We chatted with Dr. Gordon Wilson about his thrilling nature documentary The Riot and The Dance, about creation and being a biologist.
Please tell us about yourself and how you became a Christian?
I grew up in a strong Christian home saturated with the gospel. I came under conviction of sin after stealing my brother’s quarter at age 6. I lied as I disclosed the whereabouts of the quarter. I spun it as if I found his quarter. “I might know where Doug’s quarter is”, I announced. After a good spanking and a loving personally-applied presentation of the gospel, I “prayed the prayer.”
How did your love for biology come about?
I was 5 or 6 years old when I discovered that I loved living things. What stands out in my mind was when my older brothers brought home a couple eastern box turtles. I was transfixed and it was around then that this biology ‘seed’ germinated in me. It was clear that I was cut out to be a biologist from the start.
What convinces you that God created the world?
From a scientific standpoint it’s easy. I ask myself, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Even dead matter, energy, space, time, etc. cannot explain (even if they could talk) their own existence. The first law of thermodynamics states that “matter cannot be created or destroyed….” So it is clear from the get-go that naturalism (the overarching, guiding secular paradigm) doesn’t work when considering ultimate causation. Natural processes cannot bring into existence “nature” (the universe) and all that is in it…from nothing. If we start with truly nothing then how in the world can you invoke a natural cause to kick things off. You can’t have a natural cause when there is nothing. In other words, nature cannot beget itself. You can’t assume the existence of the very thing you are trying to explain. “Life” is even more convincing. Without getting too technical I would say if you know that something like an iPhone has to be designed and manufactured by intelligent beings, be mindful that every critter (and plant) you see in this film is many orders of magnitude more complex. Natural selection simply selects; it doesn’t create. Mutation doesn’t create either. At best it modifies (usually damages) that which has been made. All this convinces me to the uttermost that God exists. To think otherwise is highly rational. The fool says in his heart, there is no God.
We saw that you received a sticky note in college, how did the inspire your work?
The sticky note did not propel me into some kind of crusade against naturalism. Nor did I take it as an insult. It simply was a quiet reminder that the secular academy views me as a heretic. It reminds me who’s team I’m on. When I think about the belief system naturalists hold, I’m very glad I’m not there, for they conclude that the living masterpieces out in nature are the result of random processes; not requiring any intelligence or wisdom. This is slander against God, which is blasphemy. I’m happy to be labeled a heretic…especially by blasphemers.
How difficult is it being a Christian, whilst working alongside others who as we saw ridiculed your beliefs?
It wasn’t that hard. I had good professors who treated me with respect and fairness. Not everyone these days have professors who stay impartial in assessing a Christian student’s academic performance. I also didn’t make myself a “problem child” in class. I took it upon myself to study the evolutionary perspective and do the work required of me to the best of my ability.
How would you encourage Christians who are studying biology?
Be the best you can be. Know what you believe and why you believe it. But don’t use your knowledge to beat people up. Be diligent, eager, willing to learn their paradigm without being a “problem child” in class or the lab. Don’t be an obnoxious, arrogant creationist. Be willing to learn as much from them as you can. The best way to destroy Darwinism, Naturalism, etc. is to know them well and be excellent as a student.
What is your favourite part of creation that reflects God’s creativity?
That’s a hard one because I am fascinated by so many things. For nostalgic, aesthetic, and scientific reasons I have to say my favorite is the “Eastern Box Turtle” but I could go on and on about more spectacular aspects of creation ranging from protists, fungi, plants, and animals. As far as a ecological relationship in nature, I love the textbook example of mutualism; the Bullhorn Acacia tree and Acacia ant.
Tell us about The Riot and The Dance, how did the concept come about?
I have always loved nature documentaries since I was a kid – from Jacques Cousteau to David Attenborough. Early on I had wild fantasies of being on board with Jacques Cousteau, but in college I got realistic and decided to become a biology teacher instead. Since then I have generally been one to “color inside the lines”. I don’t tend to dream up and pursue extravagant goals for my life. However, when I took my nephew, N.D. Wilson (about 10 years old at the time but now a best-selling author), out to collect insects for a graduate class in entomology I had no idea he would be the sort who would. When he was approached by an investor who wanted him to make a nature film that was distinctively Christian, he came and asked me to be the narrator. I immediately said yes. I might not have generated the idea, but I was very eager to hitch my wagon to it. My wildest dreams were coming true.
This film is a bit different than some of the creation films of the past few years. Why inspired you to make it different?
N.D. Wilson was the one who made it different but we are definitely on the same page. We didn’t want to make it an apologetic film. In other words, we weren’t trying to argue for the existence of God. We assume God’s existence from the start.
What can viewers expect and what do you hope they come away with after seeing it?
We want to simply have our viewers celebrate the creation as we showcase it. We want to open their eyes and see the creation afresh with eyes full of childlike wonder. Hopefully it will revitalize Christians who have grown stagnant in their worship because they haven’t recently pondered the majesty and artistry of God.
Have you ever thought about doing a nature TV series?
I have vaguely day-dreamed that my field trips could hit a bigger audience. Ten or fewer students is ideal for actual field trips. But TV would make the reach much greater. If we did a TV series, the goal would be to get people out and experience the real thing. A TV nature series is not a substitute but rather a great appetizer. If Gorilla Poet wants to go down that road, then I’m all in.
What is next for you and how can we pray for you?
My day job is teaching biology to the glory of God at New Saint Andrews College. I hope I do that until the day I die. If Attenborough can keep narrating nature documentaries into his 90s, then pray that God will enable me to do the same… but for His glory, not Darwin’s. In the short term, stayed tuned for Part 2 of “The Riot and the Dance” which is “Water.”