Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education V: Wherein We Map for God

Honestly, you’d think something as prosaic as mapping could avoid Godification. SPC doesn’t even bother with a chapter on cartography: maps are maps, and they’ve nothing to say about them.

ES4, however, devotes a whole chapter to the subject. And yeah, it gets goddy.

Image is a pastel-colored hand-drawn map of Jerusalem from 1650. ZION is printed in the bottom center-right.
Yes, possibly even as goddy as the Thomas Fuller map of Jerusalem. Image courtesy Geographicus Rare Antique Maps via Wikimedia Commons.

The chapter starts out fine: instead of a creationist cartologist, we get a nice demonstration of the power of maps, using, of course, Dr. John Snow’s cholera map. And the BJU staffers who wrote this chapter, at least, aren’t completely anti-vax. They discuss how government agencies use maps to track down areas with high disease rates, and say that targeting vaccination programs toward “areas with high rates of infections” is “far more effective and costs less than vaccinating a whole population.” Which may be true with rare or not easily transmitted diseases, I suppose, but I do wish their emphasis had been on getting everyone vaccinated for the common stuff. Herd immunity is an important thing. Still. At least they’re not taking this opportunity to say never vaccinate. Small mercies.

They do a fine job explaining what maps are, and scale, and perspective. But for some reason, there’s a textbox on Progressive Creationism right smack in the middle. I have no idea why. It’s nothing to do with maps, and they don’t even try to relate it. They just yammer. And it’s obvious they don’t like those progressive creationists, no sir. You can tell from this question:

If fossils have formed throughout Earth’s history, how significant was the Flood geologically?

Also, they want to know, “According to Progressive Creationism, when did death of living things begin compared to the time of the creation of Adam?” Just from those questions, you can hear the gears of YEC minds screech as the Progressive Creationist wrench is jammed into them. They must not be correct!

Give some examples of Bible passages that deny the validity of Progressive Creationism.

The cry of Not Real Christians! is implied, but quite deafening.

Now for the casual sexism you just knew would crop up somewhere:

Image shows a young woman with a blond ponytail standing on a hillside with a snow-capped peak and a soaring eagle behind her. She's holding a map in one hand, her other hand is cocked on her hip, and she is staring at the audience with a disgruntled expression. Speech bubble says, "So where's the "You are here" X?"
Every Christianist knows wimminz can’t read teh mapz. Image from page 51 of ES4.

Cuz every body knows blonde girls can’t map. Sigh.

And for those who were waiting to see how the crap they could possibly goddify mapping, here ye go: your answer in a cross-box.

People probably knew about cardinal directions long before the Flood. There are three references to “east” prior to that time in the book of Genesis, and two more before people were scattered at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Geographic directions might be among the oldest kinds of knowledge in the world.

Well, yeah. In fact. I’m willing to speculate humans were navigating around the world using geographic directions long before you lot believe the world even began. The oldest map we know is a map is about 2,000 years older than most YECs’ earth. Hunter-gatherers and Polynesian boaters would all have needed a keen sense of geography to get about. Genesis may give us some insight into the geographical awareness of early Israelites, but no more so than other myths referring to directions. Get a grip.

Of course, one of my favorite bits of this chapter is when they basically call the Old Testament authors ignorant gits:

Most educated people at least several hundred years before Christ believed the earth was spherical.

Ha ha yeah, those silly uneducated people, thinking the world was flatlike God said… heh heh heh whoops.

The information about latitude and longitude is standard fare. But the sidebar on GPS is a masterpiece of right-wing spin. They want us to think that GPS first came into use during Desert Storm (it wasn’t fully developed, but had been in use by many branches of the military for a decade). They burble about how it made missiles “so accurate they could fly through a window to hit their targets!” Funny, but at the time, GPS was accurate to only about 60 feet, which isn’t quite good enough to fly a bomb through a window. Also, GPS wasn’t used to home Desert Shield bombs in on their targets. Oh, and most of the bombs were dumb. Besides, the non-dumb bombs were mostly laser-guided. Additionally: there were lots of civilian casualties, in part because we chose to bomb urban centers during the day, when they were packed with people.

In all the chickenhawk ra-raing, they completely fail to mention GPS took billions of tax dollars to develop and maintain. And said chickenhawks are sucking off the public teat every time they fire up their GPS unit. Also, we get a hint of ES4‘s attitude toward plate tectonics when they mention that “one of the most scientifically important uses of GPS is in mapping and measuring the earth’s movements due to earthquakes and volcanoes.” No mention of how we can see the plates creep along and mountains rise. Hmm.

An unexceptionable (and unexceptional) explanation of map types follows, which doesn’t get funny until you see what they chose for their thematic map.

Image is an election map of the United States, with the counties that voted Republican colored red. It makes the US look like a nearly solid red mass with only scattered areas of blue. Of course, if you were to look at population...
Thematic map from ES4. Note the use of county election results to make the Democratic landslide in 2008 look like a Republican victory.

Gee, that sure is red. But we can play with this theme! We can show the popular vote by population:

Now the results look significantly bluer, with red veins. The US is a very odd shape this way, looks like it's being viewed through a fish-eye lens, all sort of curved in odd ways.
Cartogram showing county election results skewed by population. Image courtesy M. E. J. Newman (CC BY 2.0).

Or voting shifts from Republican to Democrat.

Image shows US map with voting shifts in various shades of blue and red. The map is now almost entirely shades of blue, with a few pink and red patches.
Shifts in voting patterns from the 2004 to the 2008 elections. Image courtesy Kmusser (talk) (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Or change in vote margins.

Image is a US map that is shaded from pale cyan to blue to pink to red. There's a lot more cyan and blue than pink and red.
Here we have the change in vote margins. Each shade is a percentage shift from 2004 to 2008 – click for the key. Image courtesy Inqvisitor (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Why, it’s almost like you can manipulate maps for political purposes!

The next section tells us all about GIS, and it’s not all bad. It’s a clear, concise description of what GIS is and how it works. And they’re up-to-date enough to mention LIDAR in their how-information’s-got, so that was nice. I love LIDAR. I wish they’d mentioned why LIDAR’s so awesome (bye-bye, trees!), but that’s okay. They had to leave room for the Dominion Using Maps bit at the end. Yes, using GIS and maps is all about love thy neighbor and dominion over the earth, you know. Although the rest of us just use ’em to help make our world a better and a more comprehensible place, with no expectation of heavenly reward, so I guess we’re doin it rong.

They end by telling us about Serving God as a Cartographer, which is all about helping “us to best use our world.” I suppose you could hire a creationist cartographer, but don’t let ’em play too much with the thematic maps. And perhaps keep them away from redrawing political districts…

The world is depicted as three petals on a bunch of wavy lines. Here's the descrip from Wikimedia Commons: Depicting the world as a cloverleaf, this cartographic curiosity reflects the traditional Medieval world view of three continents. Since it was published in the late-16th century long after the New World discoveries had gained wide acceptance, its primary appeal would have been to readers who cherished the past. It was one of several whimsical diagrams included in a book, which was essentially the Bible rewritten as an illustrated travel book. The author, a professor of theology in Hannover, used the trefoil or cloverleaf arms of his native city to represent the world, making this map more a statement of civic pride than a serious attempt at cartography. Each of the three leaves represents one of the continents -- Asia, Europe, and Africa. At the intersection of the leaves, Jerusalem is clearly marked. In recognition of the New World discoveries, America is shown almost as an afterthought in the lower left hand corner.
A 1581 map of the medieval world by Heinrich Bèunting. Image courtesy Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL (CC-by-2.0)
Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education V: Wherein We Map for God

4 thoughts on “Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education V: Wherein We Map for God

  1. rq

    Never knew god needed maps. Doesn’t he know his own creation? And wouldn’t he impart instant knowledge of his creation to Mankind? He’s supposed to be stewarding over it all, after all…

  2. 3

    Thanks for doing these write ups.

    IIRC, during the last days of smallpox, there were rapid response teams that would go to areas of reported infection and vaccinate everyone in sight, but this was a complement to the general population vaccinations, not a replacement. US vaccinations were halted more than 20 years after the last reported case in the US, and only 5 years before the last case anywhere in the world.

    There’s a similar two pronged strategy in place for polio, but it’s not working because polio persists in the most violent and fundamentalists parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

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