Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Storms, consipiracies, and divine retribution

Last night the remnants of Hurricane Isaac swept through upstate New York, bringing electrical storms and some much-needed rain to our area, and doing little damage except for scaring the absolute hell out of my neurotic border collie, Doolin, who seems to think that thunder is the Footsteps Of Monsters Who Eat Dogs.  So other than straightening up the things she knocked over in trying to get Somewhere Safe, we actually were rather fortunate.

Sadly, the residents of southern Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana (especially Plaquemines Parish) weren't so lucky, and there are thousands that are still flooded out, and tens of thousands without electricity.  The prediction that it would make landfall as "only a Category 1" storm turned out to be correct, but a Category 1 storm turns out to be capable of a lot of damage, especially if it moves slowly, as Isaac did.

The science of predicting hurricane tracks has improved vastly, but it's still a highly complex business, dependent on a great many variables that can be hard to measure.  Still, we're better off than we were in 1900, when a hurricane slammed into Galveston, Texas with very little warning, claiming an estimated 8,000 lives.

Of course, that hasn't stopped the crazies from claiming that hurricanes are not controlled by such prosaic variables as air moisture, sea surface temperature, shear, and steering currents.  Big storms being due to purely natural causes?  No, that would be way too simple.

First, we have noted meteorologist Rush Limbaugh, who claimed that the folks over at NOAA were predicting the storm's path based upon their desire to disrupt the Republican National Convention:
So this whole thing has been politicized, as the Democrats politicize everything, and that's why we are talking about it. Now, I want to remind you: All last week... And, no, at no time here am I alleging a conspiracy. At no time. With none of this am I alleging conspiracy. All last week what was the target? Tampa. What was going on in Tampa this week?
The Republican National Convention. A pretty important one, too. Introducing the nominee, Mitt Romney. It's only after the convention that Romney can actually start spending all of this money that he's raised, so this convention is very important. It's a chance to introduce Romney to a lot of people who don't know him yet. And I noticed that the hurricane center's track is -- and I'm not alleging conspiracies here. The hurricane center is the regime; the hurricane center is the Commerce Department.
It's the government.
It's Obama.
Oh, right!  Okay!  That's perfectly believable, as long as you have a single kernel of Kettle Corn where most of us have a brain.  The hurricane is Obama!  Barreling toward the Republican National Convention!  With the destructive Winds of Liberalism!  I'm certain that the storm itself cared deeply about who wins the presidential election, because, you know, that's how weather works.

Of course, Limbaugh is bush-league crazy compared to Joe Kovacs over at WorldNetDaily, who claims that god sent Hurricane Isaac toward New Orleans deliberately to screw up Southern Decadence, an annual gay pride festival:
New Orleans is still hosting Southern Decadence with open homosexuality manifesting in the streets of the city. It could be that God is putting an end to this city and its wickedness. The timing of Hurricane Isaac with Southern Decadence is a sign that God’s patience with America’s sin is coming to an end. … Let’s all watch this very closely, because if New Orleans is destroyed, it is a sure sign that the final judgment for the national sin of America has arrived.
And as additional proof, we have a quote from Alabama Senator Hank Erwin, showing that government officials are only as intelligent as the people who elected them:
America has been moving away from God.  The Lord is sending appeals to us.  As harsh as it may sound, those hurricanes do say that God is real, and we have to realize sin has consequences.
No, Senator, what those hurricanes say is that low pressure centers form over the eastern Atlantic during the summer, increase in strength during conditions of warm surface waters and low shear, and get pushed toward the Caribbean and the southern United States by the prevailing winds.  Homosexuality really has very little to do with it.

Even this doesn't end the litany of wackos who have weighed in on the cause of hurricanes.  Over at Chemtrail Planet, we hear that the path of the storm was determined by Evil Government Officials putting chemicals in jet fuel, so that the exhaust contrails could change the weather:
High on the list of suspects for deployment of “chembombs” is the fleet of Evergreen Air B-747 tankers equipped with Evergreen’s own patented aerosol deployment system capable of spraying a wide variety of aerosols depending on the mission.

The huge 20,000 gallon system was originally promoted as a new technology for fighting wildfires even though the patent claims equal capability at releasing aerosols for the purpose of "weather modofication" [sic].

Suspicions are growing that Evergreen’s fire-fighting promotion was a decoy to hide their primary mission of covert climate modification.
This is accompanied by a highly informative YouTube video that made me weep softly while banging my head against my computer keyboard.

And last, our parade of wingnuts would not be complete without a salvo from Alex Jones, who as you might expect posted a YouTube video claiming that Hurricane Isaac was created by the US government using their magical superpowers, better known as HAARP.  "We would be weird to not say it could be government-created as some type of disaster for the election," Jones said.  "That’s not outside the realm of possibility."

Which is true only in the sense that earthquakes being caused by the leaping about of Giant Subterranean Bunnies is also, technically, not outside the realm of possibility.

What always puzzles me about this sort of thing is the fact that people listen to, or read, this stuff, and at least someone must find it plausible.  In fact, in the case of Limbaugh and Jones, the evidence is that a lot of people find what they say plausible, despite the fact that much of it is blatant horse waste.  Why, I wonder, don't people look folks like this in the eye when they make their ridiculous pronouncements, and say, "May I please see your Ph.D. in meteorology or climate science?  Or, in fact, any kind of science at all?  Oh, you don't have one?  Then SHUT THE HELL UP."

But people never do, for some reason.


  1. Does anyone still listen to Rush Limbaugh? Really?

    I'm always mystified by the "hurricanes sent by GOD to destroy New Orleans (or wherever) because of homosexuality". If this god of yours wants to punish people for homosexuality, why in heck does San Francisco still exist? Or Salt Lake City, for that matter (determined by The Advocate to be the gayest city in America earlier this year)?

  2. What I found hilarious is that nobody seems to get that hurricanes are all but a completely ANNUAL occurrence! So god punishes sinners, on a yearly basis, to such an extent that I guess we should rename "hurricane season" to "God's annual punishment season."

    Nausea inducing rhetoric... soup du jour. *sigh*

  3. "Government officials are only as intelligent as the people who elected them" I like THIS. Alot.