Friday, June 10, 2011

Lessons from GIS

It just wouldn’t go where it was supposed to! I had a drawing of building footprints (made with CAD software) that I was supposed to superimpose on an aerial photo of the exact same buildings for my geographic information systems (GIS) class – I could rotate the drawing, I could move it around a little bit, but I wanted to make it line up with the buildings that were on my map of a college campus in Pennsylvania (where they belonged). Instead, the building footprints were somewhere in the vicinity of Kentucky and facing the wrong direction.

I tried doing everything that should have moved it, searched for tips on the web, and blindly hunted through various tabs and toolbars trying anything that looked vaguely promising without any better results. It was like setting two marbles down on opposite ends of a table and subsequently not being able to move one of them more than an inch in any direction.

Upwards of two frustrating hours later, on my third or fourth time starting over from scratch, I happened to try clicking a different checkbox during the process of importing the troublesome file. This proved to be the key which allowed me to move the drawing onto my map from where I could adjust it to make it line up with the buildings.

In my exercise I had two, fully formed pictures which I needed to reconcile. I could zoom in to each one to view it in more detail and it was easy to see how the details ought to line up if one drawing could be moved, resized, and reoriented.

As a student of biology who believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God I am in a similar situation. It is as though I have two pictures of this world’s change through time to the way it presently appears. However, unlike the layers in my GIS assignment, both of these pictures are largely incomplete. Both pictures are supported by evidence I myself have seen and experienced, yet I have not been able to reconcile them very well in any meaningful way.

In another GIS assignment I ended up with countless map layers which, although interesting, and even useful for generating predictions, did not end up being necessary for the final project... and if one of these had been difficult, or even impossible to align with the others it would have been of little consequence in the grand scheme of things.

In a similar way to this second assignment I believe that our mission here in this life does not require us to reconcile all available opinions but rather, that the data needed to complete life’s assignment is all available from a single source.