Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Convention Hurricane?

Media attention today has started speculating about the trajectory of Tropical Depression Isaac - whether and when it might become a hurricane and whether and when it might hit Florida's coast. As of this morning, Isaac was expected to strengthen to a tropical storm by the end of today and possibly be promoted to hurricane by tomorrow.
It hasn't escaped anyone's notice that a certain political party will be holding its quadrennial political convention in (of all places) Tampa. In my opinion, planning an event anywhere near there at the height of hurricane season certainly seems to exhibit questionable judgment - if not outright hubris.  There may, of course, be a certain irony in a convention containing a more than random sample of climate-change skeptics having to cope with a hurricane - in a warming world noted for an increase in the frequency and intensity of such severe storms.
And, of course, some commentators wouldn't be able to resist recalling how many examples there have been in recent years of people blaming certain natural disasters on policies associated with their opponents. As if in response to such silliness, HBO's series The Newsroom's liberal news anchor said a few episods ago: "I'm a registered Republican - I only seem liberal because I believe that hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure and not by gay marriage."
In the Old Testament, the Lord did indeed inflict a pestilence on Israel in punishment for King David's sin of taking a census of his people (2 Samuel 24). In the New Testament, however, after 18 people were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them, Jesus cautioned against making any explicit causal connection between a disaster and divine retribution. Instead, Jesus reminded his hearers that they all stood in need of repentance (Luke 13:4-5). Trying to draw explicit connections between natural disasters and other people's misdeeds can be tempting, but it is also imprudent to say the least and is more likely to discredit an argument than reinforce it. In 17th century England, for example, all sorts of calamities were publicly blamed on the supposed "atheism" of Thomas Hobbes, who, it is said, retorted that if his beliefs were to blame for those calamities it seemed strange that he had not been in any way afflicted personally!
In this case, let's all just hope Isaac does his thing with minimal damage to anyone in Tampa or anywhere else! 

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