Rapid Rebuttal–Why “Natural” Disasters?

Because Zeus is angry. Duh.

PCG has just produced a new booklet titled Why “Natural” Disasters. We have already thoroughly addressed the faulty reasoning, bad science, and plain false statements that characterize all such nature mythology–and PCG’s latest attempt provides no new insights into the subject–but…well, we just can’t help ourselves.

We will only be examining the first chapter, since the others (judging by their chapter titles, which include “Are You Ready for the End of the World?”) are all patent nonsense that depend entirely upon the veracity of the proposition of the first chapter. So, let’s dive right in to this holy mess of sloppy research, faulty logic, and idiotic assertions, and try to make some sense of it all.

Chapter One is titled “Something is Wrong With the Weather”. It makes two claims, (1) that natural disasters are getting worse and becoming more frequent and (2) that this phenomenon must be caused by a particular deity (in this case, Yahweh) trying to send a message to humans.

The chapter also muddies the waters by failing to distinguish between data on climate-based disasters and those pertaining strictly to geological activity. This is an important distinction, as we have already pointed out before, since perceived increases in frequency or intensity of natural disasters may be explained in different ways depending on what kind of disaster is being considered.

When confronted with such an apparent statistical upswing, it’s easy to say, “God did it!” Any fool without a basic understanding of the relevant sciences can do that. And they do, prolifically–low-brow folks have been hammering this “just-so story” ever since the first proto-humans were frightened by storms and needed a simple explanation to comfort themselves with. But in a scientific culture, we have no excuse for seeing weather and geological phenomena as through the eyes of Paleolithic troglodytes.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

First, let’s look at this claim that natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity. From the booklet:

Within the United States, for example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that in the 37 years between 1953 and 1989, an average of 23 major disasters were declared per year. In the 1990s, that average nearly doubled—to 42.

Note the manipulation involved here. They take an average derived from 37 years’ worth of data and compare it with one derived from only a decade’s worth. Why? Maybe it’s arbitrary, or maybe they wished to include the many very small numbers of major disasters declared in the early years of FEMA’s existence, thereby skewing the first average to a much lower number than would have been possible otherwise. Look at the data and judge for yourself. I took just the numbers for the decade previous to the ’90s and came up with a less impressive increase, from just under 33 to 46 (yes, apparently, the author flubbed the math, and not even in his own favor–chalk it up to the general incompetence of true believers), an under 50% rise.

But what could explain the rise? Are we left with no other explanation than one involving an increase in violent weather patterns and seismic events? Hardly.

How to Interpret the Numbers

Consider first that these data pertain to declared disasters in the U.S. One needs to make the distinction between the incidence of declared disasters (a human input) and the behavior of the earth’s climate and geology (a natural input). An increase in one does not necessarily imply an increase in the other. The obvious, steady climb of declared disasters is not necessarily indicative of patterns of natural phenomena, but rather of human interaction with the environment. Several crucial aspects of that interaction have nothing directly to do with the frequency and intensity of natural events in absolute terms:

  1. Increased Media Coverage: Just because we are hearing more about natural disasters does not necessarily mean they are increasing in either frequency or intensity. It could just mean that we have more access to information now than we ever did before. It is a no-brainer that we have experienced an explosive increase in media coverage since the ’50s, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is part of the explanation for the perceived increase in violent natural phenomena.
  2. Government Policy: Laws and acts of congress can have an impact on how state and federal agencies respond to natural disasters, leading to some being declared as major disasters and others not. When laws are changed and acts are amended, the frequency with which disasters get declared may be affected. It just so happens that in 1988, congress made a major amendment to the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Looking at the data set again, it appears that this correlates well with PCG’s observed upswing in declared disasters, and may explain it all by itself. But probably not. Correlation does not imply causation, and anyway (although this might be part of the explanation) there is a much more likely primary cause…
  3. Economic Development/Population Growth: Not every major natural event causes enough damage to human life and property to be considered a disaster–much less to bring a state to its knees, prompting a governor to apply for disaster relief and getting the event declared a major natural disaster, thereby earning it a place in FEMA’s records. Sometimes hurricanes never make landfall; sometimes earthquakes happen in isolated places where no one lives; and, historically, natural disasters mainly affected sparse farming communities without high-rise apartment buildings, skyscrapers, and other mutli-million-dollar structures housing enterprises worth even more, not to mention the elaborate and expensive infrastructure of modern cities. The increased proliferation and concentration of wealth, property, population, and infrastructure in the U.S. since 1953 translates, almost by definition, into an increase in declared disasters. It does not translate so well, however, into an increase in violent storms, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, etc.

PCG Respond to “an Interesting Point”

Now we’ve shown that consulting declared disaster statistics is not a valid way to demonstrate an increase in natural phenomena. Do they have any other evidence to draw upon for their claim that “something is wrong with the weather”? Well, yes and no, actually. First, they list some convenient anecdotes and continue to utilize the aforementioned faulty reasoning. They even acknowledge the main problem with their position (point number three, above), but then dismiss it without properly addressing it. Notice:

The increasing population density has placed more people at risk when an extreme weather event occurs. Rapid growth in coastal populations puts more people in harm’s way when hurricanes or tropical storms strike. Swelling numbers of homes and businesses in flood plains increases the risk and frequency of high-cost flooding events.

Take the 2010 Haiti quake. Striking within a few miles of crowded, poverty-stricken Port-au-Prince, it claimed a staggering 220,000 lives. Just 25 years before, the same area housed only a third as many people, in far fewer unstable shanties. Richard Olson, director of disaster risk reduction at Florida International University, told the Associated Press that the same quake in 1985 would have had a death toll closer to 80,000.

Quakes of greater magnitude have hit elsewhere; in fact, the earthquake that rocked Chile the same year was an incredible 500 times stronger than Haiti’s. But because it struck a less populated, more prosperous and better-constructed area, it killed fewer than a thousand people.

Thus, conclude some, the problem isn’t the planet, but the people. “It’s a form of suicide, isn’t it?” said Roger Bilham, a geological science professor at the University of Colorado. “We build houses that kill ourselves [in earthquakes]. We build houses in flood zones that drown ourselves. It’s our fault for not anticipating these things. You know, this is the Earth doing its thing.”

It’s an interesting point—though a hard lesson to apply. It’s difficult to suggest viable solutions to the poor-quality construction in impoverished regions.

What? “An interesting point”? “A hard lesson to apply”? No, morons, it’s pretty easy. Let me apply it for you: you are idiots for assuming that more disastrous impacts of natural phenomena imply that something weird is happening. How hard is it to understand that more people and more stuff, packed into less space in more areas that are known to be hazardous for reasons that are well-understood–equals more catastrophe, both in terms of frequency and intensity? This so-called “interesting point” is a viable explanation for what they can’t understand without invoking magic.

Their meaningless answer:

…the regions we might label danger zones seem to be proliferating. On top of that, this theory would explain higher death tolls, but it wouldn’t explain the increasing volume of catastrophes.

Of course, they cite no sources for their utterly inexplicable claim that “danger zones seem to be proliferating” (and note that “seem” here is a weasel word), nor do they explain what they mean by an “increasing volume of catastrophes”. Volume? Volume? What is this…”volume” you speak of? More weasel words, I suspect. But if they meant to say that more people and stuff could not explain the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters, then they are completely off their rockers. The whole reason an “act of God” is ever considered a disaster in the first place is because of people and stuff being in the wrong place at the wrong time: and the more people and stuff, the worse the disaster. With more people and more stuff in more wrong places at more wrong times, worse and more frequent disasters are practically guaranteed. We should be surprised, in fact, if the data failed to show an increase in the, uh, “volume” of catastrophes.

Considering the lack of a cogent argument, though, it is probably safe to assume that the essential “interesting point” sailed well over their heads. Either way, this is an unacceptable response to such a common-sense challenge as the one inherent in the natural explanation. PCG are frankly not up to the task of competently defending their positions (of course, they rarely need to be, since the typical consumer of this drivel is even less competent than the morons who continue to shit it out with increasing rapidity).

Climate Change

The booklet finally gets around to another big problem with its premise, namely, the failure to distinguish between climate and geology when assessing alleged changes in frequency and intensity of natural disasters. They almost acknowledge this failure, but not quite. Here is how they present the subject of climate change:

many scientists point to climate change. To account for everything climate-related—cold fronts, freakish blizzards, flooding rains, hurricanes and a host of other dangers—many of them blame greenhouse gases, injected into the atmosphere via human activity like deforestation and burning of fossil fuels. Thus, the lesson they draw from calamities is that man needs to stop producing carbon dioxide.

There is evidence that smog from industrial activity, smoke from slash-and-burn deforestation in developing countries, widespread replacement of green and open land surfaces by pavement, asphalt and buildings, and the exhaust of jets, cars, trucks, trains and ships have contributed to climatic variation. Other suspected weather-modifying agents include crop irrigation and the creation of man-made lakes. The influence of diverted rivers, dams, drained swamps and underground aquifers may be significant too because of the effect the water-versus-land ratio has on the heat balance. There is abundant evidence that mankind has abused, polluted, tarnished and ruined nearly everything our hands have touched on Earth.

So far so melodramatic. But, as yet, no major factual blunders. Let’s continue:

However, it is scientifically impossible to attribute the scale of the increase in dramatic nature-related phenomena to such human endeavors.

Hold it! PCG is going to tell us what is “scientifically impossible”? Wait. No… Sorry. I… I can’t. I can’t…stop…laughing. Guys guys guys–I don’t mean to be rude, but…YOU DON’T KNOW SHIT ABOUT SCIENCE. You never have, for as long as I can remember. Not even your resident couldabeen meteorologist, Locher. Apologies, Andy, you’re a nice guy and all–but none of you has any business saying word one about science–of all fucking things! You just don’t get it; you’re in a completely different world from science. Okay? So, please, just give up. You will never, never, ever find scientific justification for your delusions. Seriously. Stop. Or I will board a plane, rent a car, drive out to your ridiculous little compound, and punch your cult in the face with my science hand.

Anyway, so we have PCG here assuring us that it is impossible for climate science to attribute climate change to human activities. At least, they say, not on “the scale of the increase in dramatic nature-related phenomena” that they are demonstrably so confused about (see above).

Well, unfortunately for their delusional model of reality, climate science has essentially done just that, with a strong consensus that continues to be fortified with new supporting evidence daily. Does the science say that anthropomorphic climate change is happening? Yes. Does the science predict that such changes might result in a higher incidence of extreme weather events. Yes. Does this have anything to do with an apocryphal “increase” in earthquakes and volcanoes, Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, or the leftover pizza in my fridge? Yes, but only if you consider counting to potato an accomplishment.

Educational chart taken from the non-sequitur department of Herbert W. Armstrong College

So, What’s Really Going On?

There are a few things going on that create, for some morons, the illusion of an increase in weather and geological phenomena. And from this wispy illusion they weave an elaborate delusion that allows them to claim, “God did it!” In so doing, though, they have to ignore all of the evidence supporting more logical explanations. Here’s what’s going on that they necessarily ignore:

  1. They make the aforementioned mistake of conflating declared disasters and the incidence of natural phenomena. As has already been explained, an increase in declared disasters is not evidence of an increase in meteorological or geological activity.
  2. Global warming might be driving an upward trend in some meteorological activity (assuming such a trend exists, which is debatable), but this obviously has a natural explanation, and it does not contribute to any manufactured or illusory “increase” in geological activity.
  3. There is no increase in geological activity. No rise in the frequency or intensity of earthquakes or volcanoes. Sorry, it just isn’t happening, despite the secular, mainstream media hype that plays right into the hands of doomsday propaganda machines like PCG.
  4. The heightened media coverage and sensationalism, improved systems for reporting events, and confusion over the possible effects of global warming, coupled with the logic fail discussed in point number one, all conspire to create the illusion of an unexplained, general increase in the frequency and intensity of the various natural phenomena associated with natural disasters.

Ugh, Me No Like Facts

But all of those explanations fail to find purchase in the myth-shrunken minds of the booklet’s authors. For they are already convinced of the preconceived notion that there is something supernatural going on. And, so, when they fail to find the patterns they need to see in the evidence (that is to say, when they can’t convincingly argue for the existence of those patterns), they just toss all of the inconvenient facts and the empty husks of their poorly-devised arguments aside and launch into a very silly assertion:

Weather experts are only able to rely on scientific observation, experimentation and reason—physical evidence—to forecast weather in the short term. But this tells only part of the story.

Did you catch that? Scientific observation, experimentation, and reason–“physical evidence”–only tell “part of the story”. Really!? Please enlighten us to this new way of knowing, because I thought the only way to know whether there really is an increase in extreme weather and geological activity was to look at the “physical evidence”–you know, the only kind of evidence that is relevant. But apparently, observation and analysis of physical evidence isn’t good enough for determining such a metaphysical question. Apparently, climate science and geology have a spiritual component that I wasn’t aware of. Should we conduct a seance, maybe consult the spirit of Samuel? What if we cast lots; will that answer the question? No, say PCG, it’s much easier than that. They suggest you just go with your gut and ape the lazy assumptions of a few select authorities:

There was a time when people, “intellectuals” even, would look at nature and see God.

“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,” wrote George Washington Carver, the distinguished 20th-century scientist. Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that “the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere” in nature.

Of course! Science too hard? Just believe what feels good. It’s easier that way. And, besides, it helps PCG sell their snake oil. But notice, none of this speaks to the core contention of the booklet and the question under consideration. PCG says, “Argh, this math and science and logic stuff isn’t cooperating! I don’t understand it and it doesn’t say ‘God’ all over it! Get rid of it. Let’s just daydream up a truth instead. Come, join me, won’t you: let’s just say, ‘God God God,’ and pretend that supports our position.”

If it feels good, do it, right guys? Isn’t that what you taught? Take the easy way out? Don’t worry about what’s true? Just follow your heart? Wait. No, that’s not what you taught me. You taught me to love the truth and to “dig deep”, to really work at understanding. To believe only what is true, even if it is inconvenient to my emotions. And yet here you are, endorsing emotional beliefs over truth. Woe to you, whitewashed tombs, hypocrites.

The hypocrites spend some time waxing irrelevant on claims pertaining to their favorite imaginary superhero and his ghost-written poetry collection:

We have thus lost sight of the fact that our very existence depends on nature. [They really should be speaking for themselves here. From where I sit, this is mere projection on their part–big time projection–but that’s another subject for another time.] Take rain. To the average city-dweller, rain has little bearing on day-to-day life; in fact, it’s often an inconvenience. But to the farmer, rain is life. It nourishes his crops and the pastures on which his herds graze. The farmer sees nature, and all its component parts, for what it ultimately is: the complex, interconnected, vitally important machine that sustains life!

This connection with nature tends to point us back to our world’s masterful Maker.

The earliest chapters of the Bible depict God creating the oceans and landmasses, the atmosphere and weather patterns, the various species of plants and animals, the ecosystems—and the vast host of laws that govern nature’s successful operation. These chapters describe God constructing the complex machine by which He would sustain mankind.

The Bible teaches that not only is nature the creation of God’s mind, it is, in fact, a vital instrument through which He communicates with us.

This Book—which most people have on their bookshelf, but few understand—gives us the other side of the picture, which all of the best scientific instruments cannot!

And away we go! Sit back and enjoy the stupid (but do keep all orifices closed: owners of the ride cannot be held responsible for incidents involving flying bullshit)!:

These days, any person bold enough to consider nature God’s “unlimited broadcasting station” is mocked as a religious crackpot. This is too bad. Because the Bible actually claims to pinpoint the causes of weather cataclysms, and to forecast long-term weather trends!

Could it be that God is indeed employing nature as His “unlimited broadcasting station”? That He is cursing our weather patterns and increasing the destructiveness of natural circumstances in an attempt to communicate with us? The Bible shows that this is exactly what He is doing. It shows that He is currently delivering a message via nature that we all desperately need to hear and respond to!

Never mind the science! It’s fun to believe in the Bible, and you should, too, because it claims things. For example, it “actually claims to pinpoint the causes of weather cataclysms, and to forecast long-term weather trends!” Oh, it does?! Well, golly gee, mister–that must mean it’s T-R-U-E, true!

Furthermore, any “broadcasting station” their precious Yahweh might be using is certainly not “unlimited”. We’ve already addressed this problem elsewhere: earthquakes are limited to areas around fault lines; cyclones, hurricanes, and tornadoes are limited to high-pressure zones; volcanic activity is limited to the ring of fire and similar areas; all weather and geological phenomena are limited, severely limited, to the well-understood parameters science has discovered around them–parameters, it should be added, that the Bible gives no indication of and PCG cannot be bothered discussing (wonder why).

What Does the God Say, Junior? “Rrrrrumble, Swoooosh, Bang, Crash, Booooom!”

Besides being limited by natural, climatic and geological parameters (not to mention the inventiveness of human technology in averting natural disasters), there is another reason this “broadcasting station” sends a hopelessly garbled message. Not only can God not speak whenever and wherever he pleases, but he isn’t even capable of using words.

Here’s what the “broadcasting station” usually looks and sounds like; take a listen to the voice of PCG’s god, watch him pantomime his invisible body language, and see if you can make out any comprehensible message:

That’s it. Nine minutes of random, chaotic noise (visual as well as auditory). Well, there are some gull cries, but I don’t speak gull, do you? Also, at about five minutes in, the stranded people have a short conversation. Now, I may not speak tsunami like PCG does, but I have a basic understanding of Japanese, and I can give you a rough translation:

First guy: “Hey, did you hear that?”

Second guy: “What?”

First guy: “I think the tsunami just said, ‘This is for the tentacle porn, you pervs.'”

Second guy: “No, you’re just mistakenly hearing patterns in random noise; it’s called pareidolia and it’s a common occurrence with pattern-seeking humans.”

First guy: “Well, anyway, doesn’t look too bad…wanna go for a swim?”

Needless to say, the second guy was right. There is no message here, just some meaningless whooshing, crashing, banging, and roaring. And, of course, a whole lot of tragedy and damage–also ultimately meaningless, unless broken things and dead bodies are a language I don’t know about (and I did study linguistics, after all–just sayin’).

But PCG is begging you to believe that they can indeed translate random, chaotic noise (limited to scientifically understood, natural parameters) into actual words that mean things for people–and that these words are found in the Bible. It’s a particularly strange practice looking for messages in natural disasters and finding them in a bronze age holy text instead. But this, they insist, is a rational pursuit:

The disasters we see increasing are in fact a tool that the Creator of the natural world has reserved for Himself, to use at His pleasure [limited only by the findings of science!]—in order to speak with us! After all, we don’t tend to listen very well. But severe natural phenomena are impossible to ignore.

Of course they’re impossible to ignore! That doesn’t mean they are meaningful or that there is a message in them. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the Bible is relevant to the discussion. The Bible may claim that Yahweh, the Canaanite storm god, swirls his finger around to create cyclones or casts lightning bolts like spears as a warning to his creations, but so do the mythological texts of a thousand other religions. Are we supposed to take them all seriously on that basis? According to this booklet’s reasoning, we should. But that would not necessarily lead us to the conclusions the booklet draws from its confused misapprehension of climate, geology and basic logic. Such reasoning, for example, could very well lead us to the worship and appeasement of Kashima instead of Yahweh! Are PCG trying to spread “godless” heathenism, or what?

PCG don’t know jack shit about natural disasters or what they mean. They haven’t established a link between natural disasters and their (severely limited and communication-challenged) imaginary friend in the sky, anymore than any other religion has. But they are pretending to know and to have established such a connection. And they want you to play let’s pretend along with them. We can only hope that you aren’t persuaded by their display of inexcusable ignorance, rank stupidity, and obvious propaganda. Especially now that we’ve reduced it to bloody giblets right in front of you.



17 thoughts on “Rapid Rebuttal–Why “Natural” Disasters?

  1. Excellent post; well done; was also quite fun.

    Armstrongists not only don’t understand the first thing about science, but they don’t seem to be able to quote Scripture right either.

    Perhaps it is time for them to simply quit both science and religion and turn wholesale to magic. They seem to be there anyway — why don’t they just admit that they rely soley on magic?

    Of course, for those familiar with writing for fantasy publications, it is always necessary to be consistent with magic, for it follows strict rules which cannot be violated. In that, it is more stringent than science. Everything must line up perfectly. The incantations can’t be random. The potions must be mixed with all the right ingredients in the right proportions in the proper order. There is, if anything, less cheating than in science or religion.

    Perhaps they do not have the discipline for proper magic and why they don’t even try it.

    Just remember: Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

  2. The PCG just does what that old trickster and whore house founder HWA did. Taking the bible and applying it to today’s headlines. Old trick, different pimp.

    And then there is science.

    The rejection of science seems to be part of a politically monolithic red-state fundamentalism, textbook evidence of an unyielding ignorance on the part of the religious. As one fundamentalist slogan puts it, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”
    -New York Times

  3. I want to know how you got a hold of that “count to potato” thing! What is that even supposed to mean?!

    But, yeah, that’s awesome–“reason” and “science” can only tell you so much! For the whole story let’s go to this thousands of years old book, the contents of which are compiled from multiple authors over hundreds of years and has been translated through 2-3 other languages before coming into its most celebrated English form. I mean, how can its origin story not inspire absolute faith in its pronouncements that, despite being in English, we still have to interpret for you?

  4. In fact, I think this article is actually longer than the chapter it addresses. They don’t have much to say, really. It can all be boiled down to, “Here’s some anecdotes and misrepresentation of scientific data; yeah, we know it’s weak, but just ignore all that and trust us–God did it! The Bible says so!” But, nothing’s happening! There’s nothing for God to do. Poor God.

  5. God is amazing. His power is unlimited, far beyond minor beings like Galactus or Q, yet he is so incredibly subtle that he makes it all look like natural processes. That’s what I call control. You’d think he would screw up now and then and let slip with a column of fire or a miracle or two. Nope- he’s on it, twenty-fo-seben. He is so smooth that it appears as if no one is running anything at all! Now that’s power. In fact, he’s so smooth that you wouldn’t even know that he even exists, that’s how smoove he is.

    • LOL, ah yes. The “divine hiddenness” excuse. So absurd. Theist philosophers and the consumers of their nonsense are children who make excuses instead of facing up to an uncomfortable truth. It isn’t that God is hiding for some inexplicable “reason” (this presumes God’s existence in the first place), it’s that there is no evidence for his existence. When we discover the rainbow doesn’t have an end, we don’t wonder where and why the leprechaun is hiding the pot of gold. That would be foolish. Instead, we surmise, correctly, that neither the leprechaun nor his pot of gold exist. Now why can’t theists see that the very same perfectly good logic applies in the case of their favorite nonexistent and redundant entity? Because they don’t want to. Simple as that. Complete childishness–a trait that is only endearing in children, I’m afraid.

  6. When crafting my retort, it was a tossup among riffing on “personal computer”, “political correctness” and our brave Anonymous’s apparent (and justifiable) lack of confidence in his/her spelling skills/ability with basic search engine tasks. I think it’s instructive that the moron left us so many openings.

    Pro-tip for all you mental midgets with chips on your shoulders: if you want to come gunning for “dorks” of our caliber, you should consider investing in an A-game first. Insulting people is an art, okay? Not just anybody can do it.

  7. Please, please, please…give us an actual argument–for God’s Sake! “nanner nanner you’re a dork p.o.s.”?? (note: for future reference, POS is the proper way to shorthand “piece of shit”) You really felt that was sufficient?

    The old adage is “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” We don’t agree with that. It should be amended “if you have nothing of substance to say, don’t say anything at all”. I mean, really, “You’re a poopy-head” was not part of the Declaration of Independence. What? You couldn’t think of a good argument to actually defend the Mr. Deity you claim to believe in so you went with name-calling? Seriously, if you can’t come up with a better defense than that, you need to go back and take a serious look at why you believe what you believe in the first place.

    British Soldier: Why are you rebelling?
    American Soldier: Shut up you Limey Bastard!
    See how that’s not an argument?

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