage in leading research and prepare clinicians, counselors, and educators to serve with professionalism. The Thrive Center, under the leadership of Dr. Barrett, works to promote human thriving by (1) researching the development of child and adolescent spirituality, character and competence, and (2) providing resources for individuals and organizations that assist young people to become flourishing adults.

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the “big questions” of human purpose and ultimate reality, supporting research on subjects ranging from complexity and evolution and infinity to forgiveness and free will. Founded by investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, the foundation encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, theologians, and the public.

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