Dr. Gordon Wilson oversees the Natural History Colloquium and science electives at New Saint Andrews College, and has written for several notable publications and organizations. But when his nephew, filmmaker N.D. Wilson, proposed that his uncle narrate a documentary about nature, it took him into a new setting to share his love of God and his appreciation of nature. Now, audiences will experience the Wilsons’ efforts around the globe, as they show the ways that God has worked wonder into everything He’s created in a documentary, The Riot and The Dance, in theaters on March 19.
Wilson says that watching a documentary about nature filmed is better than examining a pickled specimen on a dissection tray, and as a professor, he tries to convey this to his students. “When we get into the nitty gritty of things, like how cells work, one aspect of my teaching involves a lot of analogies,” he proposed, “which give concepts handles that people can hold onto and grasp some more complicated ideas. My goal is to make any difficult concept accessible or as easy to understand as i can. Some things are difficult and can’t be made ‘easy,’ but a good teacher tries to make them as accessible as possible. Analogies, illustrations, stories - anything that grabs my students’ attention - that’s what I’m aiming for as I teach.”
Having seen The Riot and The Dance, it’s clear that Wilson aimed for that with the documentary as well. He provided a list animals to consider around the world, and then ad libbed as necessary when they encountered more animals in their natural habitat. No matter what they found, commonplace or exotic, Wilson was always intrigued.
“A lot of times we overlook the things that are common. I refuse to be bored with the common,” Wilson said, before elaborating. “When we went to Sri Lanka, I was enthralled with lizards we caught. Over there, they’re common, and they might be viewed the way we see a garter snake. But if you start to explore these creatures in their design and physiology and how they can make a living in the wild, their history… I want to call this the magnificence of the mundane. Even a roly poly in your backyard is great!”
A seemingly chance encounter with some box turtles set Wilson on the path through the wild that he’s taken. While he didn’t come from a scientific family, he was exposed to a box of box turtles that his siblings brought home one afternoon. He thought they were the best thing he’d ever seen, much like the displaced crab he found in his sandbox! “God made everyone differently,” Wilson said, explaining his view on both animals and humans. “God bless those people called to build bridges or computers. But from the beginning i’ve been fascinated by creatures. I remember I saw the human body displays in the store with the internal organs displayed and I had to have one!”
Now, with The Riot and The Dance, Wilson may be the one instilling the love of nature in a new generation, even as he quotes Neil Diamond, saying that the film is one available to all, “Pack the babies, grab the old ladies, everyone goes!” Knowing he could influence others to see nature as he does, and to see God through and in nature? That absolutely excites him.
“We need more Christians that get into the sciences (not even the hard sciences). Some people have another occupation but foster their appreciation for nature. They have some hobby that has to do with nature and life. But for the biologist or some Christian inclined in that area -if this film gets children to say, ‘hey, the glories of the natural domain are not just for the secular biologist,’ this could be a career that christians can make their own,” shared Wilson. “I feel like we’ve been abdicating it, when we should take it over.”
“Too much science has been done in the last 160 years since the advent of Darwinism. It’s time we take back the helm. We can use biology as a means to glorify God and not sweep him under the carpet. He has everything to do with it. I hope to motivate a lot of young people to biology if they’re called to that. I hope this can be the thing to trigger that love.”
For Wilson, Creation shows God’s character, and he references Romans 1:20 to do it. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse,” wrote the Apostle Paul. Now, Wilson says it’s up to us to see the intent, the glory of God’s character exhibited in His Creation.
“These creatures we examined are not the result of random happenstance of eons of time of mutation and natural selection but handcrafted creatures,” explained Wilson, before referencing John 1:1-3. “‘Everything that has been made has been made by the word of God.’ Our Lord Jesus Christ made it all. When we see it and ponder it, we are seeing the very handiwork of God.”
“We start to see insight into Michelangelo by looking at his artwork. Since we can’t meet him personally, we can see his work and start to see his character. When we look at living creatures, from microbes to whales, we see the handiwork of God. We need to read what He wrote and see what He made, which is the Creation. If we only get to see one aspect of God by just reading His word, we don’t see His complete character or personality.”
Now, Wilson will wait until March 19 to see how audiences respond. But in the meantime, he’ll be teaching young minds and exploring nature for himself. He’s sure to find something mundane to entrance him, an image of God’s Creation in an area we’ve too often missed.