The subject of her studies? Spider silk. According to the foundation’s website, Hyashi is “a spider silk biologist revealing the architecture, properties, and function of spider silks and the possibilities of developing new synthetic materials.” What she teaches about spiders is simply amazing.
For instance, Hayashi has concluded that “Some species of spiders produce as many as six different silks, each with specific mechanical properties and functions . . .” Some of these compounds have tensile strength and elasticity greater than that of modern steel cables. Other spider silks are more durable than carbon fiber.
Her research is increasing our understanding of spiders and has “. . . the potential to influence the development of biomimetic material for a variety of applications, from biodegradable fishing lines to medical sutures to protective armor cloth.”
All from the posterior end of an arachnid.
There’s something else I wonder. I wonder if Cheryl Hayashi believes God created spiders, or that they are the result of evolution. If she is like the vast majority of biology professors that teach at our major universities, she has staked her tent firmly in the evolution camp. I don’t pretend to know anything about biology. Frankly, I struggle to handle theology, and it is my field. But for the life of me I can’t figure out how someone, anyone really, can look at a creature so complex that it can create six different types of silk based on the mix of chemicals secreted from it’s backside, and not think, “This creature is divinely designed!”
A spider web played a faith-building role in the life of Nien Cheng, a Chinese woman jailed in 1966 during Mao Zedong’s “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” Locked in a small damp cell, Cheng shared her space with a tiny web-spinner. Huddled in the corner of her cage, she watched as the spider “swung out on a silken thread, attached the strand to the base of the bar, and swung another, then another. It worked with purpose and confidence weaving a web of intricate beauty.”
Cheng later wrote,
I had just watched an architectural feat by an extremely skilled artist . . . My mind was full of questions. Who had taught this spider to make a web? Could it really have acquired the skill through evolution, or did God create the spider and endow it with the ability to make a web so that it could catch food and perpetuate its species? . . . I knew I had just witnessed something that was extraordinarily beautiful and uplifting. Whether God had made the spider or not, I thanked Him for what I had just seen. It helped me to see that God was in control. [Charles Colson, The God of Stones and Spiders, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), pp. 18-19]Maybe I’ll think of Hayashi and Cheng next time I see something with eight legs rappelling from the ceiling on its self-made silk rope. Instead of swatting, perhaps I’ll stare and ponder the amazing God who created such a complex and wonderful creature. Until my wife sees it, that is. Then I’m afraid the itsy bitsy spider will have to go after all.