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Are severe earthquakes really increasing in frequency?


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#1 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 07:56 PM

No. That's the simple answer based on the evidence. The argument that severe earthquakes are becoming more frequent, which some Christians interpret as a sign of the impending Second Coming of Christ is simply not supported by reality. The US Geological Survey points this out:

We continue to be asked by many people throughout the world if earthquakes are on the increase. Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant.

A partial explanation may lie in the fact that in the last twenty years, we have definitely had an increase in the number of earthquakes we have been able to locate each year. This is because of the tremendous increase in the number of seismograph stations in the world and the many improvements in global communications. In 1931, there were about 350 stations operating in the world; today, there are more than 8,000 stations and the data now comes in rapidly from these stations by electronic mail, internet and satellite. This increase in the number of stations and the more timely receipt of data has allowed us and other seismological centers to locate earthquakes more rapidly and to locate many small earthquakes which were undetected in earlier years. The NEIC now locates about 20,000 earthquakes each year or approximately 50 per day. Also, because of the improvements in communications and the increased interest in the environment and natural disasters, the public now learns about more earthquakes.

The subject is once more topical due to an unusual cluster of earthquakes around the world. Phil Plait writes:

You need to look at the statistics, and not by coincidence the United States Geological Survey provides them. When you look at the chart, you see that there is 1 quake per year somewhere on Earth that’s magnitude 8 or more. There are 15 between 7.0 and 7.9 every year, or on average about one every three weeks. Mag 6? 134 per year, or 2-3 per week. Mag 5: 1300 per year, or about 4 per day.

Right away, you can see that there are going to be decent-sized earthquakes somewhere on Earth all the time. And while on average you get mag 7 quake every few weeks, in reality the distribution is random. Getting two of them within a few days of each other is not only not surprising, statistically speaking it’s expected!

It’s unusual to get a quake centered in Virginia, but it’s not that odd. They’re rare for sure, but there was a bigger one in 1897. Colorado has had its share, too. Every state in the union has quakes; I remember one in Michigan when I was an undergrad at Ann Arbor. So in and of itself, having an earthquake anywhere in the US is not necessarily suspicious. Again, a chart on that USGS page shows that we should expect 50-70 mag 5 quakes a year in the U.S., so having two even on the same day is not all that unusual


Posted Image
Earthquake average frequency

Plait notes that the reason for this perceived increase in earthquakes is simply a function of pattern-seeking humans living on a geologically active planet:

So what is the deal then?

What the science is telling me is pretty simple: what we have here is simply a restless planet coupled with our all-too-human nature of correlating events if they happen close in time or place. The latter isn’t surprising; it’s an evolutionary advantage to be able to pin an effect to a cause ("Hmmm, that rustle in the trees is probably a tiger. I’d better run."). That ability can be fooled, and get us in trouble as it might in the case of the apparently-clustered earthquakes, but in general it’s better to be able to put the horse before the cart than otherwise.

That's it. Perhaps we can bury this "severe earthquakes are becoming more frequent" meme once and for all. There is an interesting coda however. Plait continues:

And having a restless planet is a consequence of having a habitable one. Earthquakes and other tectonic events are a major threat to humans, but they are the trade-off of having a thin crust floating on a magma ocean. We may owe our existence to that fact; volcanoes built up our continents and helped create our atmosphere, and the liquid inner bits of our planet are what generate our magnetic field that protects us from the solar wind. Mars doesn’t have that, and over a few billion years the Sun eroded away that planet’s atmosphere. Continental drift helped drive evolution (separating species and forcing them to adapt to new environments), and hey, here we are.

Plait is a sceptic, so would not endorse any theistic readings of this data. I need to state this up front. What I would say as a theist (as others have done elsewhere) is that earthquakes and the inevitable suffering they cause are a trade-off of having a habitable planet. It is hardly unreasonable to ask a non-believer who asks why God doesn't stop earthquakes to design a planet without plate tectonics that would support complex life.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#2 Evangelion

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 08:55 PM

Fantastic. This deserves a thread of its own at Facebook Christadelphians.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#3 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 09:36 PM

Fantastic. This deserves a thread of its own at Facebook Christadelphians.

Agreed. I've seen the latest TE thread, and I'm avoiding it. Been there, done that. This will be a far more enjoyable thread in waiting. (If someone else does do before me, I won't mind. Getting it up there is more important than who starts it. :) )
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#4 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 10:09 PM

Facebook thread duly created. One would hope that it will be appreciated on its merits, rather than on its author. ;)
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#5 Evangelion

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 10:38 PM

You'll be seen as grumpy old Gilmore, ruining everybody's fun as usual.

:rotfl:
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#6 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 01:56 AM

You'll be seen as grumpy old Gilmore, ruining everybody's fun as usual.

:rotfl:

Grumpy? Well, that's an improvement over heresiarch. I'll take grumpy any day. :D
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#7 Jon

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 02:06 AM

Useful to debunk that theory - although we'd be better off getting everyone to actually read the Olivet Prophecy in its context. One does sometimes wonder whether the people who tell us that more earthquakes are happening in direct fulfilment of the Olivet Prophecy also believe that the apostles are still alive and are currently planning their escape routes to the mountains.

Edited by Jon, 26 August 2011 - 02:06 AM.


#8 Hudders

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 08:07 AM

Well, the responses so far have been predictable.

#9 Mercia2

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 12:34 PM

No. That's the simple answer based on the evidence. The argument that severe earthquakes are becoming more frequent, which some Christians interpret as a sign of the impending Second Coming of Christ is simply not supported by reality. The US Geological Survey points this out:

I think Christ meant symbolic earthquakes, like the 'arab spring' (political earthquakes), that would make far more sense especially as NT prophecy in the book of Revelation talks about earthquakes but it is an earthquake within "that city"/Christendom. This would also make more sense in relation to the comments about signs in the stars, we know that symbolically this is connected to political/religious earthquakes as the stars falling from high spiritual/political office represents the same.

So I feel pretty sure the signs we are to look out for before Christs kingdom comes is the overthrow of earthly kingdom/Christendom. So any Christian/Christadelphian looking out for an increase in literal earthquakes are really missing the point.
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/20950-holy-spirit-mercia/

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/4997-mark-of-the-beast/page__pid__439951__st__120#entry439951

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/14248-historicists-revelation-has-a-dual-fulfillment/

#10 Hudders

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 06:06 PM

And now the discussion on FB has descended into the usual tone trolling and false accusations. This appears to be a running theme on that group. When the discussion becomes too hard, discussion turns to the nature of the discussion itself, rather than actually addressing the subject. I've seen that happen on about a dozen threads there lately. It's a waste of people's time addressing it and is one of the reasons why I have little desire to get involved.

Edited by Hudders, 27 August 2011 - 06:07 PM.


#11 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 10:48 PM

And now the discussion on FB has descended into the usual tone trolling and false accusations. This appears to be a running theme on that group. When the discussion becomes too hard, discussion turns to the nature of the discussion itself, rather than actually addressing the subject. I've seen that happen on about a dozen threads there lately. It's a waste of people's time addressing it and is one of the reasons why I have little desire to get involved.

None of that is surprising. The usual suspects know they're wrong, so they'll use every rhetorical trick possible to avoid focussing on the subject in question.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#12 Mercia2

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 12:52 AM

And now the discussion on FB

Whats FB?
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/20950-holy-spirit-mercia/

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/4997-mark-of-the-beast/page__pid__439951__st__120#entry439951

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/14248-historicists-revelation-has-a-dual-fulfillment/

#13 Flappie

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 12:53 AM

And now the discussion on FB

Whats FB?

Facebook
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#14 Huldah

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 02:10 AM

This is the thread Kay quoted right? Well you guys sort of walked into that one!
"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4.14

#15 Evangelion

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 02:59 AM

Yes, we're being abused for our honesty. It's all rather ironic.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#16 Mercia2

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 12:54 PM

Yes, we're being abused for our honesty. It's all rather ironic.

To be expected more often than not.
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/20950-holy-spirit-mercia/

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/4997-mark-of-the-beast/page__pid__439951__st__120#entry439951

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/14248-historicists-revelation-has-a-dual-fulfillment/




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