There are times when the world seems to run along quietly from day to day, with very little happening. Then there are times like these. There are the ongoing aftershocks in Christchurch, many of them big enough in their own right to qualify as major quakes at any other time. There was the far larger earthquake in Japan, with its ensuing slow-motion nuclear disaster. There are wars and revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa which seem set to transform the politics of those regions. Millennial anxieties are on the rise once more.
It’s only to be expected at such times that irrationality should flourish. When natural disasters strike at random, many have a desperate need to seek some kind of pattern, or cause. Hence the attention given to Ken Ring’s claim to have used phases of the moon and solar activity to predict the Christchurch quakes – if the experts can’t say when earthquakes will strike (though the general pattern of aftershocks has actually followed GNS’s forecasts quite well) then there is a niche for those who claim they can. Many skeptical bloggers (eg Peter Griffin, Matthew Dentith, Alison Campbell, Darcy Cowan and particularly the Silly Beliefs team) have dealt with Ring’s claims; we add our five cents’ worth later in this issue.
Meanwhile in the US, many commenters on internet forums are putting the Japan earthquake down to karma for Pearl Harbour. Also in that country self-proclaimed prophet Harold Camping is raising quite a stir with his calculation that the Rapture will occur on May 21 this year – 19 months before the 2012 buffs’ choice for the Big Day. Camping says of the current upheavals: “There are still people that God has to save, and he uses them to get them to cry out for his mercy.”
There’s not much sign of that happening yet in Christchurch, where the citizens are more intent on helping themselves and each other, rather than seeking divine assistance. Slowly the city is getting back on its feet, despite ongoing tremors; life is returning. A small sign of that is that the NZ Skeptics annual conference will once again be held there, from 26 to 28 August. Register with the form mailed out with this issue, or do it on-line at www.skeptics.org.nz
Christchurch always seems to have had more than its share of Skeptics, many of whom have been seriously affected by the quakes. It will be good for us to get together once again, to share the strength of our usually far-flung community.