Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Italy's Big Earthquake, Divination, and the Five-Day Forecast

I don't think there's going to be a major earthquake in Italy today.

But that's not because I think the Pope has a special lucky magic rabbit's foot at the Vatican. I'll get back to that.

It's 10:08 p.m. in Rome as I'm posting this - so there isn't much of May 11, 2011 left there. Here in Minnesota, it's 3:08 p.m. Central, and the International Dateline is well to the west of here - so there's still quite a few hours left of 'today,' somewhere on Earth.

I still don't think Rome will be shaken and the city destroyed by a great, big earthquake. Not today.

Even though Raffaele Bendandi made predictions. He predicted stuff, and died in 1979. He didn't, apparently, predict the big May 11, 2011, Italian earthquake - but lots of folks saw his name and a prediction on the Internet - and that's almost another topic.

Rumor + Internet + People = Silliness

Italy's 'big one' is a sort of filler item in the news:
"According to a rumor that has circulated on the Internet for months, Raffaele Bendandi, an Italian pseudoscientist who died in 1979, predicted before his death that a massive earthquake will strike Rome on Wednesday, May 11.

"...Romans are taking heed and fleeing their city by the thousands...."
(LiveScience, via

"In Italy, Asia and New Zealand, long-range earthquake predictions from self-taught forecasters have recently had people on edge. But is it possible to pinpoint when a quake will strike?

"It's a quake prediction based on the movements of the moon, the sun and the planets, and made by a self-taught scientist who died in 1979.

"But on 11 May 2011, many people planned to stay away from Rome, fearing a quake forecast by the late Raffaele Bendandi - even though his writings contained no geographical location, nor a day or month.

"In New Zealand too, the quake predictions of a former magician who specialises in fishing weather forecasts have caused unease...."
(BBC News [emphasis mine])

"...'To predict an earthquake, you need a precursory signal of some kind, and we've yet to find anything reliable,' said Tom Parsons, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). 'A lot of things have been tried in terms of looking for electrical signals or gas release, and paying attention to animal behavior, but none of these have turned out to be reliable.'..."
I don't blame folks in the English-speaking world for buying the notion that planetary alignments will cascade a cold fusion of metabolic proportions. Which is nonsense - but might sound cool.

Science education hasn't been a particularly high priority. Real science, not the 'everything causes cancer' stuff. And that's almost another topic, too.

Then there's that 2012 thing, and I've discussed that in another blog:I suspect that part of the problem is that thinking isn't always easy: while remembering slogans and developing emotional responses often 'just happens.'

Playing the Odds

About today's big Italian earthquake? It's not that I'm sure it won't happen. My lack of concern comes from knowing that the odds are very much against a major earthquake happening there, on this one particular day.

Still, low-probability events do happen now and then. Like the earthquake in Alexandria, Minnesota, last month:For what it's worth, my oldest daughter's cat was unusually jumpy after that quake - but that was after the fact.

Aren't Catholics Superstitious Simpletons?

If I thought that a lucky magic rabbit's foot was keeping the Vatican safe: I'd be superstitious. I'm not. I'm not allowed to be: I'm a Catholic.

I don't know this, but my guess is that some of the 1,000,000,000 or so Catholics alive today are at least a bit superstitious. Rules or no rules.

Some Catholics probably aren't all that well-educated. And the intelligence of quite a few is - almost certainly - under the 50th percentile. In a population that large, that doesn't have academic requirements for membership - and I'm not going to start discussing statistics.

The Catholic Church has quite a few words to say about divination and magic. I think a reasonable paraphrase is: don't. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, (2115-2117)

As to why divination, attempts to "unveil" the future, aren't a good idea, I think the Catechism has a pretty good explanation:
"All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone."
(Catechism, 2116)
Being superstitious is on the 'don't' list, too. (Catechism, 2110-2111)

What about Weather Forecasting?

If someone tried foretelling the weather for the next five days, based on sacrificing a goat to Baal: I'd want nothing to do with the results. Even if - particularly if - the forecast was spot-on accurate.

On the other hand, I have no trouble at all with going to, and learning that there's a 40% chance of precipitation tomorrow. I even stayed up late, last night, keeping an eye on a tornado watch for this part of Minnesota. Nothing happened here, by the way: but some folks east and south of us got heavy rain, hail, and - of course - lightning.

Does this make me a hypocrite?

No. Rejecting divination and palm-reading, while keeping track of weather forecasts, makes me a practicing Catholic who lives in the Information Age.

Weather forecasting is a practical application of meteorology: which is a science, and has been for some time. As for whether or not it's okay to study meteorology? A professor of geophysics (another science) at the Pontifical Academy of Science, Raymond Hide, has done scientific research in meteorology, as well as geomagnetism, geodesy, oceanography, planetary physics, fluid mechanics and nonlinear dynamics.

Yes, I think it's okay to check on weather forecasts: just as I think it's okay to keep the roof repaired, and wait for a green light before crossing an intersection.

As for the Italian quake? My take on that is that it's another silly rumor: which gave me something to write about today.

Related posts:
News and views:

No comments:

Like it? Pin it, Plus it, - - -

Pinterest: My Stuff, and More


Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store

Popular Posts

Label Cloud

1277 abortion ADD ADHD-Inattentive Adoration Chapel Advent Afghanistan Africa America Amoris Laetitia angels animals annulment Annunciation anti-catholicism Antichrist apocalyptic ideas apparitions archaeology architecture Arianism art Asperger syndrome assumptions asteroid astronomy Australia authority balance and moderation baptism being Catholic beliefs bias Bible Bible and Catechism bioethics biology blogs brain Brazil business Canada capital punishment Caritas in Veritate Catechism Catholic Church Catholic counter-culture Catholicism change happens charisms charity Chile China Christianity Christmas citizenship climate change climatology cloning comets common good common sense Communion community compassion confirmation conscience conversion Corpus Christi cosmology creation credibility crime crucifix Crucifixion Cuba culture dance dark night of the soul death depression designer babies despair detachment devotion discipline disease diversity divination Divine Mercy divorce Docetism domestic church dualism duty Easter economics education elections emotions England entertainment environmental issues Epiphany Establishment Clause ethics ethnicity Eucharist eugenics Europe evangelizing evolution exobiology exoplanets exorcism extremophiles faith faith and works family Father's Day Faust Faustus fear of the Lord fiction Final Judgment First Amendment forgiveness Fortnight For Freedom free will freedom fun genetics genocide geoengineering geology getting a grip global Gnosticism God God's will good judgment government gratitude great commission guest post guilt Haiti Halloween happiness hate health Heaven Hell HHS hierarchy history holidays Holy Family Holy See Holy Spirit holy water home schooling hope humility humor hypocrisy idolatry image of God images Immaculate Conception immigrants in the news Incarnation Independence Day India information technology Internet Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Japan Jesus John Paul II joy just war justice Kansas Kenya Knights of Columbus knowledge Korea language Last Judgment last things law learning Lent Lenten Chaplet life issues love magi magic Magisterium Manichaeism marriage martyrs Mary Mass materialism media medicine meditation Memorial Day mercy meteor meteorology Mexico Minnesota miracles Missouri moderation modesty Monophysitism Mother Teresa of Calcutta Mother's Day movies music Muslims myth natural law neighbor Nestorianism New Year's Eve New Zealand news Nietzsche obedience Oceania organization original sin paleontology parish Parousia penance penitence Pentecost Philippines physical disability physics pilgrimage politics Pope Pope in Germany 2011 population growth positive law poverty prayer predestination presumption pride priests prophets prostitution Providence Purgatory purpose quantum entanglement quotes reason redemption reflections relics religion religious freedom repentance Resurrection robots Roman Missal Third Edition rosaries rules sacramentals Sacraments Saints salvation schools science secondary causes SETI sex shrines sin slavery social justice solar planets soul South Sudan space aliens space exploration Spain spirituality stem cell research stereotypes stewardship stories storm Sudan suicide Sunday obligation superstition symbols technology temptation terraforming the establishment the human condition tolerance Tradition traffic Transfiguration Transubstantiation travel Trinity trust truth uncertainty United Kingdom universal destination of goods vacation Vatican Vatican II veneration vengeance Veterans Day videos virtue vlog vocations voting war warp drive theory wealth weather wisdom within reason work worship writing

Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.