Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, senior astrophysicist at NASA, spent Wednesday morning speaking to faculty, staff and students in Belmont’s Wedgewood Academic Center. During the standing room only Chapel presentation, Wiseman addressed the importance of incorporating both science and theology into understanding the universe.
As a child, Wiseman said she loved nature and was always curious about the world around her, but it wasn’t until she started college that she began to understand astronomy as a career. In graduate school, Wiseman studied the subject more in-depth leading to her career as a Johns Hopkins professor, NASA astrophysicist and director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion. Currently, Wiseman’s work at NASA includes her position as senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, a telescope currently traveling around the Earth collecting images of space for scientists.
Working among a team of other astrophysicists, Wiseman said she is passionate about her projects as she seeks to understand our vast universe and answer questions that continue to be posed. When it comes to the universe’s purpose and the place of human beings within it, Wiseman gave a nod to John Calvin’s belief that astronomy and theology are closely linked and quoted the theologian saying, “For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God.”
Wiseman doesn’t see the many unanswered questions of space or the enormous nature of our universe as a reason to doubt her faith–instead, she sees it as a reason to strengthen it. “We will likely never visit other planets,” Wiseman said. “But through science, we can have the ability to understand our universe. It’s a sign of God’s love and in turn, we’ll turn that back into praise for our God.”
In closing, Wiseman encouraged attendees to look to God with their love for science and find the natural harmony between astronomy, or any form of science, and theology. “Our own planet is precious,” Wiseman said. “Let us praise God for the Universe and let us praise God for the gift of science that lets us explore and understand our Universe.”