Saturday, July 18, 2015

Is the Second Coming...Coming Because of an Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest?

No, it's not real, it's a photoshopped hoax after the Indonesia tsunami of 2004
Geotripper stands bravely on the coast of the Pacific Northwest, camera and binoculars in hand, ready to liveblog the end of the world during the apocalyptic earthquake that is going to happen SOON. Well, okay, I'm actually visiting with family, but if anything happens earthquake-wise, I will let you know.

I want to tread lightly here, because I'm not in the business of attacking anyone's religious beliefs. But I do want to provide some perspective to counter the kinds of headlines I've been seeing in the aftermath of an excellent piece in the New Yorker (please click here to read it; it's worth your time) concerning the potential for a large earthquake in the Pacific Northwest, one which will cause catastrophic damage to the infrastructure of the region and possibly kill 16,000 or 17,000 people.

I get a bit tired of the predictable hype that follows such viral stories. The idea that the Pacific Northwest will "be destroyed" by the earthquake feeds into the fears of people who have been reading too many headlines like this one:

"Jesus’s Prophecy Of Massive Earthquakes Is Now Confirmed As Fox News Reports Of A Mega-Quake To Soon Destroy U.S. Pacific Northwest Triggering Christ’s Soon Coming"

It's a real headline from the internet, but you'll have to Google it. I don't want to provide them with any more publicity than they've already gotten with their irresponsible hyperbole (and just how did FOX news end up in that title?).
The Great Wave at Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty–Six Views of Mount Fuji), Edo period (1615–1868), ca. 1831–33  Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849).
Here's the thing. This earthquake, should it happen in our lifetime, will be a horrible catastrophic event. But it will also be a natural event that is predictable with certain limits, follows the natural rules of physics and geology, and has happened numerous times in the past, most notably in the year 1700. Our understanding of the dynamics of this potential earthquake is one of the great detective stories in the science of geology, as the New Yorker article points out. 
USGS Simulation of tsunami pattern from 1700 Cascadia earthquake
It is not some kind of supernatural event that is planned to herald the second coming of Christ. I arrive at this conclusion because it is arrogant for Americans to think that a natural disaster that happens to us and results from well-known geological processes is somehow different from other natural disasters that have happened elsewhere and will continue to happen long into the future. Let look at some examples of earthquakes in the past (source is from the US Geological Survey via Live Science).




Date
Location
Deaths
Magnitude
Comments
January 23, 1556
China, Shansi
830,000
~8
Damage up to 270 miles away
July 27, 1976
China, Tangshan
255,000 (official)
655,000 (estimated)
7.5
Estimated death toll as high as 655,000.
Dec. 26, 2004 Sumatra, Indonesia
227,898
9.1
Deaths from earthquake and tsunami
August 9, 1138
Syria, Aleppo
230,000
n/a
 
Jan. 12, 2010 Haiti
222,570
7.0
1.3 million displaced.
May 22, 1927
China, near Xining
200,000
7.9
Large fractures.
December 22, 856+
Iran, Damghan
200,000
n/a
 
December 16, 1920
China, Gansu
200,000
8.6
Major fractures, landslides.
March 23, 893
Iran, Ardabil
150,000
 
 
September 1, 1923
Japan, Kanto
(Kwanto)
143,000
7.9
Great Tokyo fire.
October 5, 1948
USSR
(Turkmenistan, Ashgabat)
110,000
7.3
 
December 28, 1908
Italy, Messina
70,000 to 100,000
(estimated)
7.2
Deaths from earthquake and tsunami.
September, 1290
China, Chihli
100,000
n/a
 
May 12, 2008 Sichuan, China
87,586
7.9
More than 45.5 million affected
Oct. 8, 2005 Pakistan
85,000
7.6
More than 69,000 injured
November, 1667
Caucasia, Shemakha
80,000
 
 
November 18, 1727
Iran, Tabriz
77,000
n/a
 
November 1, 1755
Portugal, Lisbon
70,000
8.7
Great tsunami.
December 25, 1932
China, Gansu
70,000
7.6
 
May 31, 1970
Peru
66,000
7.9
$530,000,000 damage, great rock slide, floods.
1268
Asia Minor, Silicia
60,000
n/a
 
January 11, 1693
Italy, Sicily
60,000
 
 
May 30, 1935
Pakistan, Quetta
30,000 to 60,000
7.5
Quetta almost completely destroyed.
February 4, 1783
Italy, Calabria
50,000
 
 
June 20, 1990
Iran
50,000
7.7
Landslides.
SOURCE: USGS







The question I have for the hucksters and frauds on the internet and elsewhere: what gives you the right to decide that a particular earthquake is somehow a harbinger of the religious end of the world? People throughout history have found it far too convenient to blame natural disasters on the perceived moral failings of those who were most affected. It's not an old tribal thing either. Pat Robertson tried to blame the Haiti quake on the Haitians themselves. It's truly disgusting.
I suspect I'm mostly preaching to the choir here, to use a religious metaphor, but if you happen to have stumbled onto this site while tracking down biblical prophecies, please consider something as you do your research: If an event has happened many times before, is predicted by science to happen many times again, then it doesn't really fall into the realm of supernatural judgement. It's the Earth doing what it has been doing for a very long time. If the death tolls from natural disasters seem to be rising, it is because more and more people are being forced to live in ever more dangerous and marginal environments.

Just because bad things happen to human beings doesn't mean they are being punished by a capricious god. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis and other disasters are part of living on the Earth, and they happen to the good, the bad, and the ugly alike.
Post a Comment