Dion's random ramblings

Friday, November 02, 2007

What the world really looks like! It's all a matter of perspective

In my first New Testament lesson of each year at the University I use a simple illustration to help the students understand why we need to study the bible, and particularly why we need to find tools to help us understand the bias with which we read the text.  For example, if I were to ask you, what God's gender is, most people would say 'Male' because the Bible speaks of the first person of the Trinity as 'Father', but if I ask you what race God is, many would say that God is a caucasian (white) person.  However, there is no evidence in scripture that God is 'white', or in fact even male!  The fact that the Biblical writers refer to the first person of the Trinity as Father has much more to do with their culture (and the role and respect accorded to fathers) than it does with God's gender!  Yet, because of the dominance of western perspectives on the text we just assume such approaches, as male dominance, and race bias, uncritically.

So, let me ask you, what is the image below a representation of?  No, it is not a map of the world.  Rather, it is a North American / European view of the world, i.e., it is Eurocentric.  It emphasises the size of Europe and North America, presenting them as larger than Africa and South America.
However, this is what the land mass of the world actually looks like (see the map below)!  Look how small Europe and North America are actually in comparison to Africa and South America (the Peters Projection is a representation of 'actual land mass' of the continents).  Amazingly this map is referred to as a 'distorted map', even though it is a more accurate representation of the land mass of the world...  Even reality does not always change perspectives.

Bias is powerful!  We need to be aware of it, lest we put words into God's mouth.  A few months ago I posted a little guide for exegesis (first written by Tim Attwell, edited by myself):  

Basic principles of Exegesis for preachers and teachers 2007.pdf

Perhaps it will be of some use to you.

Today, however, I found another representation that could change the way we see the world.  It is a map that shows what the world would look like if we viewed it from the perspective of population - so the larger the 'land mass' the larger the population of that area of the world...  It is quite interesting!

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  • Methinks you need to better understand projection systems....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:54 PM  

  • Hi Anonymous,

    Thanks for the comment! Indeed, you're correct - I DO need to learn more about projection systems!

    Maps can be powerful visual tools to help us see different things. They are a good analogy of scale and quantity...

    I uploaded a whole load of different maps (poverty, economics, HIV / AIDS, Christians etc.)

    Please follow this link to the maps.

    By Blogger digitaldion (Dion Forster), at 9:20 PM  

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