John Templeton Foundation Awards $1.78 Million Grant for Human Distinctiveness Project

Author: Emily Hammock

Celia Deane-Drummond, Professor of Theology, and Agustín Fuentes, Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology, have been awarded a $1.78 million grant by the John Templeton Foundation.  This grant, which begins in March 2015 and lasts for three years, is to promote literacy in evolutionary anthropology among theologians and to advance research at the interface of theology and anthropology. The project builds on and expands a current smaller interdisciplinary project directed by Deane-Drummond and Fuentes on the evolution of wisdom, which is also being funded by the Templeton Foundation.

The new project, entitled Human Distinctiveness: A Program to Engage Theologians with the Dynamism of Anthropological and Evolutionary Approaches to the Human, as well as supporting research on the evolution of wisdom, aims to train theologians in evolutionary and archeological anthropology so that knowledge gained from anthropology may strengthen and lead to new avenues of theological research. Contemporary theologians have incorporated knowledge from the sciences into their work but little attention up to this point has been paid to the rapid advances in the anthropological sciences. For theologians working on questions related to what it means to be human, the need is particularly acute for a deeper understanding of human origins. 

Through this grant, the University of Notre Dame will be offering funding for scholars from any sub-discipline in theology to attend a three-week intensive summer seminar in May/June 2015. There will be up to twelve awards in theology and up to three in anthropology. The theologian participants will gain an in-depth introduction to anthropology and its methods, be assisted in their research design, and anthropologists will be introduced to theology and its perspectives. The grant also supports up to three new prestigious JTF graduate scholarships in theology, beginning at the start of the academic year of 2015, with the opportunity to take a significant number of anthropology courses as part of the graduate training program.

The goal of these seminars and funding opportunities for scholars, new graduate student fellowships and the postdoctoral research project, is to launch a new wave of trans-disciplinary dialogue in theology and science showcased by research between theology and the anthropological sciences.

For more information, including call for papers and graduate student application details, visit