Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Are Tsunamis Intelligently Designed?

In the wake of a deadly earthquake-triggered tsunami that has killed at least 77,000 people in southern Asia, brave scientific dissenters are standing up to the Wegenerian Orthoxody that has for so long censored and belittled anyone who dares to question the validity of Naturalistic Seismology. For decades, scientists have told us that they understood the processes that cause earthquakes. In high school science textbooks, they dazzle unsuspecting students with tales of tectonic plates shifting and so-called “continental drift”. But new evidence shows that these processes are infinitely more complex than the guardians of science would have you believe, and a growing number of scientists are dissenting from this dogmatic Wegenerism. So many that even the liberally-biased PBS has taken notice:

Can earthquakes be predicted? Many seismologists would probably answer, “Not yet, but eventually.” But to date, nobody has been able to predict earthquakes reliably enough and over short enough time scales to allow the evacuation of threatened cities. Some scientists have entirely lost faith in earthquake prediction. They say that so many factors decide whether a fault will rupture that earthquakes could well be inherently unpredictable in a practical sense…

This theory has been conventional wisdom for thirty years. However, it did come under attack recently when UCLA seismologist David Jackson and colleague Yan Kagan scrutinized a global set of forecasts made in 1979. They found that areas thought to be at low risk of earthquakes — the ones that had recently had quakes — actually experienced five times as many shocks as perceived high-risk areas. The seismology community is still debating the issue.

Those scientists who have lost faith in the revealed orthodoxy recognize what the seismological naturalists will not tell you: that the processes are so incredibly complex that it is virtually impossible for them to take place purely by random chance. Such complexity can only come about through the action of an intelligent cause. But the advocates of Wegener-only education are so afraid of dissent that they will not even allow our students to learn that there is such a controversy going on within scientific circles, preferring instead to censor and hide. Their Soviet-style tactics are all designed to hide the fact that Wegenerism is a theory in crisis, primarily because if they were to admit that they don’t have a solid understanding, their government grants might dry up. And if you dare to stand up to this orthodoxy, the liberal media will join them in shouting you down, calling you religious nuts, while the ACLU stands at the ready to bully poor school districts into giving up their plans to teach the controversy.

See how easy that was? If one wants to use a god of the gaps argument, one can posit an intelligent cause as an alternative to any scientific theory. And it’s triflingly simple to claim to be the victims of censorship at the hands of an unnamed “them”. The DI, of course, has spoken boldly of establishing a “theistic science” that recognizes the role of divine action in the natural world. Is this perhaps what they had in mind?

Traditionalists of diverse faiths described the destruction as part of god’s plan, proof of his power and punishment for human sins.

“This is an expression of God’s great ire with the world,” Israeli chief rabbi Shlomo Amar told Reuters. “The world is being punished for wrongdoing — be it people’s needless hatred of each other, lack of charity, moral turpitude.”

Pandit Harikrishna Shastri, a priest of New Delhi’s huge marble and sandstone Birla Hindu temple, told Reuters the disaster was caused by a “huge amount of pent-up man-made evil on earth” and driven by the positions of the planets.

Azizan Abdul Razak, a Muslim cleric and vice president of Malaysia’s Islamic opposition party, Parti Islam se-Malaysia, said the disaster was a reminder from god that “he created the world and can destroy the world.”

Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, a leading British Muslim cleric from Leicester in England said: “We believe that God has ultimate controlling power over his entire creation. We have a responsibility to try and attract god’s kindness and mercy and not do anything that would attract his anger.”

Many faiths believe that disasters foretell the end of time or the coming of a Messiah. Some Christians expect chaos and destruction as foretold in the Bible’s final book, Revelations.

Maria, a 32-year-old Jehovah’s Witness in Cyprus who believes that the apocalypse is coming said people who once slammed the door in her face were stopping to listen.

“It is a sign of the last days,” she said.

Or this perhaps:

I noticed that no one has considered that Satan may have had a role here as well (in the tsunami/earthquakes). We attribute God for every calamity that occurs, but the Bible also tells us that Satan can cause natural disasters as well. It’s part of why he is called “The Prince of Power of The Air.”…

Also, Jesus spoke of the events that would happen prior to his second coming, which I quoted previously:

“Luke 21:25-28 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”

Jesus called this the “…days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds awfully a lot like judgment. Yes, Jesus did pay for the sins of all mankind on the cross, but that gift is only realised by those who accept Jesus as their Saviour and Messiah. Those who reject the cross are still in danger of judgment. The judgment that falls on mankind isn’t meant for the elect (those who believe in the LORD Jesus to the very end), but for the wicked who rejected him and cursed his name.

See, I guess this “theistic science” can in fact weigh alternative theories that might explain a given set of data. Did God do it as judgment for our sins? Or did Satan do it, to destroy our faith in God? I can’t wait to see theistic scientists hard at work deriving testable hypotheses from these two theories and debating their merits in the Journal of Theistic Seismology. Should the divine judgment theory win the day, I hope that the 700 Club will have a weather forecast based upon the predictions of this theory:

“Sodomy is up 14% in the midwest. Expect earthquakes with a 30% chance of locusts.”

Update: Predictably, at least one ID advocate immediately seized upon this, didn’t bother to respond to the substance of it, and tried to turn it into something disrespectful toward the victims of the Tsunami. Krauze, on the ARN message boards, said:

On the occasion of the tsunami in South Asia (116,000 deaths according to the last surveys), Panda’s Thumb has a parody on it, attacking ID. I know we’re supposed to be the Forces of Evil and all, but seriously guys, can’t you have a little respect?

Apparently, logical thinking has managed to escape our friend here. This article clearly is not a parody of the tsunami (how could it possibly be?), but of the arguments used by ID advocates. You are the one being parodied, Krauze, not the victims of this tragedy, and I think it’s fair to say that the real disrespect is wrapping yourself up in their tragedy to avoid valid criticism. Indeed, how could one possibly be any more disrespectful than those who seek to explain their deaths as punishment for sin? It’s the same sort of “blame the victim” nonsense peddled by the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, men who, like you, feel the need to look for supernatural explanations rather than natural ones. I notice that you didn’t take as the least bit disrespectful the many quotations in the post from people claiming that, in essence, the victims deserved it because they were sinful.

Update #2: Mac at Vessel of Honour, the person behind the second quotation above, the one about the tsunami perhaps being caused by Satan, is a little tweaked at me for using it, and he’s leaping to illogical conclusions in the process. He writes:

I surfed on over through the trackback link only to be treated to the sight of a pedantic smart ass intellectually masturbating over how enlightened he is for not believing in God. I wasn’t sure what his point was other than the apparent assumption over just how silly it is to attribute seismic events to something other than random acts of nature. As if the truth were all enormously self-evident, and only those whose brains have evolved to the level where any pretention or thought whatsoever over the existence of God are nonexistent are the truly enlightened.

This is irrational nonsense. Nowhere did I say anything at all about the existence of God, or my position on that question, which he falsely assumes must be atheism. I certainly did not pretend to be “enlightened” for “not believing in God”. Nor did I say anything at all about differences over this question having anything to do with whether one person’s brain was “more evolved” than another (which would be a stupid thing to say – good thing I didn’t say it). Whether one believes in god or not is a very different question from whether one believes that god sent the tsunami as judgement for sin (or whether Satan did it for some other reason, for that matter). One need not be an atheist to think that blaming a natural disaster on god’s anger is primitive and irrational.

Comments

  1. #1 Ed Darrell
    December 30, 2004

    H. L. Mencken had a hard day, and as deadline approached he had nothing for his column. He wrote some drivel, a hoax, including a claim that the only thing Millard Fillmore had ever done as president was install bathtubs at the White House.

    Some years later he found this “fact” in an encyclopedia. The first bathtub had been installed at the White House by John Adams, of course, and Mencken knew that.

    Mencken swore off hoaxes.

    Ed, your stuff is too close to the truth. Are you sure all sane people will be able to recognize it?

    Have you linked it to the Religion Law list yet?

  2. #2 steve
    December 30, 2004

    Well, he did say that Disney’s Gay Day thing would cause Orlando to be hit with an asteroid.

  3. #3 Sumixam
    December 30, 2004

    Who was it that said, “The simplest explanation is usually the correct one?”

  4. #4 Kevin
    December 30, 2004

    I’m not sure I totally disagree with those who critisize this post. In even making reference to this tragedy in a public forum you have to take on some of the gravty that it demands, and it seems that the subject matter, while serious in its own way, is presented in a fairly light manner. We can point out to stupidity of ID without making reference to this tragedy, so why do so?

  5. #5 Krauze
    December 30, 2004

    Hi everyone,

    While I don’t normally do blog-discussions, I thought I’d pop in an post my response to the comments directed at me. This response was also posted on the thread on ARN, where I’ll be writing all further replies. So pay it a visit. :-)

    Well, let’s start at the begginning:

    Apparently, I “didn’t bother to respond to the substance of it”. What was there to respond to? The post claimed that “teistic science” and “God of the gaps” could just as well be used to infer design behind the tsunami. I’m not a theist, and I don’t use holes in current scientific models to support my position on ID.

    Now, how was the substance in my post responded to? I noted that it was disrespectful to use this tragedy to make fun of IDists. The claims that ID is nothing but disguised religion and “God of the gaps” have been made multiple times, without the tsunami as the backdrop. How is the argument improved by framing it as a hypothetical response of IDists to this tragedy? What’s gained by tying this up to the events in South Asia?

    It’s pointed out that the “article clearly is not a parody of the tsunami”. No, and I never claimed it was. Both the title and text of my post talked about a “parody on” the tsunami, that is, a parody using the tsunami as a context. But, as I said on ARN, “Whatever you call it, I don’t think it’s appropriate to exploit a tragedy like this to make rhetorical points.”

    Next, it’s attempted to turn my argument against me, and the rethorical question is asked, “how could one possibly be any more disrespectful than those who seek to explain their deaths as punishment for sin?” While it’s possible that our posts crossed, if one read the thread on ARN, one would see that I’m also criticizing the religious leaders who’re using the tsunami to support their own agendas. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s OK for others to do it as well.

    Finally, the attempt is made to read my mind, when it’s claimed that I “feel the need to look for supernatural explanations rather than natural ones.” First of all, I said nothing about “supernatural explanations”. In fact, I’m an agnostic with respect to the identity of the designer, who might operate from within this universe.

    Secondly, I don’t “feel a need” for anything, thank you very much. I’m positive towards the possibility that the origin of life is best explained by hypotheses involving intent and foresight, but I don’t see myself as having some psychological “need” for such explanations.

  6. #6 Ed Darrell
    December 30, 2004

    See what I mean, Ed? Krauze thinks this was aimed at him! The genie is out of the bottle.

    Or in the cups with Krauze, as the case may be.

    It’s a brilliant example, by the way. You’ve hit the nail on the head.

    The head happens to be that of any ID advocate with gray matter still firing away . . .

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    December 30, 2004

    Apparently, I “didn’t bother to respond to the substance of it”. What was there to respond to? The post claimed that “teistic science” and “God of the gaps” could just as well be used to infer design behind the tsunami. I’m not a theist, and I don’t use holes in current scientific models to support my position on ID.

    The substance goes well beyond that, of course. As Charlie D pointed out in his reply in your thread, I could have gone much further with the analogy to ID arguments if I’d wanted to. The analogy is pretty good, on a number of levels, and while you claim not to use holes in current models to support your position on ID, I don’t see any other argument being made for ID. Now, I don’t know you from Adam, and my post was aimed at the ID advocates that we all know. And the only argument they have ever come up with is “not evolution, therefore God” (I refuse to engage in this deceitful nonsense that they are “agnostic with respect to the identity of the designer”; they’ve been far too bold about ID as an exercise in returning Christianity to dominance for this to be anything but a lie). If you have a positive argument for ID, and a positive theory of ID to offer from which one could derive testable hypotheses and ways they might be tested, then by all means I would love to hear them.

    Lastly, I think it is also a fiction that any ID advocate really thinks that the intelligent designer might be natural. At the very least, they are positing the existence of an unknown entity capable of doing what they maintain nature itself cannot do.

  8. #8 fj
    December 30, 2004

    Posted by: Sumixam at December 30, 2004 01:53 PM

    I’m not sure I totally disagree with those who critisize this post. In even making reference to this tragedy in a public forum you have to take on some of the gravty that it demands, and it seems that the subject matter, while serious in its own way, is presented in a fairly light manner. We can point out to stupidity of ID without making reference to this tragedy, so why do so?


    I don’t see anything wrong with talking about the tsunami and ID. They’re both disasters.

  9. #9 Jim Anderson
    December 30, 2004

    Ed et al., this is where life becomes its own parody.

    Instead, Park contends his equipment can predict earthquakes in both known and unseen faults by measuring their resonance, or vibrations, and how they effect the elasticity of the Earth’s crust. This resonant energy has its origins in what he describes as a huge supply of “ether” of the universe that he believes permeates everything and creates specific energy waves that are not accounted for by current theories of physics.

  10. #10 PvM
    December 30, 2004

    Mike Gene seems to have some reading comprehension problems when he states on ARN

    Brayton likens Krauze to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and then proceeds to pyschologize Krauze. What “logic” is he relying on? [Wink]

    Whine… Whine… Whine… What happened to doing some ID relevant science Mike :-)

  11. #11 PvM
    December 30, 2004

    Mike, oh Mike

    Mike Gene: You are right here. All you do is try to distract everyone from the point by labeling it as “pseudo-psychological babble and reverse-stereotyping.”

    That’s exactly what Mike does when confronted with ID criticisms.

    Look, I understand the difficult situation you are in. You either must publicly criticize a fellow critic and that would violate the rules of the Brotherhood in Battle Against the Dreaded Wedge. Or, you must defend a blatantly obvious use of stereotype to attack another person. Given this choice, it’s obvious that you would not be interested.

    I am looking forward to Mike speaking out against his fellow ID proponents.
    If Mike could only live up to the standars to which he holds others.

  12. #12 Jan
    December 30, 2004

    It occurs to me that Intelligent Design is certainly evident in the story found here:

    http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/article.adp?id=20041229103809990002

    Perhaps there is in mankind, as well, the ability to sense danger if we are more in tune with our Maker.

    Another evidence of God at this time is the acts of kindness and love that are being poured into the ravaged parts of the world at this time of great disaster. Physical death is a part of life. At the present time, 100 % of us expect to die at some point unless the Lord intervenes. Whether we die simultaneously in large numbers or individually at differing intervals, the statistics are the same. It is what we do and how we choose while we are living that makes is important.

  13. #13 Lenka
    December 30, 2004

    Good post, Ed! My comment may be a bit off-topic, but it always surprises me when disasters, natural or otherwise, are called “signs of the end times,” or are attributed to divine intervention. The Asian earthquake/tsunami is a dreadful tragedy, and one without precedent for the generations now living – but our planet has seen upheavals of this magnitude before. The Krakatoa event of 1883 was a similiar grand temblor that swept away over a hundred villages and killed nearly 40,000 people in a far less population-dense time. Problem is, no one alive remembers it first hand.

    If we can forget the history’s lessons of the past decade, think of what a century can do… :)

  14. #14 Matthew Phillips
    December 30, 2004

    Krauze seems perfectly willing to use the tsunami as a shield against the criticism at hand, but completely unwilling to confront that criticism. Now that you’ve gotten your “it’s not appropriate to talk about the tsunami” out of the way, put that distraction aside and explain why your hole-punching “science” has any more reason to be taught in a classroom than the one provided in this post. I’d love to hear the reasons why.

  15. #15 raj
    December 31, 2004

    I can’t figure out what Matthew Phillips intended in his comment, but, regardless…

    I have been in Munich (Germany, not North Dakota) for the last couple of weeks, including the time since the Flutwelle (Tsunami) laid waste to much of the region around the Indian Ocean. A few days ago, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung–Munich’s newspaper of record–published an interview with Simon Winchester, the author of the book about Krakatau. A few days earlier, the NYTimes had published an OpEd piece by him, and that is what spurred me to read the interview. One interesting that came from the interview is that, according to Winchester, the Krakatau disaster resulted in an increase in adherence to religion–in this case Islam–in the area, among the survivors of the disaster.

    It strikes me that this is not dissimilar to reactions of people in, for example, the US midwest, who, after having survived a tornado, seem to flock to their churches to thank their god that they survived. Notwithstanding the death and destruction around them, which their god allowed to occur.

  16. #16 raj
    December 31, 2004

    Oh, and, btw, I’ve been reading Posner’s bloviations over at LeitnerReports. I hate to tell you but, either he’s lazy, or hiis bloviations make it clear that he’s nothing more than the proverbial horse’s rear end.

  17. #17 Ed Brayton
    December 31, 2004

    It occurs to me that Intelligent Design is certainly evident in the story found here:

    http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/article.adp?id=20041229103809990002

    Perhaps there is in mankind, as well, the ability to sense danger if we are more in tune with our Maker.

    Uh, yeah. Because those people who are really “in tune with their maker” always manage to escape disasters like this, right? I don’t know why you think this story, even if true, indicates intelligent design, unless that intelligent designer is irrational. “Gosh, I think I’ll give all these animals the ability to detect when disasters are coming so they can survive. People? Ah, screw them.”

    Another evidence of God at this time is the acts of kindness and love that are being poured into the ravaged parts of the world at this time of great disaster.

    Oi vey. That’s not “evidence of God”, it’s evidence of people being kind and loving.

  18. #18 DaveScot
    December 31, 2004

    Ed,

    I thought you had zero patience for sophistry and here I discover this nonsense about intelligent design in tsunamis written by you.

    I’m SOOOOOOOOOO disappointed. ;-)

  19. #19 Ed Brayton
    December 31, 2004

    For crying out loud, what does “go away” mean to you? You’ve already admitted that you’re doing nothing but playing games here. I’m already dealing with an avalanche of spam comments and I’ve got 9 comments from you in a half hour. Perhaps this time I’ll make the “go away” less negotiable.

  20. #20 Jan
    December 31, 2004

    Ed, Tell me, how do you think mankind “evolved” to have the capacity to love, show compassion, sacrifice for others etc.? I am sure you have an answer, I just have not seen where you have posted it. Now as to the idea that a creator would give animals a sixth sense, but not humans, lets consider this for a moment. Animals do not have the ability to construct sophisticated shelters, devise radar and other techical equipment to detect an approaching disaster. They do not have the high levels of thinking skills to get into motorized vehicles and remove themselves from danger. Even though I may be in the wrong place at the wrong time at some point, I am still thankful that I have the ability to listen to reports and make judgements that have kept me safe many times. I am deeply saddened that the tsunami has taken so many lives in Asia and left so many families grieving. None of us know precisely why natural disasters occur but we do know, (animals probably don’t) that the mortality rate is 100% for our species, so we can prepare for the inevitable. Which organization do you feel would be the most reliable to guarantee our funds actually get to the survivors? I tend to lean toward the Salvation Army.

  21. #21 Ed Brayton
    December 31, 2004

    Ed, Tell me, how do you think mankind “evolved” to have the capacity to love, show compassion, sacrifice for others etc.? I am sure you have an answer, I just have not seen where you have posted it.

    I think those things all aid in human survival. If we did not have the ability to bond with others, we would all likely die off. That’s oversimplified, of course, but almost any discussion of that sort of thing must be. Humans have a wide range of emotional capacities, all of which aid in human survival in different situations.

    Now as to the idea that a creator would give animals a sixth sense, but not humans, lets consider this for a moment. Animals do not have the ability to construct sophisticated shelters, devise radar and other techical equipment to detect an approaching disaster. They do not have the high levels of thinking skills to get into motorized vehicles and remove themselves from danger.

    Humans didn’t have those abilities for eons either, not until just the last few thousand years. “God chose to do it that way” is an explanation that can explain absolutely anything. If humans had that ability, you would say, “Wow, isn’t it amazing how God gave us this wonderful ability to detect natural disasters before they happen.” But since we don’t have that ability, there’s a rationalization for that as well. Either explanation might be true, of course, but there is no objective way to tell because it’s an equally good explanation for either one.

  22. #22 Bill Ware
    December 31, 2004

    Ed,

    Listing a link to your favorite charity for donations to the area like http://www.redcross.org may have left you less open to criticism. B

  23. #23 Ed Brayton
    December 31, 2004

    Listing a link to your favorite charity for donations to the area like http://www.redcross.org may have left you less open to criticism.

    Perhaps, but I don’t much care. I don’t think that most of those who are criticizing me are doing so because there is any rational reason for the criticism, I think they’re doing it primarily as a means of avoiding the issue and shifting the focus to something else. It’s an ad hoc response, not a reasoned one, so trying to preempt it would be useless. They haven’t bothered to attack the numerous people and organizations who truly have exploited the tragedy and piled on by placing the blame on the victims themselves. Some have gone so far as to suggest that those nations got hit precisely because they are Hindu or Muslim and not Christian, and God wanted to send them a message. Others have exploited the story to preach that the end is near, while still others are actually celebrating it. It’s not a coincidence that out of all those cases of real insensitivity and exploitation, the one response that they take notice of and decide to criticize is the one that also takes issue with their position. That is, one might say, by design.

  24. #24 Bill Ware
    December 31, 2004

    Ed,

    I know. They don’t even answer to their own posts asking to know what’s wrong with your parody.

    Anyway, I have to tell you it was stupendous.

    Have a Merry New Year. B

  25. #25 Dave S.
    January 1, 2005

    “Gosh, I think I’ll give all these animals the ability to detect when disasters are coming so they can survive. People? Ah, screw them.”

    Do we really know that animals (other than humans) have such an ability?

    I can think of any number of reasons why we don’t see the animals.

    1. We aren’t really looking for them. Obviously, all efforts right now are on taking care of the human victims – caring for the injured; taking care of the dead to prevent disease; finding loved ones; securing clean water, medicine, shelter and food, etc.

    2. Most of our efforts are therefore localized to where humans were before the disaster. Where humans congregate, you are unlikely to see a lot of large animals. Smaller animals can easily be missed in the rubble.

    3. Even on undeveloped shorelines, what sorts of animals do you expect to find? Mostly small marine creatures, shorebirds, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t expect such animals to be particularly vulnerable to tsunami. Many humans perished becuase they were curious and went down to the beach to see the strange waves. Animals would have no such curiosity.

    No doubt some animals can sense what we cannot, but I’d be surprised if they en masse can sense disaster like this. Although I could be wrong.

    Just some thoughts.

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