Follow Up Cindy Jacobs on God and Birdfalls: Do You See a Pattern?
Fundamentalist Christian media presence Cindy Jacobs has a theory that attempts to explain recent reports of massive bird deaths:
There are actually some patterns you can see where a nation will make a decision that is contrary to the principles of God, and after that there is some kind of answer that God gives, being the God of creation, the God who created nature. But we don’t always understand what He’s saying….
And so, could there be a connection between this passage and now we have the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell where people now legally in the United States have broken restraints with the scripture, because the scripture says in Romans 1 that homosexuality is not allowed. It could be because we have said it’s OK for people to commit these kind of acts to be recognized, you know, in our military for the first time in history, there is a potential that there is something that actually happened in the land where 100,000 drumfish died and also where these birds just fell out of the air.
Jacobs, formerly a scriptwriter for the hit television series Batman, has a particular idea about the mass bird death in Beebe, Arkansas that seized the nation’s attention on January 4, 2011:
Well, there’s something interesting we have been watching. Let’s talk about this Arkansas pattern and say, could it be a pattern? We’re going to watch and see. But the blackbirds fell to the ground in Beebe, Arkansas. Well, the Governor of Arkansas’ name is Beebe and also there was something put out of Arkansas called Don’t Ask Don’t Tell by a former Governor, this was proposed: Bill Clinton.
According to Jacobs’ theory, God will:
* select place names associated with the names of current Governors of states
* where former Governors held office
* before assuming different offices in other places
* and enacting sinful policies years later
in order to send a clear message condemning sin.
Well, that’s a theory. Cindy Jacobs commendably commits herself to a regimen of further empirical observation to see whether this pattern holds: “We don’t always understand what He’s saying…. We’re going to watch and see.”
Fortunately, some retrospective data is already available for us to review. As a number of news sources have pointed out, massive bird dieoff is actually a relatively common phenomenon, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has maintained a dataset recording the geolocation of each of these bird deaths, with a time stamp indicating the date each mass bird death was observed and reported. From this dataset, I’ve been able to generate the map below, in which a red bird is placed on each location of a mass dieoff between June 2010 and January 2011:
As you can see, there has been more than one massive bird death in last half year in the state of Arkansas. The locations of these other die-offs — in or near the Arkansas towns of Malvern, Elaine, Magnolia, and Osceola — are opaque in their meaning. The prefix “Mal” in Malvern clearly refers to evil, but I am unaware of the involvement of anyone evil named Vern in the formulation of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. I am also unaware of the involvement of anyone named Elaine, although I welcome your comments if you have relevant historical information. The relation of Magnolia (a popular southern tree) and Osceola (a native American chief of the 1800s) to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is even more obscure. Looking at the state of Arkansas in isolation, it’s hard to find consistent support for Cindy Jacobs’ theory.
When confronted with data that fail to confirm one theory, a good scientist should look for other patterns. Come, let us consider the matter together. Consulting the above map again, I note that a number of the massive bird deaths in the last half-year were proximate to the Mississippi River. If we expand the range of our map, will that relationship persist?
This expanded geoplot, incorporating the lower Mississippi River and surrounding land, shows that while the relationship is not perfect, there does appear to be a significant cluster of of mass bird deaths along the lower Mississippi, an alarming finding since the Mississippi is a significant receptacle of agricultural runoff. Could these birds be getting poisoned? If “God” is sending any message, could He be sending a message about the sustainability of our agriculture?
Let’s take a look at the Upper Mississippi, and other American river systems, by zooming out further to the entire continental United States:
Support for our ad hoc hypothesis across the entire continental United States is mixed. The upper Mississippi River itself seems bereft of mass bird deaths (although the Ohio river and lower Lake Michigan appear to have some bird deaths along them, indicating a possible source of contamination). Further, river systems like the Snake River and Colorado River in the west and the Hudson and Penobscot Rivers in the East had no reported mass bird deaths along them in the period. Finally, there are areas of mass bird death in the Great Plains region where no significant river systems can be found. It appears that we must tentatively reject the river contaminant hypothesis.
Further analysis of this data is clearly called for. If you see any significant patterns here, please be sure to let me know by sharing your insights in the comments section below. I’ll do my best to pass your thoughts on to Cindy Jacobs so that her research may continue unabated.