Dr. Gordon Wilson admits something most of us would never expect to hear from the lips of a scientist: science texts are often boring and even torturous because they're no more than disconnected mounds of facts. How can students be expected to take interest in a discipline that isn't presented interestingly?
But that's only part of the problem. For Christians (and indeed, for everybody), the "evolutionary fairy tales" often passed off as science by the academic community only serve to obscure the reality and nature of things rather than to reveal it. The world is the way it is because God exists and sovereignly presides over it, not because stuff happens by chance.
Wilson's new book The Riot and the Dance seeks to rectify both of these problems, presenting the beginning principles of college-level biology in a way that is presuppositionally rooted in biblical revelation, and is entertaining and interesting. Since readers will actually be engaged, they'll learn a lot more than if the book was dry and boring.
How Does This Work?
The Riot and the Dance is a college textbook currently used by Dr. Gordon Wilson to teach introductory biology at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. It moves fairly rapidly through two major aspects of biology study: The Living Cell, and The Diversity of Life. These are the headings for the book's two main sections.
There are twenty-nine chapters, each ending in a number of review questions that will require careful reading of the text. These review questions are fact-based, which is important because facts are an integral part of science study; but, the facts are presented in such a way that students are much more likely to remember them than when reading other texts.
A plethora of black and white drawings, charts and graphs, as well as many color photographs (most of them taken by Dr. Wilson himself) illustrate. Astonishingly, even the drawings are far more engaging than those appearing in standard biology textbooks, and draw readers in to the structure of cells, the nature of plants, etc.
Each chapter is crammed with information. Wilson is an excellent writer, however, and most of the time The Riot and the Dance is more like a good story than a compendium of data. He uses humor, analogies, anecdotes, and other rhetorical and literary devices to draw readers in and to make the often difficult material digestible and interesting.
Wilson's underlying presupposition is that the world was created by God, and that the world is only orderly and understandable because God created it. This presupposition is present throughout the book, though he doesn't "beat us over the head" with it, he simply demonstrates the truth of his epistemological starting point by showing it over and over again.
Our Honest Opinion
Dr. Wilson's book makes us want to study biology. It will actually teach you about biology because it will make biology interesting, and it will do so in a way that aligns with the facts (namely, that life proceeds from God himself). This book isn't good only for those just beginning to study biology at a higher level, it's also a good text for those who've imbibed too much naturalistic swill.
Because of that, and the level at which Wilson writes, this is best for college students or adults. Advanced high school students will be able to handle the content, but most students won't be at this level. Whoever undertakes to work through this book, though, will certainly find it rewarding, educational, and (perhaps best of all) fun.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
Summary A demanding but deeply rewarding introduction to biology from a Christian perspective.
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