Now Accepting Applications for the Linda G. O’Bryant Noetic Sciences Research Prize

December 22, 2022
IONS Communications Team

Noetic sciences hold the potential to profoundly shift the material paradigm that has limited humanity for ages. An annual prize of $100,000 will be given to an individual or team whose research advances leading-edge science around consciousness. This new, visionary science prize provides an exciting opportunity to expand IONS global reach.

Linda G.O’Bryant is an IONS board member, Chair of Development Committee and long-term donor. As proof of her generous support of our mission, she has established the Linda G.O’Bryant Noetic Sciences Research Prize to encourage discoveries with the potential to change the world. 

Scientific understanding of consciousness 

“You are a machine made of meat” (Marvin Minsky) and “You are nothing but a pack of neurons” (Francis Crick) are quotes that represent the prevailing scientific understanding of consciousness based on 17th-century physics. These physicalist theories purport that consciousness emerges from physical substrates like neurons, which have evolved to become increasingly complex over time, ultimately leading to consciousness’ emergence (subjective awareness).

By contrast, non-physical models do not assume that a physical substrate generates consciousness. Some even propose that consciousness is as fundamental as matter, energy, or spacetime. In this view — the perspective underlying most ancient, esoteric, and Eastern cultures — the physical world arises out of consciousness rather than the other way around. Could such a non-physicalist framework better explain the full range of reported human phenomenology?

New data is needed to advance our understanding

Scholars and scientists have debated these topics for thousands of years with no clear resolution. New experiments and scientific data are needed to inform this question to advance our understanding. The prize seeks testable scientific theories that we are more than our brains.

The prize topic is the development of scientific tests of the theory that subjective phenomenological awareness is more than an emergent brain property. A viable theory must be practical and testable using currently available scientific methods. It must be an alternative to the materialist theory that consciousness solely originates from the (classical) physical structures of the brain.

By establishing the annual Linda G. O’Byrant Noetic Sciences Research Prize, IONS continues to pioneer the scientific exploration of consciousness. Learn about the prize here, including definitions, deadlines and FAQs.

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