The force of (human) nature

Before, people prayed to their gods when the heavens opened, the ground trembled or the sky turned orange; now scientists can explain it all

Rachel Haynes
RACHEL HAYNES

It's easy to imagine why over the centuries and millennia people have made sacrifices, acted out rituals, concocted spells and potions and prayed to a superior being.

One minute, the sun is shining and even burning the skin; the next, water is pouring from the sky accompanied by deafening crashes, louder than any noise anyone has ever heard, and daggers of light threaten to pierce the earth.

Where else can they look, if not towards a superhuman power, when a quiet mountain suddenly comes alive, spewing out a river of fire; or when a calm expanse of water turns into an angry liquid monster, devouring fishing boats and attacking the shore?

Who or what can they turn to when the earth starts to shake and even opens up, swallowing their homes?

What force decides at what moment a living creature will just stop breathing and turn cold?

Just the simple cycles of day and night and winter and summer, shivering and sweating, and freezing and melting, can only be explained by an invisible power to be feared and worshipped.

And then the world is taken over by an eerie orange light and mud falls from the sky.

Today, there's no wonder that churches are losing congregations and that the wrath of a police officer or a judge is a bigger deterrent from sinning than that of God.

This week the weather-people were able to predict that towns and cities and even snowy mountains would end up covered in a layer of orange sand, unbelievably carried over the sea from the Sahara desert, and that rain would come in the form of mud.

We know that calling the carrier of the inclement weather by the name of Celia is just a game to brighten up meteorological records, rather than an indication of an invisible female (in this case) force playing with the elements at her whim.

There is a scientific explanation for everything, from thunder and lightning to volcanoes and earthquakes, and the 'calima' that covered much of Spain this week.

Thanks to meteorologists, seismologists and vulcanologists, not to mention physicians, we know what phenomena are affecting the planet, or our health, when unusual symptoms occur.

What scientists cannot do, however, is stop these natural disasters or meteorological events from happening.

So why, when our own planet (with or without divine intervention) can cause such destruction and loss of life, do we human beings still insist on fighting and killing each other in absurd wars?