templeton-planThis week we continue our exploration of John Templeton’s twenty-one steps detailed in The Templeton Plan with more on Step 18: Giving as a Way of Life. In our next two posts, Dr. Michael Guillen will evaluate John Templeton’s commitment to investigating the scientific benefits of philanthropy.

Continued from October 22, 2009 post.

Happily, because of Sir John’s equal respect for science and religion, the traditional disconnect between the two kingdoms is now steadily giving way to a greater mutual understanding—and, in the process, to an exciting new perspective on philanthropy. Most notably, science is now proving that philanthropy is good for one’s health—and, therefore, presumably for one’s genes.

In studies after studies—many of which are funded by the Templeton Foundation and summarized brilliantly in Stephen Post’s best-selling book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People—scientists are discovering that, on average, people who practice philanthropy regularly—make it a part of their everyday routine—enjoy happier, healthier, longer lives than the population at large. Scientists refer to this constellation of philanthropy-derived benefits as the “Warm Glow Effect.”

Imagine that! Whereas Darwin hypothesized that behaving selfishly was the best way for one to insure oneself and one’s progeny a long life, today’s scientific studies are discovering just the opposite to be true: that the best insurance policy for enhancing one’s life physically, mentally, and emotionally is by routinely practicing selflessness. The selfish gene has been trumped by the selfless glow.

Three years ago, when Dr. John Templeton Jr. asked me to lead Philanthropy Project, an ambitious, ground-breaking effort intended to enhance America’s already well-developed culture of generosity, my team and I chose to do so by touting science’s newest discoveries about philanthropy (see www.giveandglow.com). In doing so – in using the moving image to tell inspiring stories about America’s foundations and their good works, in promoting the “give-and-glow” lifestyle that science is now elucidating and that Sir John first exemplified – I gladly and gratefully acknowledge our enormous debt to both Sir John and his son.

Because of Philanthropy Project and scores of other selfless-minded initiatives being funded by the John Templeton Foundation, Sir John’s remarkable life of faith and reason is continuing to influence millions of people not just in America, but worldwide. For a man who always valued the multiple bottom line, I dare say that this profound return on his lifetime of giving would cause him to positively glow with humility and thanksgiving. 

Michael Guillen, PhD, is president of Spectacular Science Productions Inc. and Filmanthropy Media Inc. and host of Where Did It Come From?, a popular, weekly, one-hour primetime series for The History Channel that debuted in fall 2006. He holds a PhD from Cornell University in physics, mathematics and astronomy.