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.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Storm of controversy

As I write this, category-3 Hurricane Idalia is currently battering parts of northern Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.  It strengthened with astonishing speed, going from a tropical depression to (briefly) a category-4 hurricane in a little over two days.  Another result of anthropogenic climate change -- warm surface water is the fuel for tropical storms, and this summer, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean is (in the words of one climatologist) "bath water."

This vindication of the facts that (1) Florida, and indeed the entire Gulf Coast, are frequent targets for storms, and (2) climate scientists have been predicting bigger storms for decades, has not had the effect you'd expect if the world was halfway sane, which is for people to say, "Oh, I guess this is what the scientists warned us about."  No, instead it's created bigger and better crackpot theories.  The storm is still howling and already I'm seeing conspiracy theorists posting that:

  • Idalia is a "false flag" to get people to buy into the "climate change scam."
  • Idalia is manmade, but not in the sense the climate scientists mean.  It was created by sophisticated weather modification devices run by some shadowy government agency.  No one I've seen has mentioned HAARP yet, but it's only a matter of time.
  • Evil Joe Biden deliberately steered Idalia toward "Ron DeSantis's Florida" in order to distract DeSantis from campaigning for the Republican nomination.  "Where this storm hit is no coincidence," one guy posted.  "I'm surprised it didn't hit Tallahassee straight on."

Well, you're right about one thing,  you catastrophic clod; where the storm hit is "no coincidence" because it's a typical storm track at this time of year, and the Gulf of Mexico is like a giant hot tub right now.  But no one, including Evil Joe, can "steer a hurricane."

Even using HAARP.

Hurricane Idalia [Image is in the Public Domain courtesy of NOAA]

Of course, it may be that everything will be okay, at least if you listen to popular evangelical wingnut "prophetess" Kat Kerr, who went on record as saying that Idalia was not going to cause any problems, because she was gonna pray at it really hard:

Attention all weather warriors, who are taking authority over the storms that are in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Gulf, which are heading toward the East Coast.  Remember to take authority in Jesus's name, because we have the right to stop the storms from coming.  Command the pressure systems (millibars) to rise within them, so they will downgrade until they diminish.  Send the Host to shred every band of the storms and tear them apart.  The sooner we do this for the storm in the Gulf, the better...  When God made the Earth, he set a boundary for the ocean so it cannot come ashore.  We are agreeing with what God says, so speak to the storms and remind them of the boundary.  In Jesus's name, these storms will become nothing!!!  Woo hoo and Zap Bam.

As usual, allow me to state up front that I didn't make any of that up, including the "Zap Bam" part.  

Lest you think this kind of lunacy is the sole provenance of some fringe-y freak element, allow me to remind you that just a week ago, a "reporter" on Fox "News" said in all apparent seriousness that Tropical Storm Hilary, which dumped huge amounts of rain on southern California and Nevada, was (like Idalia) Joe Biden's fault.  Hilary, the reporter said, "made landfall in Mexico several hours ago, but they let it right into the country because it’s Biden’s America."

Although saying Fox isn't a "fringe-y freak element" might not be that accurate, honestly.  And given the storm's name, I'm surprised they didn't bring Hillary Clinton into it somehow.  That has to be significant, right?

Of course right.

It's always been a mystery to me why people gravitate to wild magical thinking and bizarre conspiracy theories rather than applying Ockham's Razor and the principles of scientific induction.  In fact, only a few days ago a study appeared in the journal Research and Politics looking at people's motivations for believing in conspiracies, and the results were fascinating.  Disturbingly, it found that most people who promote conspiracy-based beliefs aren't "Just Asking Questions" (something the site Rational Wiki amusingly calls "JAQing off") or "trying to present both sides" or callously pushing an agenda regardless of their own beliefs (something many Republicans have been accused of, apropos of Trump's "Big Lie") -- they honestly believe the loony ideas they're disseminating.  

So that's not reassuring at all.

But even weirder to me is that they found a correlation between belief in conspiracies and what they call a "need for chaos" -- a fervent desire to disrupt things irrespective of partisanship or beliefs, and without a specific goal in mind (e.g., replacing the system with a better one).

And I truly don't understand this.  You have only to look at the effects of real, honest-to-goodness chaos -- the ongoing mess in Sudan comes to mind -- to see how quickly things can devolve into a Lord of the Flies-style horror show.  I can sympathize with the frustration a lot of us feel about wastefulness and corruption in the government, but tearing it all down and leaving nothing in its place is hardly a solution.

In any case, no, Idalia wasn't created by weaponized weather modification, it's not a false flag, and Joe Biden had nothing to do with any of it.  Praying at it won't do a damn bit of good, something you'd think would be obvious from the last 583,762 times people tried praying at something and it didn't work.  It'd be nice if people would learn some science, but these days expecting that is a losing proposition.

Especially in "Ron De Santis's Florida."


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