About tsunamis, hurricanes and similar disasters
Why do tragedies happen?
Answers that do not involve God
Why do tragedies happen?
It seems natural for humans to seek reasons at the time of personal,
family, regional and international tragedies. Some examples:
||Miscarriage: A couple in Alabama becomes pregnant and excitedly looks forward to the birth
of their first child, only to suffer a miscarriage. They ask why?
||Child death: A child in California runs out onto the street after a ball, is hit by a truck
and killed. The parents and the rest of neighborhood ask why?
||Deaths from tainted water: Hundreds of people face death in Walkerton, Ontario, Canada due to a
municipal water supply tainted mainly by E. Coli O157:H7 and Campylobacter
jejuni bacteria. Seven eventually die. Millions ask why?
||The South Asian tsunami in 2004-DEC: An earthquake in Indonesia generates a tsunami -- commonly called a
tidal wave, although they are unrelated to the tides. As of 2005-MAR, as many as
280,000 persons are believed to have died in Indonesia, India,
Sri Lanka and other countries as far away as Somalia and South Africa. A sizeable percentage of the victims are children. The world asks why?
||Hurricane Katrina in 2005-AUG: A category 4 hurricane devastates New
Orleans, and surrounding area. A quarter million people become internal refugees
in Texas alone -- many without money, assets, job, or home. North America asks why?
A logical approach to explaining why disasters happen:
The logical approach, often promoted by secularists, non-theists and religious liberals attributes the cause of tragedies to chance and natural forces.
Intervention by God, fate, or karma are not included in the equation.
Bad things just happen. If God exists, he/she/it/they neither initiates nor prevents tragedies. Nor is there such thing as fate or karma involved. The universe is neither opposed to,
nor supportive of, nor even aware of our existence. Only chance and physical processes are the direct cause of disasters:
What we can do to prevent such tragedies:
We can have systems in place to reduce the frequency or
seriousness of personal, regional, national and international disasters. In the
five cases described above:
||A study showed that one dollar spent on pre-natal care will save the
health care system seven dollars overall. However, "prevention" is a four-letter
word in some areas of the medical and government communities.
||More speed zones can be installed around children's playgrounds and
||Voters can choose to reject political parties that are willing to risk
the public's safety for the sake of political ideology.
||We can install systems to link earthquake monitoring centers to war
rooms or other permanently staffed government offices worldwide. Few such
systems apparently exist at this time in much of the world. News reports
indicate that most or all of the countries seem to have been caught by
surprise when the South Asian surge hit.
||The United Nations developed a system for the Indian Ocean to monitor
earthquakes and possible tsunamis. Eventually, such systems will be installed
world wide. Over time, systems will be in place to notify governments who will
then be able to alert their public to the danger of a tsunami.
Inadequacy of the scientific answer:
People with no concept of deity or other supernatural forces may be satisfied
with a logical approach. They would include many religious skeptics, Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists and other non-theists. However, many do not
find these answers adequate. They look for other causes and deeper
meanings. They still ask why such disasters happen.
"Walkerton report highlights," CBC News, 2002-JAN, at: http://www.cbc.ca/
"Alternative Arguments," BBC: The Open University, at: http://www.open2.net/
William J. Broad, "Deadly and Yet Necessary, Quakes Renew the
Planet," New York Times, 2005-JAN-11, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
Copyright © 2005 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2005-JAN-01
Latest update: 2014-MAR-14
Author: B.A. Robinson
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