Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Hurricanes and Blasphemy

The last few days were rather stressful because of the hurricanes in Florida. Hurricane Charley was projected to be heading right for the community that Lynn lives in and she evacuated along with her brother and his family. As the hurricane approached land, however, it took a turn to the east and ended up hitting about 100 miles south of where she lives and her house and community ended up sustaining very little damage. This was quite a relief to both of us, as you can well imagine. But there’s another side to that. It was an unexpected blow to the folks in Polk County, who thought they were going to be on the fringes of the hurricane and ended up dead center instead.

Now I’m inclined to chalk that up to sheer dumb luck, or more accurately, to contingency. We can only project the paths of hurricanes with a certain level of accuracy, and the inaccuracy comes from our incomplete understanding of hurricanes – there are just so many variables, each one contingent upon other variables, that it’s impossible to predict with absolute accuracy the path a hurricane is going to take. If we knew every possible variable and every single starting condition for the system, we could be perfectly accurate in our projections. But given that we can’t know all of those things, it’s pretty incredible that meteorologists were able to predict several days in advance, when the system first developed off the African coast, both the path and the severity of the storm, allowing plenty of time to prepare and evacuate millions of people, and do so to an accuracy of less than 100 miles. Alas, other people have different explanations. Here is Jeb Bush’s explanation:

The president’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, surveyed the devastation by helicopter. Visiting relief workers in Punta Gorda, he defended scientists and local officials from criticism that they had miscalculated the path of the hurricane, which had been expected to hit the more heavily populated Tampa Bay region almost 100 miles to the north.

“God doesn’t follow the linear projections of computer models,” Bush said outside the emergency management center, whose roof caved in during the hurricane. “This is God’s way of telling us that he’s almighty and we’re mortal.”

No Jeb, this does not defend scientists for not being 100% accurate, it merely insults God. It is always astonishing to me when people say things like that. Does he really believe in, and worship, a God who arbitrarily decides to kill people just to show them who’s boss? Does it never occur to him that he is insulting God by projecting such weak emotions on God? A human being who kills just to show others that he has the power to do so would be considered evil. To claim that God engages in this same capricious and barbaric behavior is to blaspheme God. And they say I’M the unbeliever.

Postscript: It turns out that my friend DarkSyde was directly in the new path of the hurricane and had quite a terrifying weekend as a result. Read his account here. I have to confess that this provides a possibly more legitimate target for God’s wrath. Maybe he was after DS all along. :)

Comments

  1. #1 Mark D. Fulwiler
    August 22, 2004

    How can you “insult” or “blaspheme” an imaginary entity?

    However, if we assume there is a God for the sake of argument, and if we assume that he is all powerful, then Jeb Bush is correct that God wanted the hurricane to go exactly where it went.

  2. #2 lucia
    August 27, 2004

    >>”God doesn’t follow the linear projections of computer models,” Bush said outside the emergency management center, whose roof caved in during the hurricane. “This is God’s way of telling us that he’s almighty and we’re mortal.”

    Just to nit pick for accuracy, any computational models involving fluid dynamics of hurricanes are non-linear in nature. (Of course, God, if one exists, would not be required to obey the non-linear models in a computer code either.)

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