Monday, January 16, 2017

Map-making in a Modern World

I came across an analogy that I simply love, let me quote part it first:

"Earlier maps might still be useful, if you realize their limitations and use them appropriately — but newer maps, even though the differences are slight, are better at describing 'what is there'." (Quoted from a comment from When Science Stands Up To Creationism)
Yes, this is part of an analogy, but more on that later.  I just want to explore this quote for a moment because I love Maps!  When I was a child I had a globe in my bedroom, which I kept even after my little brother drew on it.  Of course the lines on that globe, excluding my brother's colorful additions, wouldn't match up too well with a current globe.  Countries have changed from my childhood, some renamed, others have new borders, and some have ceased to exist entirely.  I always wanted one of those large globes that you could open up and have stuff hidden inside!

Maps hold a similar fascination for me.  I used to do a great deal of traveling and I always kept a Rand-McNally Road Atlas in the car.  It got me from place to place across America and parts of Canada.  I enjoyed the route planning and even used it to track my progress.  My wife enjoyed them as well because she would find the most obscure attractions, like the World's Smallest Cathedral (in Missouri).  What I did find was that as good as the maps were, they would quickly become outdated because  . . .  as with my beloved globe . . . things change.

Even in this modern day of Google Maps, things change.  It's something we have to be aware of and plan to adjust to those changes.  I have been driving along and coming to a dead-end that used to be a through road, but the road ended in a 'T' intersection and there was a building where the road used to go through.  Imagine the reaction if I stood there complaining about my map's inaccuracy because some town had built a building where there used to be a road!  Here in the Dayton Ohio area the roads are subject to name changes as you drive along.  It was confusing at first, but it makes sense as you consider how communities grew and eventually connected and merged.  We have certainly kept map-makers busy over the years.

The person who made the above comment was using it as an analogy to science.  Barbara King, the author of the article I lifted the quote from, continued the quote with this:
"Science is the process of learning what is where in the world of knowledge; and we are constantly developing better tools to make better measurements. We are constantly re-drawing the stuff that we suspect might be out there, slowly getting closer and closer to getting the stuff beyond the boundaries of knowledge successfully mapped out, and firmly within the boundaries of what we know. This means there will be a new frontier, and new questions, and maybe some corrections along the way."
Hopefully you can see the connection now.  Barbara King's original article about not failing our children on teaching Evolution brought out some typical vitriol, pretty much as expected.  But at least some of the comments were positive, like the analogy between science and map-making.  The parallels are there for anyone who wishes to see.  Science isn't an end, but a journey.

I've often used the analogy of a snapshot, as in a scientific theory is like a snapshot in time.  It represents what we know right now.  It is subject to change as we learn more and more, which is why the snapshot analogy worked well for me.  Maps might actually be better, because when you take a new snapshot, you are replacing the original.  Maps are updated with new information than replaced. 

Of course Creationists, and I do lump the Discovery Institute in with that group, treat the update-ability of science as a negative.  I can't tell you how many times I have heard something along the lines of 'but science changes!' as an attempted hit.  Of course they will never admit to it actually being a whiff.  Science improving the maps are a positive not a negative.  To a Creationists any map was written a long time ago and updating them is some form of sacrilege.

Imagine trying to navigate using a map from 2000 years ago!  That's pretty much what kennie ham and the DI are demanding.  Forget anything we have learned in the past couple of thousand years, if anyone stands up and says it conflicts with their perception of how things ought to be,m the rest of us are supposed to ignore it.  Hasn't worked too well for them, has it?  While they keep dragging their feet and kicking and screaming, the 21st century is here and as much as they don't wish to be part of it, they are.

I prefer a modern and up-to-date map when I do my traveling and apparently most people feel that way -- more and more, since kennie, and others, are whining about declining attendance at their various houses of worship.

No comments:

Post a Comment