woody_zimmerman_118_2007Really, how much damage can one guy do? No, I’m not talking about Barack Obama here. I’m talking about George W. Bush. I read that the Greens are blaming him for the disastrous earthquake and resultant tsunami that hit Japan last week.

I am scrupulous about not fibbing to my readers in this column-space, so I hasten to admit that I made up the preceding statement. Save for a few tongue-in-cheek quips in various internet blogs, I have not read of any specific blame being laid on former President Bush for the Japanese geological catastrophe. But it is still early days. A caller to a British radio talk-show claimed that the earthquake was caused by drilling for oil in the earth’s crust. In his view, the earth had shaken itself in protest – like some gigantic beast whose hide had been pricked. It would be an easy leap from this concept to blaming Mr. Bush, or any leader of the nation that uses more oil than any others.

As I see it, this theory does a lot to clarify Mr. Obama’s energy policies. Pundits, industry spokesmen and political analysts have asked why his administration has adopted such a hard-line policy on oil-drilling, even as the price of oil is rising again. Much offshore drilling has been shut down by the Obama government – in some cases in clear defiance of court rulings that have ordered drilling permits to be issued. Furious public opinion – driven by gas prices now approaching $4.00 a gallon – has not budged the president. His eye seems fixed on a higher goal.

I said “clarify” because the “annoyed earth” theory shows us what that higher goal is. Stopping new drilling for oil can now be seen as a “preventive” policy. Mr. Obama is wisely trying to avoid annoying the earth further, thus forestalling a disaster of the kind Japan has endured. It all makes perfect sense. Why take a chance? Maybe that British caller was right. Certainly it is prudent to stop all digging in the earth’s “skin.” One imagines that coal-mining will be next on the chopping block – then perhaps mining for iron or other valuable metals. You really cannot be too careful in these things. I see it clearly now.

On other fronts, the Global Warming crowd – deeply despondent since their scam crashed on the East Anglia University e-mail disclosures – have made the old college try (so to speak) to link Japan’s earthquake/tsunami to global warming. Although there is no factual linkage of any tectonic plate-activity to global warming, Bill McGuire of the University College London’s Hazard Research Center tried to make the connection in 2009 when he said:

When the [polar] ice is lost, the earth’s crust bounces back up again and that triggers earthquakes, which trigger submarine landslides, which cause tsunamis…”

The Japan earthquake was nowhere near polar ice, of course, but perhaps Mr. McGuire was referring to the last ice-age, which ended approximately 15,000 years ago. (I earnestly hope he isn’t a real scientist.) I wouldn’t want to be branded a “denier,” so I’ll take his word for it on the polar ice, the warming and the earthquakes. Others in the warming camp have been more circumspect in their statements, admitting that there is “…no definitive link between climate change and more earthquakes.” But a small coterie clings to the notion that there simply must be a linkage. The possibility is just too precious to discard.

Unfortunately, a 2010 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that the number of magnitude 7.5 quakes per decade has been constant since 1901. This means that: (A) warming is having no observable effect on earthquake-frequency; or (B) warming isn’t really happening. Nevertheless, warming aficionados – now nearing full-desperation, red-line mode over their cooling influence in the halls of power – are moving toward what some call “global weirding” theory, by which nearly any climatic event can be cited as proof of man’s impact on the planet. These are “deep waters.”

Jimmy Durante used to say, “Everybody wants to get into the act!” That is manifestly so for the Japan disaster. Eager to share the spotlight, theologians – both real and imagined – have rushed into the arena to pronounce the influence of either divine or diabolical powers on the situation. One camp insists that the event displays the power of the Devil over earthly events, since the Bible does call him the Prince of the Power of the Air. An event this terrible must certainly be his work.

Another – call it the God-centric Camp – insists that God is sovereign, and that nothing on earth or in the universe happens outside His control and approval. (For the theologically unhip, this is a.k.a. Reformed Theology.) But this explanation produces a small problem for the man on the street: namely, if God is so good, why does He cause terrible things to happen to innocent people? (I’ll tell you why… I don’t know.)

Aha! But this difficulty can be explained. We’ll call it the Guilty as Sin explanation, which says: yes, God did cause the terrible earthquake and the devastating tsunami. It was all under His control, and He did it to punish the Japanese people for their sins. His secondary purpose was to cause amazement and repentance among the nations. Indeed, these are concepts drawn directly from the Old Testament scriptures. Real theologians will tell you, though, that it’s a mistake to take Biblical things out of context or to generalize them to different situations.

Exactly what the great “sins” of the Japanese people were remains an open question. I heard someone on the radio today suggest that the great quake was punishment for their aggression in the 1930s and ‘40s, including the attack on Pearl Harbor. Others say it was to punish their “environmental sins,” including their manufacture of millions of cars which pollute the planet and cause global warming. Still others cite unspecified “social” sins. I won’t attempt to pronounce on these theological theories, except to say that if pollution and social sins are involved, America is obviously in deep doo-doo. Muslim countries have their own Holy Book, of course, so standards might be different for them.

My readers know that I am a man of Faith. I believe in God and the Christian Gospel, and I wouldn’t dream of mocking either. On the other hand, I hope I haven’t lost my sense of proportion on matters far beyond the ken of us puny mortals. Difficult as it is for us to believe, the earth and the universe are not human-centered. The Bible is not a science book, but it teaches that God set the stars and planets in place with His mighty hand. The universe is vast beyond our imagining. Even the earth is of stupendous size. We cannot comprehend it. Indeed, this is our entire problem in the global warming debate.

In the scientific fields where I worked, it was often said, “For every complicated problem there exists a solution that is simple, elegant and entirely wrong.” This goes for explanations of what has caused stupendous earth-events. Was it George W and his policies? Was it Global Warming? (Doubtful.) Did the Devil do it? Did God? Was it a punishment? I don’t know. There is no certainty to be found here. We know the Devil is notoriously capricious and untrustworthy. If it was a punishment from God, then He is awfully inconsistent about which nations He hits. Was it the earth-animal shrugging? (Give me a break.)

I do believe the universe is like a gigantic watch that God created and set in motion. It operates as designed. Can He intervene in its operation? Yes, certainly. Does He? Sometimes, maybe. Do we know when he does? Doubtful – very hard to tell.

Until we work it out, let’s try not to pass any far-reaching laws on the basis of silly theories or lame theology. And let’s help the Japanese people clean up their place. It’s a real mess.