An Easy $300,000 for Sense of Wonder in a Box

The Templeton Foundation is paying $300,000 to University of Central Florida to build a rocketship-simulator, so they can study whether "the spiritual experiences described by astronauts are primarily caused by the various views of the earth and the vastness of space." Over at Pharyngula, P.Z. Myers subjects this research project to some well-deserved and hilarious mockery. As Myers writes:

What they don't realize is that in this project, UCF is the experimental subject, the Templeton Foundation is the experimenter, the $300,000 is the unconditional stimulus, and they are trying to make "spirituality" the conditional stimulus that causes university administrators to start drooling.

Myers' whole post is well worth reading. [Pharyngula]

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Actually, this would be a valid experiment if it could be done correctly. Build a simulator that could not be distinguished from actual launch by the participants or administrators, and use it as a control. If they report similar spiritual experiences as a group actually lauched, then bam, you've disproved spirituality.

Somehow I doubt the Templeton Foundation has the courage of their convictions to see it through.