Skeptics take aim at Moon Man
If New Zealand Skeptics spokeswoman Vicki Hyde had a dollar for every devastating earthquake prophecy she has heard over the years, she reckons she could just about fund the entire Christchurch rebuild.
"But if I had to rely on the predictions that turned out to be correct, I couldn't even buy a coffee," she told a crowd gathered for a midday lunch at the Sign of the Kiwi, a 95-year-old stone building perched atop the city's Port Hills, yesterday.
As hundreds of Cantabrians fled the region for the day, Hyde gathered with about 50 fellow non-believers, including broadcaster Sean Plunket and Nelson politician Nick Smith, to mark a "non-event": self-styled earthquake oracle Ken Ring's prediction of a significant quake to hit the province about midday yesterday.
Ring, aka the Moon Man, claims he can predict quakes by charting tides and the moon. His prophecies have been panned by meteorologists, geologists and sceptics.
Hyde said Ring's false predictions were causing unnecessary psychological harm and stress.
"Facts may whisper, but fear screams," she said.
"When you actually stack the facts up, they do not match Ken Ring's beliefs.
"You have to ask, how many times does he have to be self-contradictory or just plain wrong before people stop paying attention to him?"
Geologists, teachers, engineers, parents, building industry workers and students converged on the oldest and highest city building the NZ Skeptics group could find for lunch, to slam Ring's forecasts and celebrate "rational thought over scaremongering".
Participant Nigel Richens said he was there to join like-minded people in taking a stand against Ring.
Hyde said she understood why people had left town for the day, as during such a trying time the Moon Man's work took advantage of people's emotional insecurity, fear and dread.
Smith said Ring's speculation and "scaremongering" were "reckless and irresponsible" and without scientific base.
The man owed Canterbury an apology, he said.
"Cantabrians have been through enough trauma without charlatans preying on people's natural fears.
"The reasons these ideas prevail is because these are emotional and difficult times."
Plunket told the gathering he believed in free speech, but only if it was reliable, accurate and useful.
"Even a broken clock is right twice a day," he said.