'I’m excited about science and faith'
Stephanie Bryant, project co-ordinator of God and the Big Bang, wants more school students to know that science and faith really can work together ...
Stephanie Bryant, project co-ordinator of God and the Big Bang, wants more school students to know that science and faith really can work together. Interview by SHARON BARNARD
Asking questions about life, the universe and pretty much everything else has been a feature of Stephanie’s life since childhood.
“My parents were good at giving me the space to ask questions as well as taking me to science museums. We lived in Oklahoma for a couple of years where I remember places full of interesting
things, and I especially loved finding out about animals.”
No surprise then that Stephanie’s enquiring mind, coupled with a love of the natural world, took her to Cambridge University where she studied natural sciences. She also became a Christian “wholeheartedly” in her first year.
“The more I dug into science the more I found it makes sense for Christians to study it,” she says. “Science shows us some of the mechanisms God has chosen to work with.”
After working in conservation science and “jumping around in rivers”, Stephanie’s growing passion for scientific communication led her to the post of project co-ordinator of the God and the Big Bang initiative. It sends a team into schools to demonstrate to GCSE and A level students and their teachers that serious science and deep faith can work in tandem.
“We each talk about our particular area of science and how that interacts with our faith, to show that we’ve been thinking for ourselves about the big questions that people are asking.
“Teachers and young people are often surprised that you can be a scientist and a Christian.”
The inspiration for God and the Big Bang came out of a paper presented at the 2009 General Synod which discussed the compatibility of science and faith. At around the same time the University of Reading’s Learning about Science and Religion (LASAR) project highlighted the lack of accessible and helpful conversation between these two areas for young people.
The Diocese of Manchester kickstarted some trial projects under the leadership of Michael Harvey and the initiative was officially launched nationally in 2014.
“Our main work focuses on day-long school events. We put together energetic teams including a keynote speaker who is high up and respected in their particular field of science, other academics and early career scientists.
“Science teachers are often initially wary because of the impression they have of the relationship between Christianity and science from the media. But once they see that we are serious and passionate scientists who occupy the middle ground and talk openly about our Christian faith, they become more confident.
“We get a lot of questions from students about suffering, natural disasters and ethical issues. There are some different ones too, such as who created God and whether we could one day turn into dolphins.
“They are trying to work out what science is, what it means and how it all fits in with faith. And we encourage them to think for themselves, to not be afraid of asking big questions and to use all the different types of evidence we have available from science to scripture to personal experience, to reach an understanding of the world around them and their place in this universe.
“By the time we get to the Q&A session at the end there are more questions about God than science!
“Some students who are passionate Christians may feel they can’t go down a particular route of science, but we show them that it’s OK – God wants us to take an interest and ask questions about the world.
“And their Science and RE teachers are often surprised to discover there are talented scientists who love God. Their passion and enthusiasm for their faith and their subject has a really big impact.
“You know, over the doorway of the Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge are the words from Psalm 111:2: ‘Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.’ It’s spot on for me.
“Studying what God has done enriches my faith. The more I see and find out, the more I want to worship him.
“And if I believe that he is the ultimate Creator and behind everything in this universe, then logically that makes science incredibly exciting too.”
+ God and the Big Bang
+ For non-scientist Christians who want to explore issues around science and faith, Stephanie recommends the Thinking About downloadable resources from Christians in Science