Monday, January 18, 2010
Plate Techtonics, Magical Thinking and Pat Robertson
Yesterday one of my Facebook friends posted an interesting pop-psychology article on Magical Thinking from Psychology Today. It meshed neatly with another article I had recently read on the religion of Haiti and how pentecostalism had grown as a result of multiple natural disasters there and the feeling that God was punishing the people for their "sinfulness." That's an excellent example of Magical Thinking.
The recent 7.0 earthquake in Haiti has brought this to an apparent fever pitch, with hundreds of people parading in the streets singing and praying. It is reminiscent to me of the Dark Ages in Europe when the bubonic plague pandemic hit and people behaved similarly. Rather than a rat-flea bourne bacterial disease, they imagined it was God's punishment for whatever they felt they were doing to displease God. Pat Robertson proclaimed the Haitian earthquake was God's punishment for Haiti's "pact with the Devil" -- a fanciful twist on the slave revolt which successfully overthrew the French occupation in 1803. An imaginary pact with an imaginary personification of evil. Makes perfect sense, huh? Especially since the people in question were practicing Voudoun, an African pagan expression of religion, and "Satan" is a Christian idea not present in any pagan faith.
But the earthquake was not caused by God's wrath against some of the poorest people on the face of the earth, it was caused by plate techtonics.
There was originally just one land mass on the earth -- Pangea -- which split apart and spread around the earth to form the continents. The parts -- plates -- of that original land mass are still moving. Nothing is static on earth or in life. The jarring movement of the edges of these plates against or over each other is what causes earthquakes.
Haiti lies on the northern edge of the Caribbean plate, which is a complex oceanic plate that is denser and acts more like a continental plate. In fact, Haiti -- or Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and Santo Domingo, was created when the edge of the plate was thrust up. The 7.0 earthquake was caused by slippage with the North American plate.
That's not to say God doesn't have plenty of reason to be pissed at us -- can you imagine how God feels about Pat Robertson's tiresome bearing of false witness against his neighbors day in and day out? And he seems so happy to see others suffering! It's a wonder he doesn't get a magnitude 9.8 all to himself. There's some magical thinking I can get behind.
Further reading: http://cr4.globalspec.com/blogentry/11221/Haiti-Earthquakes-and-Plate-Tectonics