Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Galileo didn't play second fiddle

About twelve or thirteen years ago, at the end of the dry season, a Belgian archaeologist made the first of a number of visits to our village of Gogo, in northeast Ivory Coast. He usually appeared along with a pale-skinned, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed archaeology student around February or March. He was a professor at a Belgian university, and he was very anxious to discover ancient African settlements in the part of West Africa that we lived in.

Each year he would stop by our home for a cold drink or cup of coffee before embarking on a long foray into the local hills and forests in search of some long-forgotten prehistoric ruin. Having some knowledge of the area, we were able to help point him in the direction of some interesting spots.

One dry season, at least ten years ago, he arrived with a device which he assured us could pinpoint the location of our village, and indeed, the location of our home, within 5 metres/6 yards. He used his GPS receiver to connect with overhead satellites to record the exact location of his important finds. Guaranteed annual coffee and cookies ranked as an important find, so from his gadget we learned exactly where we lived on this huge terrestrial ball.

GPS technology was invented and developed in the US for the American military, and was then provided free of charge to the rest of the world. So, you can imagine my surprise when I read today’s news from Reuters about the Galileo programme:

‘The 3.6 billion-euro ($4.27-billion) Galileo programme, due to go into service in 2008 and eventually deploy 30 satellites, may end Europe's reliance on the GPS and offer a commercial alternative to the GPS system run by the U.S. military.’
The 3.6 billion-euro ($4.27-billion)!

What an absolute waste of time, effort and money in reinventing a system that already exists.

The final paragraph of the Reuters report said it all:

‘Galileo's critics say it is an unnecessary exercise in political grandeur, which is unlikely to be commercially viable, as GPS is free of charge and will soon be upgraded.’

It’s totally amazing. Something is freely offered, yet because of arrogance and pride, some people would prefer to spend a fortune to try to come up with an equivalent system, and then pay for what will be a perpetually inferior product.

What are the spiritual parallels? God has provided the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, and the only thing a person has to do is ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ to be saved, accept what is on offer. Yet some people prefer to spend their lives trying to develop their own method of salvation. It’s a waste of time, effort and money. We are saved by grace, through faith. It is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. It is not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2.8-9)