Many people have heroes. Also when it comes to science, there are names held in awe: Galileo, Newton, and yes, for some, Darwin. I have a scientific hero too, but she’s not as well-known as the other scientists I just mentioned. For many years, my scientific hero has been Dr. Margaret Helder, a Canadian botanist and prolific writer. I’ve always admired not only her faithfulness to biblical truth, but also her courage and passion for that truth. I’m thankful for what God has done through her efforts.
No Christian Silence on Science is a collection of essays illustrating how Christians should think about science. Dr. Helder helps readers recognize that Christians are up against a clash of worldviews. She points out some of the pitfalls that inevitably threaten believers who venture into science. She lays out lessons to be learned from history — for instance, a self-taught naturalist named Philip Henry Gosse. In his opposition to Darwin, Gosse “showed more zeal than common sense” (page 108). Dr. Helder also tackles the question of whether Christians who take the Bible seriously can make any accommodations for biological macro-evolution or geological old-earth positions.
This little book is especially going to be helpful for university students taking advanced science courses. There are sections that are quite technical. I don’t have any formal science education beyond high school and an intro physics course in university, so the discussion in chapter 2 about “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” (CRISPRS) was a bit beyond my ken. For Christian post-secondary students, chapter 4 is explicitly directed towards equipping them for navigating the academic scientific environment. Not only is there a helpful academic orientation, but also concrete advice. For example, Dr. Helder reminds students that at first glance it may appear that creation-based resources are inadequate for answering the challenges encountered at a secular university. But: “What the student must remember is that there are conservative scholars who support a young earth position, and there are technical documents in this genre as well” (page 85). Seek and ye shall find!
However, I don’t want to leave the impression that this book is going to be an impossible read for the non-scientists. There’s plenty here that’s both accessible and fascinating. Take two of the appendices to chapter 2. One is about the echolocation abilities of bats. The other is about a favourite food of some bats: tiger moths. Some species of bat use sound to locate their prey — and this echolocation system is quite sophisticated. In fact, “some echolocating bats can control the width of the ultrasonic beam which they emit” (page 52). The tiger moth, on the other hand, is able to evade bats 93% of the time. One of the ways it does this is through its own generation of high-pitched sounds. These sounds actually jam the bat’s echolocation system. Dr. Helder’s conclusion: “This is clearly a matter of programming in the insect brain as well. This creature is clearly designed. Without the hardware, the software would be irrelevant, and vice-versa” (page 56).
If you know a young Christian who’s studying science, this book would be a great gift. After all, the author takes the Bible seriously as God’s Word and our ultimate authority in life. She also has the scientific expertise to demonstrate how Darwinian explanations of origins are inadequate. That one-two punch makes this book highly recommended.