Saturday, April 24, 2010

Head of Iran's Guardian Council supports Sedighi's earthquake hypothesis

When I first conceived my boobquake experiment, I thought I was testing the claims of a single man who had failed to think scientifically. But now someone higher up in the Iranian government is supporting Sedighi's hypothesis - Ahmad Jannati, "longtime head of the ultra-conservative Guardian Council, which vets all laws and political candidates for office." The LA Times reports:

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati might have thought he was clarifying remarks by his colleague, the cleric Kazem Sedighi, who suggested in a Friday prayer sermon a week ago that women who dress immodestly cause earthquakes by angering God.

Instead Jannati, who delivered the nation's keynote sermon in the Iranian capital this Friday, reiterated the claim that human behavior causes -- and can also prevent -- earthquakes.

He told worshipers on Friday that while science cannot yet predict earthquakes, they can be spiritually prevented by repentance and prayer.

"We can avoid earthquakes if the faithful and devoted people pray to God," Jannati said during the Friday sermon.

Ah, good thing I wasn't grossly misinterpreting anything! Though for the sake of science, I hope people who believe this keep their repentance and prayers at normal levels on Monday. I don't want any confounding variables ruining my study. And they shouldn't either - wouldn't they like to know if they're right about women's immodesty causing earthquakes?

On a more serious note, I love how since earthquakes are unpredictable, we must therefore conclude that they're controlled by God. We understand how they occur, but it's difficult to predict a location. Why? Because so many variables are constantly interacting with each other, and that sheer amount of complexity is incredibly difficult to model. Maybe one day we'll have even more scientific knowledge and computing power to do so. But just because something is complex doesn't mean we throw in the towel and yell "God did it!"

Of course, maybe God is making the earth rumble because he hates immodestly dressed women. That's what makes Sedighi's claim so wonderful - it actually is scientifically verifiable. And when someone makes ludicrous claims that can be tested, we should do so. Monday night I'll do some statistics, and then we will have a better idea. Though it seems even Jannati has his doubts:

While Jannati called for prayer as a way of preventing earthquakes, he didn't rule out using less celestial methods. "Officials precautionary moves to make homes quake-proof are appreciated," he said.

Does he doubt the power of modesty to prevent earthquakes? Or does he doubt that women can easily be forced against their will to dress modestly?

Obligatory disclaimer: I in no way think that all Muslims or Iranians or theists agree with these two men. For all the rational thinkers out there who happen to fall into those groups, my mockery is not directed toward you.

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