(Originally posted by Pat on 1/26/10)
Or, why clever demonstrations do not science make.
really ambivalent about the Boobquake phenomenon. I'm all in favor of
boobs, and I'm tired of people blaming them for earthquakes; I know full
well that sexual politics and plate tectonics are totally unrelated,
and I want people to say so more often (and stop saying the opposite
ever). Even the dramatic public event has its benefits; attracting
attention raises consciousness, and we definitely need that.
But I couldn't help but think the whole time: This is bad science. You're feeding into their flawed epistemology.
"I showed boobs, there was no earthquake" no more constitutes
scientific evidence than does "I prayed for rain, it rained". This
latter is the reasoning of pretty much every religious person ever, once
they realize that "my daddy told me" is not a good reason for believing
In fact, there was an earthquake (in Taiwan,
presumably far from the epicenter of breast exposure), and religious
fundamentalists can now point to it and say, "Ha! See? It does cause
earthquakes!" (As Ewan put it: "God apparently is exceedingly bad at
A real scientific analysis would be to compare
longitudinally factors like "number of 6.0+ earthquakes" and "number of
breasts exposed per day" (Per square kilometer? Per capita? Or is China
just screwed regardless? Wait... that would explain why it hit
Taiwan! It's per square kilometer, not per capita!). You would need to
statistically analyze the data to see if there is any correlation, and
whether that correlation can be accounted for by other mediating
variables (like population density near the Ring of Fire or some such).
In fact, much of this data has already been gathered by the illustrious folks at the United States Geological Survey.
of this would be incredibly complicated and exhausting, all to find the
obvious answer, "No correlation"; but that's what you'd have to do if
you really wanted good science. The Boobquake project does draw
attention to fundamentalist silliness, but it does so in a way that
actually serves to endorse the flawed epistemology of religion.
Hence, I'm ambivalent.