What are the objectives of The Foundation?
The primary goal of The Ingersoll Foundation is to raise funds to support credible, objective scientific studies into the potential effects of long-term encouragement and instruction of children to embrace faith as as valid means of perceiving certain aspects of their reality. Those studies will likely consider the potential effects of acceptance of faith on mental health and neurological development. Based on the results of those studies, we may encourage discussion of the ethical implications of this encouragement and instruction before children may have developed the critical faculties needed to question and challenge the claims of fact, both explicit and implicit, that faith entails.
Informal observation of advocacy of religious faith, a basic understanding of the manner in which the human mind processes and retains information it receives and how the strength of the retention of faith-based assertions in children is increased by long-term repetition and reinforcement by adult authority figures all give rise to what we considers reasonable hypotheses that the acceptance of faith may have adverse effects on the mental health and neurological development of children, and that these effects may persist into adulthood.
We stress, emphatically, that these are hypotheses, not assertions that these effects occur. But the extent of the advocacy of faith worldwide is clear, as is the knowledge that this practice includes presentation to the vulnerable minds of children faith-based claims of fact that are not supported by verifiable evidence, and that they are instructed to accept as fact in spite of that lack of evidence. This would seem to involve the need to suspend or suppress their critical faculties to do so. What led to the questions that resulted in creation of The Foundation to support an objective examination of the potential effects of perceiving reality through the lens of faith was the possibility that this suspension or suppression occurs. If they do occur, it is reasonable to ask what their neurological expression might be and what, if any, mental health and/or neurological effects may ensue from them. Again, these are only questions The Foundation considers worthy of study, not claims that any effects actually result. If, however, research reveals that such effects do ensue, and that they may be potentially detrimental, those finding may well lead to a broader discussion.
It is important to note that ordinary individuals created and currently support and manage the The Foundation. The current Foundation team has a limited but generally sound understanding of and respect for science, reason, the scientific method, the way the way the brain stores information, and they have also observed the practices used to encourage children to embrace faith. They are not scientific, medical, or mental health professionals, but their observations that led to the questions The Foundation is asking are, however, informed and thoughtful.
We acknowledge that in order to move beyond informed observation we must enlist the participation and advice of credentialed professionals with skills and expertise in the principles and best practices of scientific research to form a core team competent to manage the operational aspects of grant proposal solicitation and evaluation, recommendation of studies to be funded, monitoring of studies in progress and assessment of completed studies. We encourage such professionals with an interest in the issues it has raised to consider participation in its work. If you are interested in working with us, please visit the Join the Team page or contact us if you have any questions.
The issues The Ingersoll Foundation raises appear to challenge some religious practices. Is The Foundation anti-religious?
While the acceptance of faith takes place in a religious context and raises questions that we suggest warrants scientific study , it remains neutral on the subject of religion per se, and our focus is on the acceptance of faith alone, not on religion overall. We are committed to an unbiased approach in the determination of the studies we will fund and will, as a matter of policy and practice, never exert any influence related to religion or any other factors in study investigators other than ensuring that their work adheres to established best practices for scientific research and ethical, unbiased conduct of their studies. For study results to be credible, they must adhere to these best practices and standards of conduct without bias caused by any actual or perceived influence by The Foundation. Any other conduct in the course of a study would provide grounds for rejecting its findings, cast doubt on the our objectivity and raise concerns about any other research we may have funded or may fund in the future.
While some members of our team may take issue with certain aspect of religion, any opinions they might hold are personal and have no place in the exercise of their responsibilities our behalf. Our formal policies and their enforcement will ensure that no bias that may affect funding decisions, the conduct of research or the objectivity of study findings, reinforced by frequent emphasis by our management.
In short, we will not allow any factor related to attitudes toward religion or anything else to cause the objectivity or motivation of our operating practices to be called into question, or to jeopardize the credibility or objectivity of the findings of the studies we fund.
An hypothesis is a tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences.