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Christian astronomer shortlisted for Mars trip

An astrophysics PhD student, currently on a 100-person shortlist to make a one-way trip to Mars, will speak at God and the Big Bang this week (Thu 14 July) ...

An astrophysics PhD student, currently on a 100-person shortlist to make a one-way trip to Mars, will speak at God and the Big Bang this week (Thu 14 July).

The day-long conference for sixth formers at St Augustine’s CE High School, Kilburn, London, explores the relationship between science and faith.

Hannah Earnshaw, 24, said: "As a Christian and an astronomer, science for me is about discovering and learning about God's vast creation, so I am looking forward to communicating how science and faith is not only compatible but intertwined.

"I am going to talk about the idea of settling Mars – of how to keep humans alive on the surface of another planet and our responsibilities towards the environments we live in. Mars is very much something made by God and has as much inherent value as Earth."

Earnshaw, currently studying at Durham University, has always harboured ambitions to be an astronaut, but never imagined she’d be able to turn these into a concrete career.

"Space travel has been a dream of mine for a very long time, and now I have the opportunity for something even bigger. Mars is a challenge. It is highly risky, and an enormous responsibility as well as an adventure, and, if chosen, hope to do it justice."

God and the Big Bang, supported by prominent members of the scientific faith community, aims to equip young people with the tools to form their own opinions about the place for science in God’s world – and God in the world of science.

The project was motivated by the research findings of the LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) Project. Led by Dr Berry Billingsley of the University of Reading’s Institute of Education, the project showed that 16 to 18-year-old students are likely to struggle to access the view that science and religion are not necessarily incompatible. Science teachers frequently feel uncomfortable about addressing questions that relate to religion, and RE teachers often feel they are not sufficiently knowledgeable to respond to questions about science.

The talks are designed to be academically credible and captivating – dealing both with cutting-edge, mainstream science and personal and honest reflections about the interaction of science and faith.

"These events are a wonderful opportunity to spark discussion in the area of faith and science," said Michael Harvey, executive director of the project, "By bringing science and faith together in conversation we can find out new things about our world which will benefit and enrich all humankind. It all begins with asking questions and exploring the unknown, and God and the Big Bang can contribute to starting us on that journey."

"We have received an enthusiastic response to the conference in schools as far apart as Aberdeen and Surrey," said Stephanie Bryant, Cambridge graduate and the project’s coordinator.

"As a Christian who studied natural sciences myself, it is a delight to be working on such an exciting project that allows young people to discover, discuss, debate and form their own opinions about the compatibility of science and faith."

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