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John Templeton Foundation awards $2.8 million to examine origins of biological complexity

The mechanisms driving the process of evolution have always been subject to rigorous scientific debate. Growing in intensity and scope, this debate currently spans a broad range of disciplines including archaeology, biochemistry, computer modeling, genetics & development and philosophy.

A recent $2.8 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to the Cambridge Templeton Consortium is providing the resources for further investigation into this complex and fascinating area. The funds will support 18 new grant awards to scientists, social scientists and philosophers examining how complexity has emerged in biological systems.

Attracting 150 applications, the grant process has generated much interest from a wide range of disciplines. Unique in the interdisciplinary nature of their applicants, the Cambridge Consortium grants will encourage and enable high quality research that approaches the issue from many angles, and will also sponsor collaborative work by people from different academic specialties. All of the work will study how biological systems (molecular, cellular, social etc) become more complex as they evolve.

"This is clearly an emerging area of science, and we are pleased that these grants are specifically aimed at encouraging work that would not easily fall under the parameters of any other grant-awarding body," says Consortium Chairman, Professor Derek Burke.

Questions to be addressed by the projects include:

  • Why are biologists so afraid of asking 'why' questions, when physicists do it all the time?
  • Can experiments using a digital evolutionary model answer why intelligence evolved, but artificial intelligence has been so hard to build?
  • What lessons can rock art and material remains teach us about the development of human self-awareness?
  • Can the geometric ordering of specific sheets of cells throw light on the questions currently being raise
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2-Jan-2006


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