Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tilting plates and the Lost Tribes of Israel

I've always had a fascination for geology, so when I saw the website about a collapse of the tectonic plates underneath Java and Pakistan, I had to take a look.  (Here's the site.)

Now, if you go to the link, and you're like most people, you'll probably notice the header and immediately roll your eyes.  Not always being the most observant person in the world, I focused instead on the headline, which shrieks about a twenty-foot drop in the coastline of Java, "confirmed by Google satellite."  Then followed maps, including one purporting to show that the shore was now submerged under twenty feet of water.  Despite this devastation, there was "total silence on the international news" about the event.

At this point, even I began to get suspicious, but I kept reading -- and found that the article said that Pakistan was sinking, too, and that the devastation it experienced from the floods during the summer of 2010 was due to the "western end of the Indo-Australian plate tilting downwards."  This subsidence meant that when the rains came, there was nowhere for the water to go.

Now, I'm no geologist, but I do know enough to recognize that plates don't just "tilt downwards" suddenly.  Both Pakistan and Indonesia are geologically active, yes; but they aren't even on the same plate boundary (Pakistan is at the margin of the Indian and Arabian plates, Indonesia at the margin of the Australian and Eurasian plates).  What happens at one boundary isn't going to have much of an effect at the other.

So, at this point, the needle on my bullshittometer was pegged.  But it turns out that there was more to come  Here's the conclusion of the article:
It’s time to stay prepared.  The G-d of Israel is now rearranging Planet Earth.  The continent that once was the home of Adam and Eve in the Gans Eden, will soon be restored. That Paradise was created and then lost by disobedience and defiance against the sovereign will of G-d.  Yet, a “Plan” was made for redemption and restoration of Gans Eden again. As the prophets of Israel have collectively revealed, complete redemption and restoration will only come through apocalyptic catastrophes. The “Appointed Time” appears to now have arrived.  The Lost Tribes of the House of Israel will soon be restored.  The rest of the House of Judah will be reunited not only with their own Orthodox brothers in Israel but also with their cousins, the Lost Ten Tribes of the House of Israel.  All will be reunited in the Messiah.
(The writer seems to be unusually fond of "Bold," doesn't he?)

What I find curious here is how long it took for me to recognize that something was amiss.  (And that's excusing my missing the header on the website - if you didn't check out the link, it says, "Destination Yisra'el: A Blog for the Lost Ten Tribers Awakening to Their New Reality.")  And even once I began to realize that the author was making some fairly wild claims, I kept looking for a way to buy the central premise -- that there was some kind of odd tectonic shift happening in Asia.  It was only when I got to the part about reestablishing the Garden of Eden that I went, "Oh.  It's just another woo-woo wingnut.  I see."  (And if you want a more thorough debunking of the above site, including where the satellite images came from, go here for a fine illustration of the fact that even woo-woos sometimes police their own.)

One of my faults, I suppose, is that I want to believe people.  I don't like starting from the assumption that a lot of folks are (1) liars, (2) morons, (3) dupes, or (4) all three.  That's the road to cynicism, and I hope I never cross the line from skeptic to cynic, because that's a pretty dry, dusty world to live in.  But what it does mean is that I always tend to give people a shot at making sense, unless the first shot goes right through their own feet (as was the case with yesterday's Nouveau Apocalyptic, Ronald Weinland). 

Hope springs eternal, I guess, even in the heart of a snarky rationalist like myself.  And if that hope is sometimes doomed to be dashed, I suppose that's just the way of things.  I do believe that almost everyone is capable of thinking logically and critically -- and although this blog is largely devoted to people who don't, it won't stop me looking for, and celebrating, the ones who do.

Just call me the Diogenes of skepticism.

1 comment:

  1. Step right up folks! Feast your eyes!

    You sir! Interested in the strange wonders of the natural world? Step inside my tent and I'll show you... *whiz* *bang* *smoke* *mirrors* *jazz-hands* Congratulations sir! You're officially Religious! That'll be 20 dollars please.

    Hard to stay out of the cynical realm when snake-oil is the soup du jour.

    My optimistic outlook is: I don't think the people writing this babble actually believe it either. It's a vessel for their own ego. Throw darts at a board enough and when you hit a bull's eye you can take the credit (and more importantly the notoriety) for the discovery.
    ...and if you're never correct about any of your prophecies, but gain a following in the process... same difference.