I think I’ll start calling these occasional articles, wherein I directly criticize a single article in the Trumpet, the “Uncertain Sound” series. It’s from 1 Cor.: “For if the trumpet gave an uncertain sound, who would prepare himself for war…”, and I do believe you’ll find the soundness of the Trumpet to be uncertain. I did one on natural disasters, and as it turns out, the second one is on the same topic.
There is a long history of seeing the Hand of God in the natural world and weather patterns. Some natural events seem naturally to beg a divine explanation—such as a particularly large earthquake, or simply an ordinary earthquake in an unusual area (or at least they did before we knew about tectonic plates and fault lines). But there are other times when people see patterns where there simply are none. This is called clustering illusion. But when is nature, or weather, attributable to the Hand of God and when is it just the result of a chaotic world?
The idea of this Trumpet article was inspired by a quote from George Washington Carver, which goes:
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. (emphasis theirs).
So, God gets his message to the people through acts of nature—or through nature itself. Perhaps he does! But, from what I know of the teachings of the PCG (and Armstrongism in general), I’m inclined to be skeptical. So, instead of accepting on faith that this is so, let’s investigate. And remember—religious people are skeptical too! This isn’t just about reason v. religion, because most professing Christians don’t agree with other professing Christians as to what certain events prove or don’t prove. And let’s not forget the conspiracy theorists who figure this is all evidence of various governmental plots and secret weapons! What’s funny about that is both the conspiracy theorists and the PCG (and other religious people out there claiming these events to be signs) would both hold the other group to be absolute nutters.
Now, the recent rash of unusual animal deaths happening around the world the past few weeks has gotten a lot of people stirred up. Birds, fish, even a herd of cows up in Wisconsin just dying overnight! That is a little mysterious and spooky. Some of the deaths are as yet unexplained, while some explanations seem a bit thin. But, let’s investigate…are these a sign of the End (or God’s spooky ring-tone), or is this an article of faith?
The list of death begins with the birds. I’m a bit skeptical of the official explanations for some of these (startled by fireworks, etc), but be that as it may. A mass of 8,000 pigeons in Italy apparently died of indigestion or poisoning (apparently at least a thousand of them were found to have eaten more than their share of sunflower seeds). Weird but possible. Bird deaths in New Zealand are the result of La Niña weather patterns messing with the food supply according to the NZ Department of Conservation (the dead birds show signs of starvation). It’s the worst La Niña since 1975. So, this kind of thing has happened before. And there are several others all with similarly odd, but not necessarily supernatural, explanations.
Next come the fish. Now fish kills are not new and probably we wouldn’t be hearing about them if it wasn’t for the bird deaths all around New Year. But since they’re listed in the Trumpet article, let’s take a look.
One lot of fish the Trumpet mentioned were farmed Tilapia in Vietnam. These were all being farmed by households along a single river. In the end, it was overcrowding that killed them. Being much more densely packed than in nature, the natural effect of ebb tides and oxygen depletion had a more powerful effect on them. Vietnam’s version of the EPA will work to educate fish farmers on proper methods in the future. What’s interesting about the tilapia is how this event was depicted by the Trumpet: “In Vietnam, 150 tons of tilapia recently died on 41 separate fish farms.” Well, when you put it like that it sounds amazing! Forty-one separate farms! It makes it sound like they had nothing in common…except they did. They were all along a tidally affected river. No disease, no mystery—just some people who didn’t quite know that more isn’t always better (or at least didn’t know where that line was in this case). The answer was easy for me to find, so it is simply sensationalist journalism to present only half the facts! It wouldn’t have been noticed in the rest of the world if it wasn’t for the proximate timing of some actual suspicious animal deaths. But because of an accident of timing it is declared part of a greater pattern.
In England, 40,000 “Devil” crabs have been found dead (along with an undisclosed number of starfish and sponges). But, upon examination, it has been a rough winter: they like warm water and they simply died of hypothermia. Seems a similar thing happened to the starfish on South Carolina shores. But one interesting thing about the Brit crab deaths is that similar happenings occurred both two and five years ago. So, while it is unfortunate, it’s nothing new. The fact there is historical precedence for this kind of crab kill shows it’s not just a sudden new event orchestrated by the Almighty.
However, according to a report by Time/CNN, one thing that still remains a mystery is the appearance of 1,100 lbs. of dead octopi on the shores of Portugal. There are a number of ideas floating around, but since there aren’t “octopi kills” like there are fish kills, nobody is quite sure yet what the culprit is. This, then, might be a gap where God could fit, eh?
Next we come to the cows in Wisconsin. Unusual in itself, but because of its timing the event has added momentum to the sense that the world is falling apart. But you know, that’s what can happen when a herd of cows doesn’t get its shots. All evidence so far points to IBR (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis). It’s highly infectious and nasty from what I’ve read. There’s no cure yet, but it can be largely prevented by timely vaccinations.
The last bit of animal news is about sharks—but this isn’t about them dying. It’s about them swimming through the streets! The Trumpet linked to an article about how the massive flooding in Australia had made it possible for sharks to swim up and down the streets of a town named Goodna. However, like with the tilapia story, there is more hype than substance. Stating that there are sharks in the streets of a flooded town is certainly an attention grabber…but less so when you consider all the facts. Since I linked above to the same article the Trumpet linked to, I would have thought they would understand that. The rest of the story is that the town lies along a river where Bull sharks are frequently caught by local fishermen. So, in the end, having sharks cruising past the McDonald’s in this particular flooded river town is no more remarkable than having fish do the same thing. But saying, “and there’s even sharks in the streets!” when you know the full story, is simply lying through omission in order to cause people to fear that the end might really be here, and that since the end is here, then maybe they had best get themselves and their tithes to church!
There are more things they mention that I won’t cover in detail here (the mundane task of looking at an example, Googling it, reading half a dozen news stories on it and finding it’s nothing special is growing tiresome) as there are perfectly reasonable causes for these things—and the Trumpet staff should know that! I’m sure they have internet access the same as I do. Research is easier than ever, and telling half a truth in order to prop up a pattern you think should be there because your doctrines say it will be, is just dishonest or delusional or both.
The main scripture they use to support their thesis is Hosea 4:1-3, “…Therefore the [land] is weak and is languid, And the beasts of the field, and the birds of the skies, And even the fish in the waters all faint!” (v 3 of the Fenton translation). Of course, Hosea is a prophecy for the end time, right? Well, it has to be because we’re still here. Right? It has to be–otherwise their whole eschatology falls apart. Sadly, it feels like they’re reaching. I mean, what person who lived during (and hopefully through) the time of the Black Death in Europe couldn’t have easily interpreted the death of a third to a half of Europe as a sign of the end? I mean, clearly the Pale Horse was crushing the populace under hoof! But we’re still here. So, in the absence of any lovely bit of horrifying human pandemic, they’re reaching out to, “oh a bunch of critters are dying! The timing of all this is highly unusual/suspicious and we already think the end will come in our lifetimes so this must be a sign!” Thus confirmation bias is added to the aforementioned clustering illusion.
But if God is trying to talk to humanity and lodge a formal complaint against us for our multitudinous transgressions, surely he could do a bit better than this.
Whether you’re mainstream Christian, spiritualist, or pretty much anything else, you have to admit that you’d expect a lot more from the God of the Bible. I mean, if what the PCG is claiming is true, then this is the Old Testament God we’re talking about here! Come on, where is the plague of frogs? Where are the rivers turning to blood? Where are the multinational swarms of locusts that turn the day dark with their numbers and strip fields bare?
If God is trying to talk to us through these various critter die-offs, then he’s clearly whispering! Most every case has been localized and affecting one species. Only one species of bird at a location, or one species of fish, or one poor herd of cows. If it was God trying to get our attention, I would expect every shore to be plastered with every type of dead sea life. 50% of all the birds would fall out of the sky in the middle of the day. It wouldn’t be just 200 cows in a pasture off somewhere, it would be half or more of the entire US and European meat supplies! I mean, whatever happened to Mad Cow? Now those were death tolls worth getting a little agitated about. As it is, these events are too scattered and, ultimately, small scale to be anything other than a series of coincidental natural (or human affected natural) events. The world is chaotic, and sometimes coincidences are just coincidences—not Divine machinations.
When The Trumpet proclaims that the experts don’t know why all this is happening they ought to know they’re not telling the whole truth (and after investigations like this, we ought to know they’re being disingenuous). Yes, there are some mysteries, such as the octopi and some of the bird events, but if it’s all just part of a broken natural system then, yes, experts do know why and have been telling us for years that our earth-unfriendly ways would come back to bite us!
Besides, if this is the work of the God that PCG preaches, then he’s apparently getting soft with infinite old age and we needn’t be very afraid of him!