November 19, 2007

Perdue's Prayers Fail to Raise Water Levels

It doesn't look like Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's separation clause-shredding demand for divine intervention is having anything like the desired effect on his state's dire water situation:

Lanier flirts with new low

Reduced water releases won’t have an effect for months

As a record-setting drought continues to bake Northeast Georgia, Lake Lanier's water level on Sunday neared its lowest since it began filling up more than 50 years ago.

At 9 p.m. Sunday, the water level was at 1,052.76 feet above sea level, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Web site. The lake is now less than two inches above the previously recorded low of 1,052.66 feet, recorded in December 1981.

With no drought-busting rains in the forecast, the water level is expected to continue dropping. Some rain is expected Wednesday and Thursday, but not enough to end the drought.

"We were expecting (the lake) to reach its low over the weekend, but it looks like it's probably not going to happen until (today) or Tuesday," said Lisa Coghlan, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mobile District...

The National Weather Service predicts a 40 percent chance of rain for the Gainesville area on Wednesday, with evening showers that could amount to a half-inch before midnight. Thursday holds about a 70 percent chance of rain that could deliver about one inch to some areas, National Weather Service forecaster Matt Sena said.

There is an approximate 18-inch rain deficit across North Georgia for the calendar year, Sena said.

"It’s a start," he said. "But we’re way too far behind for one event to make a significant impact. Hopefully we’ll get a little bit of runoff to make it into the lake."
Of course, true-believers can always insist that Jehovah was just waiting a few extra days to make it rain. I suppose one can do that when one starts off by positing a system that works in a sort of cosmic black box, nullifying any possibility of saying anything about the posited mechanisms of the system itself. It all sounds a lot like Intelligent Design Creationism, doesn't it? That shouldn't come as any surprise; IDC also maintains that nothing can be said about the posited designer. That applies as much to meteorological matters as it does to biology. It certainly points out the intimate philosophical connection between IDC and religion, and in this case the most superstitious form of religion there is. How far a leap back in intellectual history is it from supplicating a sky-god for rain to supplicating a sky-god not to strike one's hut with lightning bolts? "Leap" is too large; this isn't even a step.

Nonetheless, the truly superstitious will consistently refuse to consider the possibility that there's no link at all between their wishful thinking and an actual event. As Perdue himself put it,
God can make it rain tomorrow, he can make it rain next week or next month...
So no matter what happens and when it happens, the event will be chalked up to a mythical deity taking action at the request of his cult.

With this manner of thinking, one can claim to have motivated a given deity to have done anything at all at any time at all. This is the thinking engaged in by those professional athletes who point skyward when they score for their team. They may have been up to bat fifty times or had the ball thirty times and failed over and over; that's their own fault. As soon as they score a point, they chalk the event up to whatever it is they're pointing at up there among the clouds. This is the thinking of the lottery winner who has been playing for years but upon winning a hundred dollars tells his friends that his prayer has finally been answered. By that token, one could just as well claim indirect responsibility for ending the Cold War or building a new block of flats ("I prayed for years we'd get some affordable housing around here!") Of course, it is then equally valid for an anti-American Muslim to claim that it was his prayers that caused an earthquake or hurricane to strike the US. One can demonstrate exactly as much of a causal link (exactly none) between the prayers of one person and the prayers of another, so anyone can claim anything and there's no way at all to disprove the assertion.

That's a necessary element for the very definition of superstition, of course... but true-believers will never accept it. The only difference between a religion and a superstition, really, is the identity of the individual hearing the definition. A believer will define the same things as "religious" that a non-believer (even one of a different religion) will call "superstitious." Objectively, there's no difference at all. It's like asking for a definition of "right" and "wrong" without context; it's all in the eye of the beholder as soon as no empirical criteria are established. None of that is surprising; that's all just human nature. What is surprising, though, is that Americans can still not see that at this late date in history and so be taken in by a divine shell-game like that foisted upon them by Perdue, who is using a natural disaster as a vehicle for advancing a sectarian agenda as an agent of government. That's supposed to be unconstitutional, of course, but these days it's only a problem when the religion being advanced isn't in keeping with the one espoused by those who are charged with upholding the Constitution in the first place — a duty which the current Federal administration has abandoned entirely and proudly.

It's funny how a little drizzle can clear the air enough to make visible the way in which democracies sometimes die lingering deaths.

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