There’s nothing I like better than taking the pseudoscientific claims of a religious cleric and proving them to be wholly divorced from reality. I have a bad feeling about this particular effort, though. This one’s going to backfire, it’s only a question of how severely.
Don’t get me wrong. I like breasts (being a heteronormative male); I like women owning their sexuality; I like sex-positive feminism; and I don’t feel that women dressing immodestly objectifies them any more than, say, my wearing my new jeans objectifies me just because I apparently have an attractive ass in them. (Or at least so I’m told.) And I fully support this Boobquake effort, as well as any effort to make any dogmatist eat his words. My problem with this particular endeavour is entirely statistical.
You see, in a given year, there’s over six hundred thousand earthquakes worldwide.
|Description||Magnitude||Frequency per year|
|Minor (damage slight)||4.0-4.0||6,000|
|Imperceptible||less than 2.0||600,000+|
Statistically, there’s going to be about three “damaging” earthquakes, e.g. 5.0-5.9 on the Richter scale, throughout the world this Monday. The problem here is entirely one of scope and selection bias. The cleric originally suggested that the frequency of earthquakes in Iran is directly linked to women wearing short skirts and/or forgetting their head scarves, and results in adultery amongst their people, thereby increasing the frequency of earthquakes in Iran. That doesn’t seem like an instant causal relationship to me, and the claim is explicitly localized to Iran, though it does serve to show how ludicrous this cleric’s claims are.
I see a way out for him, though. All he has to do is wait for the next big earthquake, no matter where it is, and claim that it happened because of Jennifer McCreight and the rest of us heathens supporting this silly game of call-the-religious-idiots’-bluff. Because obviously, if there’s an 8.0 earthquake in Japan four months from now, it was entirely because of the North Americans angering their fickle god, who has evidently horrible aim. Well, either that, or he could embrace science and use the theory of plate tectonics to show why so many earthquakes happen in Iran, and will continue to happen even if every single woman in the country spends all day every day entirely covered. But you know that’ll never happen.
We have to make it very clear that if there was any kind of god that would be so petty as to be upset about immodesty, said god would punish it equally no matter where the offenders. Look at this map:
The fact that the middle of North America is nowhere near a tectonic fault, should absolutely be no deterrent to such an all-powerful, all-mighty and all-prude deity, should it? Wouldn’t such an all-powerful deity have no problem conjuring up an earthquake pretty well wherever he wanted? And the fact that the Middle East is pretty well on a plate to itself, you’d think that might have something to do with all the earthquakes. You know, rather than saying that the prudest nation on the planet is simply not prude enough to dodge the wrath of their violent warrior god. But those are mere facts. And you know what the dogmatic are like when facts cross roads with faith.
Update: Phil Plait has some better numbers. Including one number that drew my attention immediately: in 2000, there were 8008 magnitude 4.0-4.9 earthquakes. It’s like I’m 12 and have my first calculator all over again!