Brian Edwards Media

Musings on the Ken Ring debate. (Warning – Some real heavy stuff!)

 

Photo: Annette Read, Weatherwatch.co.nz

I’ve been musing on the Ken Ring debate and come up with the following observations:

+ The evidence that the moon has some contributory influence on earthquakes seems slight.

– However, it is not impossible that it does.

+ Ken Ring may be a charlatan.

– However, it is possible that he genuinely believes the things he says and is simply misguided.

+ Ring’s  warnings about a major earthquake occurring in Canterbury on March 20 amounted to irresponsible scaremongering.

– On the other hand, if he did genuinely believe there would be a major earthquake on March 20, those warnings could be considered highly responsible.

+ No-one in Canterbury was killed or injured by an earthquake on March 20. Nor was there any significant damage to buildings or infrastructure. Ring’s prediction was wrong.

– However, a 5.1 earthquake, the largest since the devastating 6.3 tremor of February 22, did occur on March 20. So Ring’s prediction was right.

+ At noon on  March 20 members of the Skeptics Society, accompanied by Nick Smith, the Minister responsible for ACC, had lunch at the Sign of the Kiwi, one of Christchurch’s highest and oldest stone buildings in the Port Hills. This was to show their contempt for Ring’s prediction and their confidence that he was wrong. Their good sense is to be congratulated.

– Alternatively, since the Society’s spokesperson, Vicki Hyde, had said she wouldn’t be surprised if a shake happened during the lunch, their actions  might be seen as foolhardy and stupid. Unless, of course, the location wasn’t particularly hazardous, in which case the demonstration would lack credibility. As a correspondent to the Dominion Post noted, ‘If the Skeptics really wanted to make a point, they could try the roof of the Grand Chancellor Hotel.’

+ Since no-one in Canterbury was killed or injured by an earthquake on March 20 and there was no significant damage to buildings or infrastructure, the Skeptics were right.

–  However, since a 5.1 earthquake, the largest since the devastating 6.3 tremor of February 22, did occur on March 20, the Skeptics were wrong.  

So there you have it – much can be said on both sides. But I should perhaps add that I’m not a great fan of the Skeptics. They seem such a dour lot, the sort of  people who would insist on telling small children there’s no Santa Claus. I don’t doubt there’s merit in debunking myths and exposing shysters, but professional scepticism seems to me an arid pursuit – always denying, never affirming.  Which may be why you rarely see a Skeptic smiling on television.

History’s most famous sceptic was of course Doubting Thomas who refused to believe in the resurrection of Christ until he had touched Jesus’ wounds. When, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus later appeared before Thomas and invited him to touch his wounds, the doubter  was finally convinced.  And Jesus had a message for the sceptics/Skeptics: ‘Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.’

I’m a non-believer myself of course, but I don’t want to make it my profession or even my principal interest in life. For many years I’ve been an Honorary Associate of the New Zealand Rationalists  and Humanists Association. They really should strike me off their list. I’ve only ever been to one meeting and that was when I was the guest speaker. I’d been invited along because of my reasonably well-known atheism, but rather offended my hosts by telling them I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be in an organisation whose raison d’être was something that none of them believed in. They later voted unanimously in favour of a motion ‘that Santa Claus did exist’, which at least showed they had a sense of humour.

The original sceptics were followers of the Greek philosopher Pyrrho and believed that it was impossible to know anything with absolute certainly, including the existence of matter. I’m more or less with those sceptics, which is why I lose patience with my fellow atheists who insist that they ‘know’ there is no god. They don’t.

The Solipsists were an interesting lot. They believed that only the self existed and that external reality was a creation of the mind. They nonetheless formed a movement whose meetings  must have been quite strange since everyone present believed they were the only person there and all the others were figments of their imagination.  Still, it gave them someone to talk to. Most solipsists these days become members of parliament.

A commonsensical view of all of this was taken by Dr Samuel Johnson, as Boswell reports:

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it — “I refute it thus.”

Johnson’s reply was actually as illogical as Descartes’ famous ‘cogito ergo sum’ – ‘I think therefore I am’. But it is a good example of the dangers of relying on ‘common sense’ which presupposes some sort of absolute truth. As the Ring debate (cycle?) seems to suggest, the one thing you can be absolutely sure of with most contentious issues is that much can, and will be said on both sides.

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84 Comments:

  1. It’s even simpler than that… as my mum taught me…everybody is entitled to an opinion…even a fool…doesn’t mean you have to agree with them.

  2. Arguments with oneself are necessarily inconclusive, aren’t they?
    To me the real issue here was one of editorial responsibility and the need to prevent unnecessary public panic. There was a danger here, as Vicki Hyde said, of shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre and, in the face of emphatic views from the scientific establishment, the news media should have proceeded with greater caution than many exhibited.

    BE: I certainly never won an argument with myself. The rest sounds like censorship ‘in the public interest’. Not entirely happy with that. And, like so many analogies, this one doesn’t work, simply because the two things are not analogous. A stampede from a crowded theatre will almost certainly lead to injury and possibly the death of some patrons. Leaving Christchurch for a couple of days won’t. And didn’t for several thousand people. Ring’s prediction may have caused unnecessary anxiety. Hyde’s comment had its own element of hysteria.

  3. Ken Ring was wrong. He predicted a 8 magnitude earthquake for the 20th, not a 5.1. How can anyone accept the credibility of a man whose last vocation was reading horoscopes from the paws of pet cats and dogs. .

  4. Brian, you are a sucker for punishment aren’t you?

    I would’ve liked to have seen the Skeptics and their new mascot Nick Smith, turn up at the various church services around ChCh with similar smug looks on their faces. But then again, I guess God isn’t as dangerous as Ken Ring.

  5. We’ve had several days of bullshit in Christchurch really, starting with the Royalty and Religion Show, and then Ken. I look forward to his next predictions so we can assess his track record. Anyone who predicts aftershocks at the moment is going to have a few hits and misses, so we need evidence of consistency.

  6. Ken Ring was wrong. He predicted a 8 magnitude earthquake for the 20th, not a 5.1.

    Yes, “one for the history books”. And in the morning not the evening. And in North Canterbury, not Central Canterbury. But what did happen seems to have been just enough for his followers to cling to, sadly.

  7. I thought his premonition was + or – a week .If only rednecks necks were actually red .

  8. You know who “predicted” the 5.1 earthquake? GNS. Look it up. Using their mysterious powers of science they produced an aftershock forecast which stated that there was likely to be 1 earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater for the week of 15-21 march.

    BE: ‘One earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater for the week 15-21 March’/an earthquake of magnitude 8 a day either side of March 20. Am I wrong in suggesting that these two positions are not incompatible? And was it irresponsible of GNS to make such a prediction, given the level of anxiety in Christchurch? Just asking.

  9. I find it amusing and ironic that many of the Ken Ring sceptics unquestioningly believe in God

  10. Brian, rather than arguing with yourself, why not refer to the wealth of information available?

    + The evidence that the moon has some contributory influence on earthquakes seems slight.

    – However, it is not impossible that it does.

    It probably does have an influence, just a very, very small one of no predictive value.

    - However, a 5.1 earthquake, the largest since the devastating 6.3 tremor of February 22, did occur on March 20. So Ring’s prediction was right.

    Sigh … that’s not even right. The largest aftershock since the 6.3 — which was technically an aftershock itself — was a 5.7 the same day. Ken Ring didn’t predict that.

    Indeed, as has amply been demonstrated through repeated analyses of his vague “predictions”, he can’t predict anything. I don’t really understand why you’d carry on as if his ideas had not already dissolved in the face of even fairly basic scrutiny.

    So there you have it – much can be said on both sides. But I should perhaps add that I’m not a great fan of the Skeptics. They seem such a dour lot, the sort of people who would insist on telling small children there’s no Santa Claus. I don’t doubt there’s merit in debunking myths and exposing shysters, but professional scepticism seems to me an arid pursuit – always denying, never affirming. Which may be why you rarely see a Skeptic smiling on television.

    Clearly, you don’t watch Media7 every week! I’m pretty sure Vicki Hyde smiled when she came on our show. She has a rather good sense of humour, I’ve found.

    And in what sense was responding to a scaremongering prediction by ordaining a slap-up lunch not a fun response? These people even have regular “Skeptics in the Pub” events. It doesn’t sound that dour, really.

    I’ve had my differences with the Skeptics — but only ever when they’ve abandoned science. The hijacking of the organisation to peddle climate “scepticism” by a handful of individuals, the platform afford Linda Bryder, even the slightly mad attempts by a few of them to deny (or, rather, depict as a form of hysteria) repetitive strain injury. So they’re not perfect. But here? There’s any amount of evidence that they’re quite right. I’m puzzled as to why you’re so intent on ignoring the evidence.

    BE: It’s the ‘Sigh!’ that worries me, Russell. It appears in so many of your comments. It conveys a weariness with the stupidity of your fellow man and woman and it does you no credit. I don’t like to be ‘sighed at’.

    And then there’s the heavy didacticism of this reply, the unshakeable certainty of your own position and your failure to read the tone as well as the text of what is written. I set out in this piece to suggest that more than one interpretation of Ring’s actions was possible and to include some semi-serious comments about various forms of scepticism. You respond like a teacher marking an essay. Sigh!

  11. And didn’t for several thousand people. Ring’s prediction may have caused unnecessary anxiety.

    It quite clearly did. It caused unnecessary alarm for thousands of people who really don’t need to be alarmed any more.

    Hyde’s comment had its own element of hysteria

    Eh? She said she wouldn’t be surprised if there was a quake because Christchurch had been getting shakes almost every day. Can you explain to me what was “hysterical” about that?

    BE: I assume it’s the ‘may have’ you’re referring to, Russell. I should perhaps have written ‘may well have’ indicating acceptance that it did, which is my actual position. I really must write more simply. The ‘element of hysteria’ in Hyde’s comment refers to the analogy between Ring’s prediction and shouting fire in a crowded theatre.

  12. But I should perhaps add that I’m not a great fan of the Skeptics. They seem such a dour lot, the sort of people who would insist on telling small children there’s no Santa Claus. I don’t doubt there’s merit in debunking myths and exposing shysters, but professional scepticism seems to me an arid pursuit – always denying, never affirming. Which may be why you rarely see a Skeptic smiling on television.

    I really fail to see how anyone could listen to or read most skeptics and come to this conclusion. Skepticism isn’t about ‘never affirming’ it’s about only affirming when the evidence let us.

    The world that approach to life to reveals is so much more interesting, exciting and unexpected than a woo-filled world that most skeptics, at least in my experience, are pretty happy people (prone even to getting a little starry eyed when they talk about life, the universe and everything).

    Carl Sagan making a similar point

    (I’ve never met Vicky Hyde, and a disagree with her from time to time, but I’ve never thought of her as dour!)

  13. Ken Ring was wrong. He predicted a 8 magnitude earthquake for the 20th, not a 5.1. How can anyone accept the credibility of a man whose last vocation was reading horoscopes from the paws of pet cats and dogs.

    A credible source for all that would be nice.

  14. I’ve just come back from a weekend in Christchurch and, yes, I was shaken by the aftershock, just as I was on Labour Weekend last year, and on Boxing Day. I went to say goodbye to my family home, in Bexley, which was, to use the appropriate word, totally munted by the Feb 22 quake.

    My mother greeted me at the airport with tears, understandably. An old family friend, on the day we were transplanting plants from my parents’ garden – 48 years in the making – to my sister’s new garden, greeted my mother with “You know there’s more to come.”

    People in Christchurch are frazzled, really frazzled. Their homes have been destroyed. They have been to funerals they never thought they’d go to.

    They need calm, rational explanation of aftershock sequences, not hysterical beatups that raise their already high anxiety levels and make life even more tense.

    My sister should not have to be explaining to her 14yo son that, no Ken Ring wasn’t right, that what happened yesterday evening was an entirely predictable aftershock, it didn’t cause mayhem and it wasn’t a disaster. She already has her hands full coping with the effects of the quake on her business, accommodating her parents in her home and everything else, without having to deal with unnecessary anxiety among her children as well.

  15. The difference between the two “predictions” is vast. I’m pretty sure you understand the difference between an aftershock sequence and a one off major earthquake Brian.

    The aftershock forecast produced by GNS was on the basis of, “going by what has happened in the past, this is the most likely sequence of events to occur”. It drew from evidence and past observation.

    Ring’s prediction was on the basis of “I have this theory and am using it to predict an earthquake for the ‘history books ‘”. This is despite the fact that the evidence shows no correlation between the position of the moon in relation to the earth and the occurence of major earthquakes.

    One prediction was on the basis of evidence, one despite it. One was made in relation to what had actually happened in Christchurch (it took account of the current environment), one was a shot out of the blue with no consideration as to what was occuring on the ground.

    How did Ring do on that recent 9.0 quake by the way? It’s not much use pretending you can predict major earthquakes if you’re going to pick and choose which ones you bother with.

    BE: “I’m pretty sure you understand the difference between an aftershock sequence and a one off major earthquake Brian.” I’m grateful for your certainty, Sarah? Though you could perhaps help with a clarification. The September 5 tremor which did relatively little damage was generally referred to as an ‘earthquake'; the February 28 tremor, which did enormous damage was considered by some to be an ‘aftershock’ but by most to be an ‘earthquake’. So what is the difference between an earthquake and an aftershock? And between these two tremors which was which?

  16. While Ring may well believe his own silliness, he is not unique and us NZers let many like him thrive: snakeoil salesmen exhorting us to sleep atop their magnet-embedded sheepswool underlays; lunatic Christian fundamendalists ascribing the Japan earthquake (and Aceh tsunami) to their dribbling, old, and imaginery god; self-described psychics who claim to be able to solve murders via television programmes; and stone age Maori silliness such as taniwhas in the Waikato River and eating lunch atop Mt. Egmont still being given credence by government departments, for heck’s sake. We have become a nation of the credulous and deserve all we get from silly men such as Ring.

    BE: But none of that matching your arrogant contempt for other people. Give me the ‘stone age Maori’ any day.

  17. Sorry Brian, your comment that a 5.1 earthquake, the largest since the devastating 6.3 tremor of February 22, did occur on March 20 is not strictly correct. There were large 5.7 and 5.5 magnitude shakes in the two hours after the main quake, neither predicted by Ken Ring.

    Love your analysis however.

  18. On the subject of Skeptics, if anyone is interested in skepticism and moving beyond the stereotypes (which I will admit to holding in the past) try giving the podcast “A Skeptics Guide to the Universe” a listen. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but for me it gave me an entirely different view of what skepticism is, and an understanding of the squirelly nonsense my brain gets up to.

  19. BE wrote:
    “But I should perhaps add that I’m not a great fan of the Skeptics. They seem such a dour lot, the sort of people who would insist on telling small children there’s no Santa Claus.”

    A fair enough perception, given that the loudest examples tend to be the least forgiving…

    I think it’s worth remembering that while some “skeptics” belong to various organisations, and most tend to share opinions on non-controversial topics (eg. ‘the earth is flat/round’), the only thing skeptics truly need to share with one another is a preference for skeptical inquiry.

    That is, it’s the method by which we discover (and falsify) knowledge that’s at the heart of “being a skeptic”, not a particular conclusion about any single topic like Ring’s predictions, vaccination dangers, anthropogenic climate change, etc.

    It’s not even a very useful label, to be honest. I certainly prefer it as an adjective.

    I’ll admit I jump to accusations of “charlatan!” before putting theories through any real rigorous test, including with Ken Ring — I accept that this probably doesn’t really help anyone and just accentuates the divide between the believers and non-believers. More of a knee-jerk than anything else.

    So, thinking skeptically…

    Surely there’s enough historical earthquake and moon position data (of the entire world, not just New Zealand) to allow some dedicated researchers to trawl though it, apply Ring’s theories and see if the results match up?

    (Perhaps I’m wrong though — I’m an advocate of open access research, but I’m also realistic enough to know that convincing people to share their data is easier said than done!)

    BE: A very reasonable comment, Kim S. Thanks.

  20. Here’s a bit of pop science for you all. Chaos Theory suggests that the fluttering of a Butterfly’s wings could feasibly contribute to the forming of a Hurricane elsewhere on the planet.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect

    Wouldn’t the same theory applied to the gravitational pull of the moon on the fault-ridden earth’s surface, mean that the moon may contribute to earthquakes? Perhaps John Campbell and Brian Edwards could debate this…on Close-Up

    Amen.

  21. Brian’s characterisation of skeptics is a bog-standard stereotype. First of all, yes, some skeptics can be a dour bunch, but overall the movement worldwide is increasingly focusing on more positive approaches. What do we believe in? Science. Critical thinking. Which is why we’re constantly banging our heads against a wall in a society that simply does not value these things nor really even understand what they are. Critical thinking is not part of a formal education, and science at school is little more than a dry collection of facts.

    You don’t need to look any further than this very post by Brian to see how an educated and smart person can completely fail to see the mire of logical fallacies and pseudo-science in which Ken Ring and his followers wallow.

    Ken Ring doesn’t understand science. He can’t predict earthquakes. And yes, he’s doing the equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, whether he believes he’s right or not: http://philosophicalzombie.net/post/3977187822/man-on-fire (A parody)

    BE: “You don’t need to look any further than this very post by Brian to see how an educated and smart person can completely fail to see the mire of logical fallacies and pseudo-science in which Ken Ring and his followers wallow.” Have another look at my post, then come back and tell me where I say that Ring’s theory of the moon influencing earthquakes is correct or has validity of any sort. Perhaps we should include close reading as well as critical thinking in our school curricula.

  22. The ‘element of hysteria’ in Hyde’s comment refers to the analogy between Ring’s prediction and shouting fire in a crowded theatre.

    But in context, she did nothing of the sort. She told the Herald she wouldn’t be surprised if there was a shake during the lunch, because Christchurch is getting several aftershocks a day. And I do think there is anyone living in Christchurch who is unaware that there are several aftershocks a day.

    BE: Sigh! Once again, Russell, I am not referring to that, I am referring to the analogy which she drew between Ring’s prediction and shouting fire in a crowded theatre. It isn’t a reasonable analogy. It’s hyperbole at best and, at worst, another form of scaremongering. And of all people, a Skeptic should not be engaging in exaggeration.

  23. There are so many factors involved that simplistic theories are inadequate. The only reason Ring’s doesn’t hold up is that sun, moon, eclipse cycle, declination, perigee alone are not enough to drive an accurate prediction. Some major quakes fit his theory (Feb 3 1931 Napier) some don’t (Japan March 11, 2011) Some occur at peak gravitation, some at minimum, some in the middle, some at extreme perigee, some at extreme apogee, some in the middle. There are extra factors in play and some believe it is solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections ramping up electromagnetic disturbance. Then, because, surprise, surprise, we are part of a system, not independent in space, there are other planetary interactions with earth going on. And that’s not the end of it. So one day with all the work going on in this area internationally, one day someone will crack it, to the surprise of mainstream science and all those others lacking healthy flow across the corpus collosum

  24. The September 5 tremor which did relatively little damage was generally referred to as an ‘earthquake’; the February 28 tremor, which did enormous damage was considered by some to be an ‘aftershock’ but by most to be an ‘earthquake’. So what is the difference between an earthquake and an aftershock? And between these two tremors which was which?

    Really? The quake that was 5 time less powerful and happened after the larger one was the aftershock.

    BE: Are you asking a question or making a statement? I have no idea what you are talking about.

  25. Scrubone….
    The first part is on public record.
    The second..http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4776923/Ken-Rings-Christchurch-earthquake-claims-terrifying-people

  26. Maybe I’m reading you wrong, Brian, but it seems like you’re getting caught up in irrelevant semantics.

    Major earthquakes are followed by aftershocks. An aftershock is an earthquake. It’s called an aftershock because it arises from the changes to local faultlines caused by the initial earthquake (major movement produces new stresses on faults in the area). The “predictions” GNS made were in relation to what was happening on the ground. Ring’s prediction was in relation to the position of the moon–it had nothing to do with the local fault activity in the area.

    Also, I am not a geologist. Don’t trust me on any of this stuff. Do your own research if you would like a better understanding of the subject.

    BE: Thank you, Sarah. An ‘aftershock’ follows an earthquake. That is why it is called an aftershock. But an aftershock is also an earthquake. I knew that.

  27. The first part is on public record.

    Where?

  28. A credible source for all that would be nice.

    Sigh … here’s what it says on Ring’s own website:

    Next year, the morning of 20 March 2011 sees the South island again in a big earthquake risk for all the same reasons. This date is the closest fly-past the moon does in all of 2011. The node arrives on the 20th at 9.44am. As that date coincides with lunar equinox this will probably be an east/west faultline event this time, and therefore should be more confined to a narrower band of latitude. The only east/west fault lines in NZ are in Marlborough and N Canterbury. All factors should come together for a moon-shot straight through the centre of the earth and targeting NZ. The time will be just before noon. It could be another for the history books.
    http://www.predictweather.com/ArticleShow.aspx?ID=306&type=home

    He later — as he generally does when challenged — backed away from his prediction (and, indeed, lied about where he made it) in a thread on SciBlogs:

    As to the 20 March, the “one for the history books” comment came from an interview with Marcus Lush. I was just agreeing with him to be obliging. I do not hold that 20 March WILL bring a severe earthquake to Canterbury, but an extreme weather event is possible that day worldwide, and an earthquake within 500kms of the Alpine Fault is a risk on that date. More likely to be a 4-6mag.
    http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/bioblog/2011/03/predicting-earthquakes-hedging.shtml

    I don’t know whether the magnitude 8 claim was made in the Lush interview, or scrubbed from his website after the fact (it wouldn’t exactly be the first time) and what, but it has been widely quoted, most notably by his supporters.

  29. Yes an aftershock is named such because it happens after an earthquake, but also BECAUSE of it. Like a ripple happens when you thow a stone in a pond. GNS is advising on the likelihood of ripples, Ring on the likelihood of stones being thrown into the pond.

    BE: A good analogy. I’m not entirely sure of your final sentence. I’ve only seen Ring refer to ‘an earthquake’ which, as I think we’re agreed, an aftershock also is. It’s kind of irrelevant in the context of my post which was never intended as an endorsement of Ring’s theories, let alone of his predictions. It was intended to suggest that a different view of Ring’s theory of a connection between the moon and earthquakes, and of his sincerity, was possible. And then I wanted to have a little fun with the Skeptics and with scepticism in general. The thrust (often vehement) of many of the comments is that no other view of Ring’s theories or of his motivation is possible. I’d have to say that, on any other topic, I would regard that as evidence of prejudice or a closed mind. The humour evidently escaped everyone. I’m almost tempted to sigh.

  30. Are you asking a question or making a statement? I have no idea what you are talking about.

    I was expressing surprise that, given a big earthquake followed by one 5 times less powerful (M7.1 against M6.3), you couldn’t decide which was the aftershock.

  31. BE: “You don’t need to look any further than this very post by Brian to see how an educated and smart person can completely fail to see the mire of logical fallacies and pseudo-science in which Ken Ring and his followers wallow.” Have another look at my post, then come back and tell me where I say that Ring’s theory of the moon influencing earthquakes is correct or has validity of any sort. Perhaps we should include close reading as well as critical thinking in our school curricula.

    I’m not suggesting that you endorse or agree with Ring. But the fact that this whole post tries to present some kind of “for” and “against” list as though there’s any real debate to be had. Classic manufactured controversy, par for the course for media. But no one who’s actually looked at the evidence, and understood how to interpret it, thinks Ken Ring’s theories are worth the time of day.

    I like how Bill Maher puts it: “Mainstream media, could you please stop pitting the ignorant versus the educated and framing it as a debate.” (ref: http://bit.ly/f95A83 )

    BE: See my reply to Sarah

  32. Sigh … here’s what it says on Ring’s own website:

    I see.

  33. BE: Sigh! Once again, Russell, I am not referring to that, I am referring to the analogy which she drew between Ring’s prediction and shouting fire in a crowded theatre. It isn’t a reasonable analogy. It’s hyperbole at best and, at worst, another form of scaremongering. And of all people, a Skeptic should not be engaging in exaggeration.

    Ah, gotcha.

    It’s a very common figure of speech. I’m not sure it really counts as hysteria to have uttered it in the context of a scaremongering warning. And he did actually tell people to get out when he spoke to the Sydney Herald Sun:

    A NEW Zealand mathematician who predicted the deadly Christchurch quake has terrified Kiwis with news another will strike the city in two weeks.

    Popular long-range weather forecaster Ken Ring is warning that a second jolt will hit the already-devastated South Island city on March 20.

    Mr Ring, who lives in Auckland, uses the moon, sun and tidal activity for the basis of his theories, which have been dismissed by scientists.

    His warning is clear.

    “If I lived in Christchurch, I’d get out for a few days over that time, go camping, visit friends, just get out and keep safe,” he said.

    “And if you don’t live there, stay away.

    Mathematician?

    BE: “Ah, gotcha.” Be happy then, Russell.

  34. I’m not suggesting suppression , Brian, but there are ways of reporting people like Ken Ring that keep their views in proper perspective. And I don’t think adding to the stress levels of earthquake victims is harmless.

  35. So will it make Ken Ring still wrong if something obviously damaging happened in Chch in the next few days? He hasn’t worked out a consistent trigger, but in the game of hot & cold he could be warm

  36. “They seem such a dour lot”

    Hi Brian, Suggest you consider attending an Auckland Skeptics in the Pub Meetup (monthly). I have not noticed any sign of dourness, in fact quite the opposite.
    As for Santa Claus at the December one “Skepchic” Rebecca Watson (who was visiting from the US) made a convincing argument that parents should tell their children about Santa. As a child they experience the magic of wonder and belief then as the age (and the myth is revealed) that they should question statements without evidence, not trust arguments from authority and make their own conclusions.

    BE: Thanks Robin. I’m reassured about Santa, but will decline your kind invitation. I’m not a meeting person.

  37. Ah. Here we are. Can’t find any support for a magnitude 8 claim, but here’s where he predicts a “7+” earthquake for March 20:

    http://www.predictweather.com/ArticleShow.aspx?ID=329&type=home

    But hey, give the guy a break. He was only out by a factor of about 100.

    BE: See my reply to your earlier comment, Russell.

  38. Surely if Ken Ring truly believes his theories, which I have no doubt he does, he would be irresponsible if he Didn’t publicise his predictions.

  39. I agree with Carl that it makes poor sense to present two sides as of equal merit, and hence in a genuine debate, if one side in fact has no substance. It’s a classic issue with some types of MSM presentation. It’s part of the issue with the “he said, she said” journalism I mentioned the last time I replied to you on these pages.

    A closely related issue is taking things merely on the words alone, merely *that* they were said, rather than how much merit the words have. A problem here is that this form of journalism works for things that are *only* opinions, but very poorly for things that are based on more than idle opinion.

    BE wrote: “if he did genuinely believe there would be a major earthquake on March 20, those warnings could be considered highly responsible”

    I’ll add what I consider missing context here: that the to whom “responsible” is being thought of by is “most people”, or the “population at large”.

    *Belief* in something doesn’t make a warning by that person responsible to others. Meaningful support for the warning might. Ring’s warnings lack meaningful support.

    (It might seem “responsible” to the person giving the warning, but that’s besides the point.)

    Just to add to Russell Brown’s point about Ken Ring watering his “predictions” down while I’m writing, he watered them down even further. As best as I know, his last revision before the days concerned had no specifics at all, no magnitude, no location (saying it being “might” be anywhere in the country) and even offered that (paraphrasing) “it might happen or it might not.” (I’ve given the context, etc., on my blog.)

    BE replied to Sarah: ‘One earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater for the week 15-21 March’/an earthquake of magnitude 8 a day either side of March 20. Am I wrong in suggesting that these two positions are not incompatible? And was it irresponsible of GNS to make such a prediction, given the level of anxiety in Christchurch? Just asking.”

    Your comparison is only at face value, “the words alone”, leaving out considering how meaningful the statements are.

    When considering matters that involve substance, as opposed to matter that are only opinion, the comparison shouldn’t be that “one person said this, the other said that”, it should be of the substance supporting what was said.

    (You can also argue that follows that if one side really has no support at all, there’s little value in presenting their case at all, as they’re not adding anything of substance.)

    Once this is considered the two positions are *not* compatible.

    BE replies to Russell Brown: “BE: Sigh! Once again, Russell, I am not referring to that, I am referring to the analogy which she drew between Ring’s prediction and shouting fire in a crowded theatre. It isn’t a reasonable analogy. It’s hyperbole at best and, at worst, another form of scaremongering. And of all people, a Skeptic should not be engaging in exaggeration.”

    Having seen some of Rings words first-hand on his now-deleted Facebook comments and on his website, I’d have thought her analogy applies. Just as one example: “but it does mean the killer is still loose on the streets, the one that strikes on full moons.” Ken Ring wrote this well after the fuss over this started.

    BE: My options are to dissect this semantic rubbish – which most of it is – or to ask: Doesn’t your mother need you in the shop? I’ll opt for the latter.

  40. Brian, I enjoy your blog but sometimes I find your attempts to be reasonable excruciating. Were you just trying to stir up controversy? (What does doubting Thomas have to do with it?)

    The below says it too but more angrily:

    http://www.kiwipolitico.com/2011/03/the-reluctant-ringnut/

    BE: I’ll try to be less reasonable, Maureen. Not interested in following an angry link.

  41. Silly Mr Ring – he should’ve been like that TVNZ-certified psychic who claimed she foresaw the earthquake, but out of the goodness of her heart decided not to tell of it lest she caused panic. But making an eminently falsifiable prediction – and passing the Popper test – dumb, dumb dumb. Unlike our psychic (and ministers of religion) who make claims which are unprovable and cause Popper to spin his grave like a lathe – get off scot-free

  42. Perhaps this whole issue should come under the heading of “Buyer Beware.”
    Perhaps those who believe in Ringside Predictions want them to be true. Sort of like hunters through the medical dictionary looking for symptom to adopt.
    Maybe for some it will put a bit of excitement in their lives.
    Maybe the Predictions are meant to be, so that bloggers and blog readers/commentators need them to have a topic.
    Maybe Brian has a great sense of humour. Me too.

  43. @ Maureen: Yeah, I’m in your camp. Pursuing this, is fruitless. Right up there, with debating the etiquette of clipping your toenails, in front of guests at a dinner party.

  44. Detecting some major misinformation here Russell Brown. The chart reference linked to is global as stated at the top. This is defined as anywhere on the planet in my dictionary and not synonymous with Chch.

  45. Brian, one small correction, there were several aftershocks Magnitude 5.0 or greater in the day following the 6.3:

    http://www.geonet.org.nz/canterbury-quakes/significant.html

    BE: Yep, got that wrong, Ken.

  46. From Christchurch I can say that whether Ring was correct has been of more than idle speculation.
    Of the hundreds of thousands who stayed last weekend the Ring stories one hears run something like this.

    Ring claimed there would likely be an earthquake larger than the last. i.e.- a fresh earthquake. GNS claimed there could be an aftershock i.e. continuing and diminishing tension released by the Sept 4th earthquake.

    Ring actively seeks publicity for his claims with various media. In that sense he is understood to be motivated by profit for his weather forecasting business.

    Ring is an ex magician and is writing or has written a book on reading cat’s paws.

    Ring got Boxing Day wrong and missed Japan.

    Ring covers his arse by spreading his claims around various blogs. His predictions cover at least half the days of this month.

    Ring claimed Christchurch was not the place to be last weekend.

    Ring has caused many many vulnerable, gullible, worn Christchurch people terrible stress.

    Ring would be wise not to travel South for a little while.

  47. Ken ring said it was going to be a biggy and we got the rumble. Nick Smith picks our pocket for global warming as the earth cools. Who is the charlatan and who is looking after the forresters in their electorate ?

  48. waiheke News,

    Russell has it right, that’s the “Christchurch” “prediction”. Ken Ring attributed it to Christchurch after the fact. (See the link on my name if you want more on this.)

  49. 49

    christopher mitson

    I’m not saying for a moment that I subscribe to Mr Ring’s unsubstantiated theories about the influence of the moon on earthquakes. But I find it interesting that nobody has yet explained, as far as I am aware, why they cannot possibly be true. I’m not talking about his predictions; just the theory.

  50. Hi Brian, Suggest you consider attending an Auckland Skeptics in the Pub Meetup (monthly).

    Who knows, you might run into member Ken Ring!

    BE: Wow!

  51. Ken Ring’s theory sounds plausible as a trigger for an earthquake, since the gravitational pull of the moon can raise untold billions of tonnes of water in some cases up to 2 meters in a king tide. The gravitational pull of the sun holds the earth in its orbit and prevents it from flying off tangentially into outer space. The combined forces when the moon is at its closest to the earth could possibly well trigger an earthquake if it was close to happening on its own accord and these two factors were coincidental. As for Mr Ring being able to also predict the magnitude of such a quake he would have to have some knowledge of the state of tension in the tectonic plates, which I fail to see how he would possibly know.
    Campbell should have known better to have screened such material so close after this unfortunate event. The people of Christchurch could well do without hearing such dubious prognostications.

    JC: Edited. Defamatory and gratuitously offensive.

  52. Ring makes predictions with unproven science in order to make money. If he is required to scare people in order to make money, well that is what he does.

  53. People saying there could be something in his theory–

    First up, he isn’t the first to suggest the moon could have an effect on earthquakes. This is an old old idea. People have been doing this sort of predicting for years. He hasn’t come up with anything new. He’s just the loudest parrot in our part of the world.

    Secondly, the data is out there and has been analysed. Seismologists would love to be able to predict earthquakes. Love. The effect of the moon on seismic activity is tiny, and if it had any predictive value they would be all over it.

    Lastly, look in to it yourselves. All this information is out there. Find the evidence. How can you say there could be something in his theories if you haven’t done the most basic research into Ring’s track record?

  54. To suggest that the moon has an influence on terrestrial activities is a strong possibility.To suggest that it will happen on a certain day and at a certain force lacks credibility.

  55. Brian, in you response to Sarah we get

    I’ve only seen Ring refer to ‘an earthquake’ which, as I think we’re agreed, an aftershock also is.

    No, Ring talked about a new quake on a different fault system and one larger than M7. Not an aftershock.


    It was intended to suggest that a different view of Ring’s theory of a connection between the moon and earthquakes, and of his sincerity, was possible.

    Well, the evidence doesn’t allow us to have any other assessment of his theory. I’m sure he did believe in his prediction, but someone that is talking in the wake the events in Christchurch actually has a duty to check their own biases. More to the point, the media certainly didn’t need to report his “theory” in the way they did

    The thrust (often vehement) of many of the comments is that no other view of Ring’s theories or of his motivation is possible. I’d have to say that, on any other topic, I would regard that as evidence of prejudice or a closed mind.

    … but on this topic it’s a result of following the evidence. We shouldn’t be ‘open minded’ about creationism, homeopathy or the phlogiston theory of combustion and we shouldn’t be ‘open minded’ about astrological earthquake predictions

  56. BE replied to me (belatedly, I’m lucky I even saw it): “BE: My options are to dissect this semantic rubbish – which most of it is – or to ask: Doesn’t your mother need you in the shop? I’ll opt for the latter.”

    Where on earth are you coming from? I wrote about what are regarded as standard issues in science communication.

    Just a thought, and I mean this sincerely: if you want people to encourage people to discuss media issues, which will include offering positive criticism, isn’t rudely dismissing them out of hand like this unhelpful?

    (There is nothing personal meant in my criticisms by the way, nor is what I wrote “semantic”. If anything, most of it is common sense.)

    BE: New Shorter Oxford: ‘Semantic’ – ‘Relating to meaning in language; relating to connotations of words.’ Re-read what you wrote. It’s all about semantics.

    As for ‘common sense’, there’s no such thing as a sense that is common to everyone. It’s a completely subjective term normally used to mean ‘something I think is obviously true’.

    I’m sorry you took offence at my little joke. I come from an academic background in which my Ph.D. supervisor, an eminent languages professor, rejected a student’s thesis 5 times – it took him 7 years to complete – for sins which included: not putting commas round ‘however’, saying ‘the fact that’ instead of just ‘that’, and writing ‘in the final analysis’. You quickly learnt to be precise in your writing. ‘Doesn’t your mother need you in the shop?’ would have been a compliment coming from him.

    As for ‘belatedly’, are you under the illusion that I spend my entire day sitting at the computer responding to comments the moment they come in? Or that my first priority is to ensure that you don’t have to wait or search for a reply? And can you not see that a complaint like that might make an already curmudgeonly old gent even more curmudgeonly? The questions are rhetorical.

  57. I took some effort as I thought you were interested in discussion in media issues. I guess was wrong; I regret wasting my time. (I’m very busy, too.)

    Personally I don’t think writing placing a slant on my words (semantics…!) that can be read as portraying me as arrogant is helpful.

    My points referred you to the substance backing the statements. That’s not semantics. (I’m not trying to be argumentative.) I’d hardly be alone in saying many (short-form) MSM presentations gloss over substance in favour “he said v. said said” (or emotive appeal, etc.) I was struck a parallel between the “he said, she said” style of presentation and your article. Hence my remarks. Just my opinion, but it’s a (badly) flawed approach when the issue at hand is resolved on substance, not opinion.

    So you might see where this is coming from – my current views come from having read a little of the science communication literature. A “balance of opinions” doesn’t work well for presenting science issues (or other subjects resting on substance). Again – just my opinion!

    As for ‘belatedly’, are you under the illusion that I spend my entire day sitting at the computer responding to comments the moment they come in? Or that my first priority is to ensure that you don’t have to wait or search for a reply?

    No, and I didn’t imply these either. (You seem determined to make me out to be some angry kid whatever is in your mind!)

    I wrote ‘belatedly’ innocently enough. The way you choose to reply by inserting your reply into your reader’s comment comments means readers are likely to miss your additions if you add them quite a bit later, as you did in my case. There’s nothing to be read into it other that the practical problem.

  58. My Diary – Christchurch – Sunday 20th March – Weather Wet – Prediction Was Fine.
    Had a great nights sleep, not a thing worrying me and yep the Crusaders won. Got up at 8.00am, had a shower (damn – the waters still pretty cold – when is that guy coming to fix my hot water cylinder again? Wasn’t it last week? Texted apologies re Highlanders loss to friend in Dunedin then read the Sunday Times. Geez it was in the gutter again – wiped off dirty silt. Checked lotto numbers – an Aucklander won it. Typical. I needed the dosh to do a few house repairs to the roof, windows, walls and foundations, and to replace my second replacement beer fridge in six months (plus contents thereof – it’s entirely inappropriate to go and ask the Red Cross or Sally Army for funds to replace my beer fridge and contents) – and they say lightening never strikes twice in the same place – well bloody earthquakes do. Can’t anyone predict earthquakes correctly? Should know the answer just before midday. 10.00am picked up the phone and rang around friends to see who was still left in town. They all were. Invited them over for an impromptu “celestial tomfoolery” party. We’ll start just after midday I said because there was an event I wanted to check out just prior to. 11.00am – prepared some food and a leg of lamb for the BBQ and threw her in. Couldn’t get any rosemary for the lamb from the garden though – forgot – there is now no garden. Damn. Cracked open a white – lovely – bit earlier than usual I confess but it needed to be saved from further potential quake damage just before noon, and besides could it be the last Marlborough vintage after today. I have two bottles of it – what will the second fetch on Trade Me if Marlborough slides into the ocean today. Hope is not yet lost for the beer fridge replacement. 11.30am got dressed in my disaster clothes of lounge slippers, blue jeans and crusaders t shirt. Hope the moonshot straight through the centre of the earth doesn’t come up through the floor of the one undamaged room in the house. The garage would be preferable – right where the beer fridge used to be would be acceptable to me. It seems to be the target zone. 11.40am – it’s just before midday now. Must go outside. Get camera. May be able to record the looming disaster and sell footage to TV3 if still alive or competent to negotiate. (further beer fridge replacement option – desperate stuff) Stepped through gap in wall covered by blue warehouse tarpaulin. What a bargain – keeps the rain out but not the cold – still can’t have it both ways. Was it a door or window that used to be there? 11.45am house shook slightly – a quake – no – that damn earthmoving truck full of silt was going down the street again. Something touches head. Where did THAT bit of tile come from. Told my wife is she sees me running just before midday trying to avoid a moonshot- best for her to try and keep up with me. Stood outside till 12.10pm when first guest arrived carrying Steinies in a large bucket of ice. Bless him. I’ve had enough of waiting for something to happen that’s not going to happen I thought. Back to the white wine. Hopes of profiting from the predicted disaster are dashed. I feel guilty at my callousness. Need to save empty white wine bottle as a candle holder – had plenty of candles in disaster kit but no holders on the 22nd. Very bad planning. Texted friend in North Canterbury. Had anything untoward happened up there – had he noticed if the South Island had split in half. All’s well and not that he had noticed he responded. Texted friend in Blenheim – was he okay or was Blenheim now a suburb of Waikanae? We’d never give a Crusaders franchise region to Wellington he responded. Great – Marlborough is more disaster resistant than I thought. 12.15pm to 9.30pm. Lost time but lot’s of fun. The Celestial Tomfoolery Political Party was formed. Executive decision was not to offer earthquake predictors the opportunity to stand in Christchurch seats because that would be political suicide. Anyone can be a member though – sceptics and predictors and even scientists and broadcasters and journos. All are welcome. Subs are 10 bucks a head – first purchase on the books will be party beer fridge. Still short though – need a recruiting drive. 9.47pm. What the hell was that – a quake or that damn silt truck again. Must have been a quake or aftershock – one or the other. Few things tipped over but it didn’t last for long. Seemed pretty mild but judgement may be impaired by the whites and steinies. In fact was it me that was wobbly or the house? However best off to bed now and check to see if the 9.47pm quake was the one for the history books. Best to check tomorrow as it takes time to rewrite history. Can’t anyone predict earthquakes accurately?

    BE: That is absolutely wonderful – perspective, humour, the rare understanding that you can make a point far more powerfully by telling a story than by arguing a point. That, if you’ll forgive me, is the core message that we give our clients. On the first ever day that we worked with Helen Clark in June 1996 we wrote on a whiteboard: ‘Stories, stories, stories’. You’ve made my day. Can I now suggest that you send this little gem somewhere where it will have a wider audience. If you’re interested you could try the metropolitans or maybe the Listener. And strike while the iron’s hot.

  59. I am not a believer or a sceptic. I am not a scientist although my rudimentary knowledge of physics allows me to understand that the moon does affect some events on this planet. We all waited to see if the’crazy moon man’ was going to be right or wrong. Hey! Is it just me but on March 20th. there was a significant shake and it was near Christchurch. Ok…not 9.3 or 7.8 but give credit…it was a significant event and it was on time and he predicted something of the sort. I can understand why authorities do not want “amateur experts’ giving out these sorts of predictions because of the tensions already existing in the city but imagine the crowing by people probably no better qualified if nothing had happened. I’m old enough to remember when the ‘authorities’ thought the world was flat.

  60. I think KR is silly to predict earthquakes.

    He is undeniably correct in the fact that the moon exerts gravitational effects on our planet.

    To go beyond that to earthquake prediction is silly.

    The underlying tectonics and resultant strain and stress lines are simply unknown to us.

  61. Dave @17.41 – pure gold – laughed so much I nearly nearly spilt the Banrock Station shiraz (well I think it’s shiraz)

  62. 62

    christopher mitson

    Rick @ 19:57
    “I’m old enough to remembe”r when the ‘authorities’ thought the world was flat.

    Are you saying it isn’t?

  63. I’m sorry Christopher you are correct. I must have been misreported and my comments taken out of context. No comment.

  64. 64

    Clarence Herbidies

    Very interwsting comments from skeptics and believers, alike. I thought I’d throw the cat amongst the pigeons by offering my thoughts that will challenge both sides of the Ken Ring debate.

    “In recent years, there has been much interest in geological invariants of earthquakes which categorify well-known invariants. Heegaard Floer homology is a homology theory whose Euler characteristic is the Alexander polynomial
    of the rupture. It has been proven effective in deducing new results about the classical postulations. Along a different line of the Earth’s fissures, there is a combinatorial defined cohomology theory of knots called Khovanov homology whose Euler characteristic is the Jones polynomial. This has recently been shown to be useful in obtaining bounds on slice genus whose earlier proofs required gauge theory. Khovanov and Rozansky have since defined several other related seismological theories whose Euler
    characteristics recover other classical invariants. Stroppel gave a representation theoretic interpretation of Khovanov homology by
    categorifying quantum group invariants.

    There is also growing interest from both knot theorists and scientists in understanding “physical” or geometric properties of the tidal movements, and relating it to topological invariants and the Earth’s rotation. An old result in this direction is the Fary-Milnor theorem states that if the total curvature of a the Earth and its relativity to the Moon, it satisfies the above”.

    There! That’s gotcha thinking, hasn’t it?

  65. Clarence: ‘There! That’s gotcha thinking, hasn’t it?’

    Not really, to be honest. I tried to read the entry, but somewhere around about ‘Khovanov homology whose Euler characteristics is the Jones Polynomial’ I heard a small popping and hissing sound, and then my brain shut down.

  66. Clarence: Some believe that when you read/hear a high level of complicated jargon it is most likely that the speaker/writer is kidding, or ignorant, or simply trying to hide the that they have no credible answers. (Politicians? Economists?)
    Anyway Clarence well done. Enjoyed your humour.

  67. If major earthquakes sometimes happen when the moon is at perigee, sometimes when it is at apogee, and sometimes when it is in between, then what is the predictive power of the position of the moon?

    BE: Absolutely right, Sarah. Science has no ability to predict earthquakes either. The difference is they don’t claim they can.

  68. Thanks Dave for your “My Diary – Christchurch – Sunday 20th March” contribution.
    One of the very few comments worth reading. And I admire Brian for being so patience with the number crunching, who said what, where and when lot who transform this site in a war zone.

  69. Thanks Dave for your “My Diary – Christchurch – Sunday 20th March” contribution.
    One of the very few comments worth reading. And I admire Brian for being so patience with the number crunching, who said what, where and when lot who transform this site in a war zone.

    I, too, loved Dave’s contribution.

    But isn’t “who said what, where and when” actually extremely germane to any discussion of predictive ability? Indeed, isn’t that basically what it’s about?

    What would you prefer as an alternative means of analysis — one that wouldn’t try anyone’s patience?

    BE: We should certainly have debate. And it can and should be rigorous. But my albeit short experience of the blogsphere is that the ‘debate’ all too often has the characteristics of a heated argument between people with opposing views – talking over one another, not listening, repeating the same point again and again, the volume going up in inverse proportion to the quality of the argument, the whole terminating with no one having moved one iota from their original position.

  70. Viva Dave and viva Russell Brown: “isn’t ‘who said what, where and when’ actually extremely germane to any discussion of predictive ability? Indeed, isn’t that basically what it’s about?”

    An earthquake (aftershock) of M5.1 at 9.47 pm on 20 March 2011 (shallow and close to Chch) is not “another for the history books” at close to noon 20/3/11 and somewhere between Kaikoura to Amberley … or maybe not,if, like Ring, you simply recant on ever having said any of it or having meant anything by it. You were just offering an opinion, rather than a prediction …

  71. Here’s an historical perspective:

    In the immediate wake of the great Wellington Earthquakes of 1848 and 1855, various newspaper writers and columnists speculated on the causation – too much wind ?, not enough wind ?, too much rain ?, the Aurora Australis ? or Divine Intervention ?

    (1) 1848

    ‘New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian’ (9 December 1848): “On the 19th and 20th, the Aurora Australis was very brilliant in the S.E., but there was nothing to indicate it had any connection with the earthquake…The last winter has been an unusually rainy season, with little wind, and this is a circumstance which is said to be connected with earthquakes in South America. It appears not to have been felt at all at Otakou or Auckland. Up to this date no eruption has been heard of at any place within the limits of the earthquake as above stated.”

    ‘Wellington Spectator’ (October 18, 1848): “Within the last few days this settlement has experienced a severe and terrible visitation of Providence. From Monday morning lasting up to this morning (Wednesday), a succession of earthquakes more or less violent have occurred…it may be necessary to say a few words on the previous state of the weather. During Monday the 9th instant, there was a strong south-easter, accompanied by very heavy rain…on Saturday another south-easter occurred of equal violence with the former one, which continued the two following days, accompanied also by very heavy rain, so much so, that the quantity of rain which has fallen during the last week amounted to ten inches, or more than three times the quantity of the whole of the previous month. At about twenty minutes to two o’clock a most severe shock of an earthquake was experienced… During Monday and Tuesday night a long streak of pale light was observed by several persons, it appeared to be settled, at a very great distance, and in a northerly direction…We cannot conclude this hasty and imperfect sketch without acknowledging in this visitation the finger of God…It is a calamity against which no prudence could guard…”

    The powers that be apparently decided a spectacle of humiliation might be in order…

    ‘Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle’ (18 November 1848):
    ” Whereas in (sic) has pleased Almighty God to visit this Settlement with a great and grievous calamity, and it is fitting that a public acknowledgement be made of the Divine Power, on whom all the operations of nature and the security of his creatures depend, and that prayers and supplications be offered up to Almighty God to avert the recurrence of any similar visitation: Now therefore I, Edward John Eyre, Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of New Munster, by and with the advice of my Executive Council, do hereby proclaim and declare that to-morrow, the 20th of October, shall be held as a day of public fast, prayer, and humiliation. E. EYRE. By his Excellency’s command, ALFRED DOMETT, Colonial Secretary.

    (2) 1855

    ‘Wellington Spectator’ (January 25, 1855): “On Tuesday night the town of Wellington suffered from the calamitous visitation of an earthquake, as severe and as destructive in its effects as those which previously occurred in the year 1848. During the day there had been a strong wind from the North West, with heavy showers…Towards evening the wind fell, and it again commenced raining…The first shock which was very severe…and was followed at intervals of a few minutes with sharp shocks…The shocks appeared to come from the North West.”

    ‘The Independent’ (February 10, 1855): ” Many old settlers say that they do not remember an earthquake before of such long duration in New Zealand. The wind was blowing in strong gusts from the N.W., and has continued in that quarter ever since, the weather being oppressive and sultry.”

    But then some common-sense from Commander Drury…

    ‘Nelson Examiner’ (February 28, 1855): “EXTRACT FROM COMMANDER DRURY’S REMARK BOOK. Cook’s Straits, January 25, 1855: I have no reason to believe that…the calm preceding, or the gale attending, the earthquake, had any connexion with the subterraneous convulsions. We witnessed, during the 48 hours following, every variety of wind and weather, yet with repeated shocks;… I would disconnect the atmospheric influence with the earthquakes.”

  72. I think we should send Ring a new bunch of seaweed. His present lot is not doing the business.

  73. “They seem such a dour lot”

    Hi Brian, Suggest you consider attending an Auckland Skeptics in the Pub Meetup (monthly). I have not noticed any sign of dourness, in fact quite the opposite.
    As for Santa Claus at the December one “Skepchic” Rebecca Watson (who was visiting from the US) made a convincing argument that parents should tell their children about Santa. As a child they experience the magic of wonder and belief then as the age (and the myth is revealed) that they should question statements without evidence, not trust arguments from authority and make their own conclusions.

    BE: Thanks Robin. I’m reassured about Santa, but will decline your kind invitation. I’m not a meeting person.

    Brian – I’ll go on your behalf. I love meetings. I’m not sure they achieve a hell of a lot, they fill in a day, questionable decisions are made and lunches are normally pretty good – but the pub bit is right up my alley. I hope Kens not there. Will he be? However I would like to attend to ask the sceptics why on the one hand they have endorsed Santa for a temporary time frame – but no where do they mention the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy – and in my view that is discrimination and a gross discourteousy. They have set a precedent with Santa. And shame on you for starting this by bringing Santa into the mix.

    Do the sceptics and moon believers actually know what poor Santa is facing in Christchurch this Christmas – because it is common ground to both parties and they should be joining hands to get the message through. How does he get access to houses here – the traditional means of entry is no longer viable here – there are no chimneys. Mind you in many houses there are recent new alternative entry points that didn’t exist on his last visit. And how does the poor sod fare if he is relying on GPS to navigate. Some streets don’t physically exist anymore. And my god what if he is reliant on visual navigation using long established Christchurch landmarks – he won’t find any. He could end up in Tasmania. However if the celestials and mystics can get him a message, and the sceptics approve it, he is welcome to use my double garage as a staging point to read a map. That’s the gaping hole where there used be a roller door that has fallen off but he can fit the whole gang in and there’s enough room for him to do a u turn without having to reverse out over difficult driveway terrain. (Sink holes, pot holes etc). Hazard management as Reindeers don’t have side mirrors.

    Thank you for your comments about my diary of 20th March. I read your musings which I enjoyed and made my day a tad lighter so I had to respond in kind. You have my permission to forward my gem on my behalf to Rosemary McLeod along with my e mail address to see if it is worth using to provide some light relief and humour in respect of this tragedy here. However it was never intended to be insenstive to those that believed in predictions/opinions – merely my take on it.

    Just in closing – I met a true sceptic today. My boss. He has been to my house socially many times. I was late to work and he asked me why I was late. I said – I had to take THE cat to the vet. He said – but you don’t have a cat – I said I know – but I reversed the car over the next door neighbours cat and she was none to pleased. It survived.

    Must go – need to feed the garden gnome (last man standing in the garden – stoic thing) and finish my letter to Michael Laws and make sure there are no spelling mistakes just to avoid being called a liberal.

  74. Oh and just one more…

    Nelson Examiner (october 21, 1848): “On Wednesday the earth was in a very tremulous state. In the evening, the Aurora Australis was visible for a considerable time, throwing out rays of lurid light, and giving the sky a wild and somewhat ominous aspect. On Thursday again a smart shock occurred…The Aurora Australis again made its appearance at about nine, exhibiting its corruscations in the same singular manner, and adding as it were to the intensity of excitement and anxiety in the minds of many, which had been produced by these unusual demonstrations of terrestrial agitation.”

  75. I once, unfortunately, had to spend 3 weeks in the house of a member of the skeptics society. After the first day I had to shut up, as everything I said was immediately analysed and then systematically torn to shreds over the next few days. I eventually concluded that this man had a form of religion called ‘scepticism’ which was just as one-eyed as any other religion.

  76. River wrote: “…I eventually concluded that this man had a form of religion called ‘scepticism’ which was just as one-eyed as any other religion.”

    Maybe he was just a dick?

    (see my previous comment for a longer rant about why we shouldn’t blame skeptical/scientific enquiry for the biased conclusions or failings of the people who claim to advocate it)

  77. “see my previous comment for a longer rant about why we shouldn’t blame skeptical/scientific enquiry for the biased conclusions or failings of the people who claim to advocate it”

    But I note you omitted the people who conduct skeptical/scientific enquiry.

  78. Kimbo wrote:
    “But I note you omitted the people who conduct skeptical/scientific enquiry.”

    Hmm, yes, I didn’t word my reply very well.

    I’m not clear on which side you think scientists were omitted from. You wanted me to note that they have failings too? Or that they aren’t responsible for the biased conclusions of skeptics society members?

    (in either case, both are true, and you got to score your point, so I guess it’s win/win)

  79. “Science has no ability to predict earthquakes either. The difference is they don’t claim they can.”
    Much like Ken Ring claiming to be able to predict the weather two years out, whereas the Met Service don’t do this because they know it isn’t possible.

    Brian, I really don’t understand why you can’t bring yourself to condemn this charlatan and his shonky methods. The thing that has amazed me most about this whole episode is that you really don’t have to apply much brain power to see for yourself exactly how shonky his methods are.
    This is the man who claims that ice doesn’t melt below 4C.
    This is the main who claims that CFCs couldn’t have caused ozone depletion as they are ‘too heavy to be transported to the stratosphere’.
    THis is the man who doesn’t accept plate tectonic theory.
    It’s all there on his website if you can be bothered to look.

    BE: You’re correct that I haven’t made a detailed study of Ken Ring’s beliefs. So I’m not in any position to ‘condemn’ him. And I don’t really feel the need to do so. Maybe it’s the somewhat fanatical tone of his opponents that prejudices me against them.

  80. ” Alternatively, since the Society’s spokesperson, Vicki Hyde, had said she wouldn’t be surprised if a shake happened during the lunch, their actions might be seen as foolhardy and stupid. Unless, of course, the location wasn’t particularly hazardous, in which case the demonstration would lack credibility. As a correspondent to the Dominion Post noted, ‘If the Skeptics really wanted to make a point, they could try the roof of the Grand Chancellor Hotel.’

    Just getting back to this point for a minute, Brian: I thought the sceptic’s lunch was a rather silly exercise. If they were asserting that there wasn’t going to be an earthquake during their lunch on 20 March, wasn’t this also a prediction?
    I liked Mark Quigley’s take on this when he was interviewed by Sainsbury on CloseUp last week. Sainsbury tried to press him into assuring the people of Christchurch that they would be ‘safe’ to stay in the city on 20 March and he replied that he wasn’t going to play that silly game and that he wouldn’t counter one pseudo prediction with another one.
    Just so.

  81. Brian, you and others may find this amusing:-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fgxbJBi9cU&feature=channel_video_title

    BE: Thanks River Howe. Wonderful. Do you know who put this up?

  82. The 5.1 was not the biggest quake since the 6.3. There were bigger aftershocks on the 22nd. The 5.1 was not even the biggest earthquake in NZ that week. It was an aftershock, pure and simple. Not “one for the record books” as he’d gleefully proclaimed to anyone who’d listen…. though he distanced himself more and more from this opinion the closer it came to the actual date.

    He terrified people. And he continually did so, even after being told to his face that that’s what his predictions were doing to people. His scaremongering was irresponsible and unnecessary. And he got it wrong. End of.

  83. The fact people believe these educated scientists without scrutinizing their conclusions, is laughable.

    Maybe Ken Ring is wrong, but to cut him down without looking or learning his theories is pure ignorant.