Pharyngula

In the aftermath of Boobquake…

Jen has put up the numbers — this was clearly an effective PR move, doing a good job of bringing an absurdity to the public’s attention. I think it’s important that we use more humor and make more noise to wake people up, because this problem of religious ‘prophets’ using natural events to bolster their superstition has been around for a long time. I was sent this little essay which seems appropriate. Note the date: it’s 9 years old.

NATURAL DISASTERS – UNNATURAL ACTS
Are Natural Disasters Caused by Unnatural Acts?
June 27, 2001
Janis Walworth

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, once warned Orlando, Florida, that it was courting natural disaster by allowing gay pride flags to be flown along its streets. “A condition like this will bring about … earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor,” Robertson said.

Apparently he was referring to his belief that the presence of openly gay people incurs divine wrath and that God acts through geological and meteorological events to destroy municipalities that permit gay people the same civil liberties as others.

Before Pat and his Christian cronies get too carried away promulgating the idea that natural disasters are prompted by people who displease God, they should take a hard look at the data.

Tornadoes

Take tornadoes. Every state (except Alaska) has them — some only one or two a year, dozens in others.

Gay people are in every state (even Alaska). According to Pat’s hypothesis, there should be more gay people in states that have more tornadoes. But are there?

Nope. In fact, there’s no correlation at all between the number of gay folks (as estimated by the number of gay political organizations, support groups, bookstores, radio programs, and circuit parties) and the annual tornado count (r = .04, p = .78 for you statisticians).

So much for the “God hates gays” theory.

God seems almost neutral on the subject of sexual orientation. I say “almost” because if we look at the density of gay groups relative to the population as a whole, there is a small but statistically significant (p = .05) correlation with the occurrence of tornadoes. And it’s a negative correlation (r= -.28).

For those of you who haven’t used statistics since 1973, that means that a high concentration of gay organizations actually protects against tornadoes. A state with the population of, say, Alabama could avert two tornadoes a year, merely by doubling the number of gay organizations in the state.

Although God may not care about sexual orientation, the same cannot be said for religious affiliation. If the underlying tenet of Pat’s postulate is true — that God wipes out offensive folks via natural disasters — then perhaps we can find some evidence of who’s on God’s hit list.

Jews are off the hook here: there’s no correlation between numbers of Jews and frequency of tornadoes. Ditto for Catholics. But when it comes to Protestants, there’s a highly significant correlation of .71.

This means that fully half the state-to-state variation in tornado frequency can be accounted for by the presence of Protestants. And the chance that this association is merely coincidental is only one in 10,000.

Tornados Drawn to Baptists

Protestants, of course, come in many flavors — we were able to find statistics for Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and others. Lutherans don’t seem to be a problem — no correlation with tornadoes. There’s a modest correlation (r = .52, p= .0001) between Methodists and tornadoes.

But Baptists and others share the prize: both groups show a definite correlation with tornado frequency (r = .68, p = .0001). This means that Texas could cut its average of 139 tornadoes per year in half by sending a few hundred thousand Baptists elsewhere (Alaska maybe?). What, you are probably asking yourself, about gay Protestants? An examination of the numbers of gay religious groups (mostly Protestant) reveals no significant relationship with tornadoes.

Perhaps even Protestants are less repugnant to God if they’re gay.

And that brings up another point — the futility of trying to save the world by getting gay people to accept Jesus. It looks from our numbers as if the frequency of natural disasters might be more effectively reduced by encouraging Protestants to be gay.

Gay people have been falsely blamed for disasters ever since Sodom was destroyed by fire and brimstone. (We have been unable to find any statistics on disasters involving brimstone).

According to a reliable source, the destruction of Sodom was indeed an act of God (see Genesis 19:13). Its destruction was perpetrated because the citizens thereof were, according to the same source (see Ezekiel 16:49-50) “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned [and] did not help the poor and needy” — not because they were gay.

Now Pat would have us believe that gays are the cause of tornadoes (as well as earthquakes, meteors, and even terrorist bombs) in utter disregard for evidence showing that Baptists are much more likely to cause them.

As any statistician will tell you, of course, correlation doesn’t prove causation. Protestants causing tornadoes by angering God isn’t the only explanation for these data. It could be that Baptists and other Protestants purposely flock to states that have lots of tornadoes (no, we haven’t checked for a correlation between IQ and religious affiliation).

But if Pat and his Christian crew insist that natural disasters are brought on by people who offend God, let the data show who those people are.

Sources: Tornado Occurrence by State, 1962-1991 1990 Churches and Church Membership; Population by State, 1990 US Census; Gay & Lesbian Political Organizations, Support Groups, and Religious Groups from Gayellow Pages, National Edition, 1987.

Comments

  1. #1 UXO
    April 28, 2010

    This is awesome.

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    April 28, 2010

    Yeah, but what about gays and earthquakes? Dare I say San Francisco?

    You know the plate boundaries were placed exactly there in God’s foreknowledge of future demographics.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  3. #3 vanharris
    April 28, 2010

    … a correlation between IQ and religious affiliation

    Hah, a correlation between low IQ and religious affiliation i could believe.

  4. #4 Kurt1
    April 28, 2010

    yeah, but people like pat robertson do not believe in math, but in hate and prejudice. perhaps he is right and i should start listen to these voices in my head too. they tell me i don´t like him and he is responsible for the mass stupidity.

  5. #5 wearycelt
    April 28, 2010

    Just wanted to point out… Robertson made those comments in 1998. The first Hurricane to make landfall in the United States in 1998, after his comments, was Hurricane Bonnie.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Bonnie_(1998)

    Bonnie landed in NC and caused a great deal of havoc and millions of dollars of damage to the Hampton Roads/VA Beach area of VA. VA Beach is the HQ of Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network.

    God hates who?

  6. #6 neon-elf.myopenid.com
    April 28, 2010

    This got me wondering about earthquakes in Canberra. I can only recall one in the 15+ years I have lived here (set my bed dancing in the middle of the night) and was ready to give thanks to our gay population for sparing us from seismic activity, but first decided to google to see how many there actually have been. And there have been plenty – mostly too small to be felt, so I figure the gays must effect the severity, rather than the frequency.

    If anyone is interested, info on earthquakes in the Canberra region can be found here:

    http://www.ga.gov.au/image_cache/GA11006.pdf

  7. #7 kleinfelter
    April 28, 2010

    [tongue-in-cheek]
    Ahh, but you’re forgetting that God punishes people just for *tolerating* People and Acts He Doesn’t Like.

    The Baptists are getting punished for allowing the people in those states they don’t live in to Carry On Abominable Behaviors. That’s why it is so important to have national laws regulating those behaviors, but not national laws regulating the purchase of health coverage.
    [/tongue-in-cheek]

  8. #8 aratina cage
    April 28, 2010

    And following wearycelt #5, the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America happened on Good Friday. I’ll repeat it, God hates who?

  9. #9 cuco3
    April 28, 2010

    I could believe there’s a correlation between low IQ and choosing to live in places prone to natural disasters.

  10. #10 Mak
    April 28, 2010

    Hey reminds me of that xkcd comic.

    I used to think that correlation implied causation. Then I took a statistics class Now I don’t

    -Sounds like the class helped.

    …maybe.

  11. #11 O Pioneer
    April 28, 2010

    Glen, I see your San Francisco and raise you a Provincetown/Northampton, Massachusetts, the gay and lesbian epicenters of the eastern seaboard, respectively.

    no tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes… but there are some bad blizzards, hm…

  12. #12 Peter Ashby
    April 28, 2010

    @Neonelf #6

    The control for Canberra of course is New Zealand, The Shaky Isles to those who live there. I’m not aware of there being more gay people in NZ (Kings Cross being just over the water sucks in a few), though it is possible that NZ is more tolerant than Oz. Do you allow gay people to marry?

    Though you would have to show that earthquake activity increased as tolerance did, though the last two really big earthquakes (Napier and Inangahua) were both well before modern tolerance began. Should have been a big one when the Lange labour govt decriminalised homosexual sex in 1985. I have no recollection of the earth moving unduly (We didn’t get married until the following year).

  13. #13 RijkswaanVijanD
    April 28, 2010

    Forget the IQ thing..
    It makes perfect sense to lead “the flock” to a disaster prone area if you like to scare them shitless with a violently angry god once in a while.

  14. #14 glenister_m
    April 28, 2010

    I would love someone to bring this up to Pat, on live tv, the next time he opens his big mouth.

    Unfortunately I imagine Pat wouldn’t tolerate being on tv at the same time with someone who might challenge his views with (humorous) evidence.

  15. #15 RKCampbell
    April 28, 2010

    I think maybe God punishes people by making them ‘religious’. It’s much happier here, on the God-Free side!

  16. #16 bbgunn071679
    April 28, 2010

    Here on the Prairie, I have noted quite a correlation between trailer parks and tornadoes. In said trailer parks, I have seen a smattering of ‘Obamacare=Fascism’ signs. Maybe their god doesn’t like double wides or douchebags.

  17. #17 Die Anyway
    April 28, 2010

    Having just seen another news item about a bus crash that involved a church group, I’m of the opinion that God hates worshippers who travel in multi-passenger vehicles. It’s only anecdotal of course (take note of the hits, ignore the misses) but it seems as if a large percentage of bus and van crashes involve church groups so I’m going with the “God hates buses” hypothesis.

    Eat well, stay fit, Die Anyway.

  18. #18 MAJeff, OM
    April 28, 2010

    Glen, I see your San Francisco and raise you a Provincetown/Northampton, Massachusetts, the gay and lesbian epicenters of the eastern seaboard, respectively.
    no tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes… but there are some bad blizzards, hm…

    Ah, but Massachusetts does get earthquakes. We had a 3.something a couple years ago. Made the plastic globe around my ceiling light fall down and wake me up in the middle of the night.

    Yeah, but what about gays and earthquakes? Dare I say San Francisco?

    Chile, China, and Haiti must be teaming with gays.

  19. #19 Hurin
    April 28, 2010

    Pat Robertson… once warned Orlando Fl that it was courting natural disasters by allowing pride flags to be flown in its streets…

    and inasmuch as Robertson, Phelps and the rest of the trashy christianist circus can be considered a natural disaster, I think that he might actually have a case.

  20. #20 noisician
    April 28, 2010

    “Provincetown/Northampton, Massachusetts, the gay and lesbian epicenters of the eastern seaboard, respectively. no tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes… but there are some bad blizzards, hm…”

    And, did you ever notice what great towns the gay epicenters (like Provincetown & Northampton) tend to be?

    Plus, I love blizzards.

  21. #21 dingdong
    April 28, 2010

    I’m surprised Pat Robertson hasn’t researched why gays people are attracted to live on seismic fault lines.

    (‘Insert’ vibration joke here).

    This is a tremendous piece of number crunching. One can only very faintly hope that twats like Pat Robertson see how ridiculous this all is and then realise it might apply to the causations he asserts, too.

    I think my very faint hope just expired.

  22. #22 Sastra
    April 28, 2010

    I’m not sure if religion makes people egocentric, or whether egocentric people tend to be more religious, but this habit of thinking very small seems to apply across the board. Fundamentalists will conclude that an earthquake was caused by a gay pride parade; spiritually liberal people will assume that a pretty sunset was put in place because the universe/Spirit knew that they needed to cheer up that night.

    It’s as if they enter into a narrative, with themselves as a main character. The world shrinks down into a children’s story. Any event that’s important enough to be mentioned is related to the main character in some significant way. Natural disasters, like natural beauty, is a prop used to move the action of the story along. Being main characters, they are of course in the perfect situation to figure out what seemingly random events are secretly meant to convey.

  23. #23 bastion of sass
    April 28, 2010

    If other women who blogged about Boobquake saw the same increase in blog hits that I did on Boobquake day, Boobquake was a PR wonder. Hits on my blog, Bastion of Sass, spiked at more than 30x average readership on April 26.

    Given the amount of free porn on the web, (and assuming men know there’s lots of free porn on the web), surely that that huge jump in hits didn’t come from men who wanted to see my cleavage.

  24. #24 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    April 28, 2010

    Speaking of natural disasters: guess who is taking credit for the recent volcano eruption in Iceland.

    http://jonathanturley.org/2010/04/28/palestinian-cleric-on-islandic-volcano-allah-did-it/

  25. #25 O Pioneer
    April 28, 2010

    @MAJeff, I do remember now that sometimes we do get earthquakes (I’m from the northampton area). And there was a tornado that killed 2 people (I believe) recently so I guess that neon elf is right, severity not frequency.

  26. #26 Quine
    April 28, 2010

    So, what was the final body count? How many deaths around the world correlate with the Boobquake? Is there no consideration for these poor people and the suffering of their families?

  27. #27 marcosvoc
    April 28, 2010

    Brazil has no earthquakes and no hurricanes. Even the recent earthquake in Chile was barely felt here.
    We do have gays, but we don’t have many Baptists (sadly, we do have other flavours of Protestants).
    I guess God does hate Baptists, but he doesn’t think there are enough of them here do deserver our very own hurricane…

  28. #28 KOPD
    April 28, 2010

    Given the amount of free porn on the web, (and assuming men know there’s lots of free porn on the web), surely that that huge jump in hits didn’t come from men who wanted to see my cleavage.

    Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure about that.

  29. #29 TVS
    April 28, 2010

    I know this is a stretch – but may be it’s that people who live in areas where natural disasters are more likely tend to me more religious and therefore more homophobic, and hence gays tend to avoid those regions and migrate to culturally less homophobic (-> less religious -> less likely for natural disasters) regions.

  30. #30 cag
    April 28, 2010

    Now onto another bit of quakery. I’m talking about Asstronomy here. Assuredly assuming assessing assistance associates assets asserting assassins assists assent. Or have I got that ass backwards?
    Anyways, everyone can participate.

  31. #31 SteveM
    April 28, 2010

    re 23:
    Given the amount of free porn on the web…

    Wait, there’s free porn on the web? When did this happen? And why didn’t anybody tell me about this?

  32. #32 Big Ugly Jim
    April 28, 2010

    I think God just has lousy aim.

    “I’m gonna earthquake-alize me some ho-mo-seckshillz!” said God. A giant earthquake without warning splits the town of Fulton, Mississippi in twain. “Gol-durn it!” said God.

  33. #33 SteveM
    April 28, 2010

    re 24:
    Speaking of natural disasters: guess who is taking credit for the recent volcano eruption in Iceland.

    I heard that it was James May of Top Gear as they were filming there just days before it started erupting.

  34. #34 brianjordan
    April 28, 2010

    Let’s not forget that there was indeed an earthquake, early on Boobquake Day. Like most other days. I trust the ladies will want to replicate the experiment in case there is some correlation to be found.

  35. #35 JJ
    April 28, 2010

    Yeah, but what about gays and earthquakes? Dare I say San Francisco?

    Don’t forget, the ’89 quake didn’t happen in SF, but in Apots (Santa Cruz), at Loma Prieta, which is part of The Forest of Nisene Marks So I’d say that God hates those damn redwoods. Or squirrels.

  36. #36 progjohn
    April 29, 2010

    I can’t be bothered to look up the stats, but I think he hates all religious people.
    Western Europe = mainly godless = very few natural disasters.
    USA & SE Asia & Middle East = mainly godbotherers = earthquakes & tornadoes & hurricanes.
    God just wants a little peace & quiet – “If you lot don’t shut up with the praying I’m gonna get really mad”.

  37. #37 WCorvi
    April 29, 2010

    I think you have it backwards – tornadoes make fundies (Baptists). They put the fearogod in ya.

  38. #38 ahcuah
    April 29, 2010

    And in other news, Facebook Group ‘Praying’ For President Obama’s Death Passes 1 Million Members.

    Doesn’t seem to be working for them, either.

  39. #40 sophia-daniels
    April 29, 2010

    this is scientific proof that i control the weather. x3

    i base this claim on the fact that i noticed an increase in gay characters on tv when i was coming out as gay. and then when i came out as trans i started seeing trans characters on tv. so obviously i’m able to subconsciously control our media.

    and i’d totally keep natural disasters away from the gays… and send them after the baptists and other christians.

    :3 what? those arguments are good enough for the 700 club….. yeah i’m not convinced either.

  40. #41 Arancaytar
    April 29, 2010

    > because they were “arrogant, overfed and
    > unconcerned [and] did not help the poor and
    > needy”

    Wow, don’t tell Glenn Beck. He’ll accuse God of being a communist. (Oh wait, he already did, right?)

  41. #42 tauarmy
    April 30, 2010

    You have an endogenetiy problem. Relgiosity is highest in rural areas and homosexuals are not evenly distributed between rural and urban areas. Natural disasters tend to cluster in certain areas and cities that were build there didn’t last or were prevented from growing so you see more storms in corn fields than in cities.

    Not that God hates rednecks. There is no God.

    I am just saying the conclusion was faulty.