Moon Man Non-Event Lunch Planned

Members of the New Zealand Skeptics, geologists, earthquake engineers, MP Nick Smith and NewstalkZB morning host Sean Plunket are to gather for a lunch on top of the Port Hills in Christchurch on March 20th, the time when so-called “Moon Man” Ken Ring has predicted a large earthquake for the battered region. The get-together is aimed at quelling the unfounded fears people have in attributing credibility to Ring´s predictive abilities.

“There may well be a tremor then – we´re getting multiple after- shocks every day after all – but it will have nothing to do with the phase of the Moon, the position of Jupiter, dolphins beaming sonar signals to the Moon, the existence of Indo/Egypto/European culture in NZ thousands of years ago, or any of the other truly odd ideas that Mr Ring has espoused,” says Skeptics media spokesperson Vicki Hyde.

Ring has gained a great deal of opportunistic publicity on the back of allegedly predicting the February 22nd earthquake. The Skeptics note that, like psychics, tea-leaf readers, astrologers and others of that ilk, the predictions have been very vague beforehand, and are given a veneer of accuracy only after the event.

The March 20 prediction has already undergone some morphing from an apparently definite magnitude 8 in Canterbury/Marlborough to the chance of an “extreme event” sometime around March 19-21, to “it could be anywhere in NZ, or it may not even happen at all”. What´s the use of that, Hyde asks, comparing it to saying that it might be rainy today or sunny or somewhere in between.

“At times like these, we think it is irresponsible to allow anyone to exploit the understandable anxieties of Christchurch residents,” says Hyde, herself at one stage an earthquake evacuee. “People should understand that these predictions are just like the one last year claiming that giant bats would attack South America – and have just as much value.”

After last September´s earthquake Ring stated “I would still not consider that another massive earthquake is certain, in fact I think it´s more likely not to be the case in Christchurch. I can only repeat that other well-known earthquakes in NZ´s history have not, as a rule revisited the same site”. He said Napier was an example of this. Not only was he wrong about Christchurch, but also wrong about the Napier quake of February 3rd 1931, which was followed by a second 7.3 quake on February 13th. Close analysis of the moon relationships alleged by Ring show a similar lack of any evidence supporting them.

The Skeptics in the Pub group had been discussing a possible March 20 gathering, but Christchurch members have lost their usual Twisted Hop watering hole as it is within the CBN cordon. The idea for the lunch came about during a discussion with Hyde and Smith. The MP, who has a PhD in geo-technical engineering from Canterbury University, was once given a Bravo Award from the Skeptics for speaking out against mediums exploiting the disappearance of Marlborough pair Ben Smart and Olivia Hope.

“The NZ Skeptics do a real public service in exposing these pseudo- science claims that the timing of earthquakes can be predicted. The last thing needed by the thousands of traumatised people in Canterbury, including elderly and children, is junk science and made- up predictions of future major quakes,” says Smith. “This lunch is about taking a stand for robust science, including its limitations, and ensuring we make sound decisions for managing the risks of earthquakes.”

Geologists and earthquake engineers are being invited as representatives of other groups incensed by Ring´s pronouncements.

The group plans to have lunch, MC´d by Sean Plunket, at the Sign of the Kiwi, which from its Port Hills vantage point overlooks both Lyttelton and the Canterbury Plains. It is also the closest café to the epicentre of the February 22nd earthquake.

“It was the highest place we could find that was accessible, is a lovely heritage building that has come through both quakes, and has great food. We get to support a local business while highlighting the problems of giving too much credibility to pseudo-science. It´ll be a great event,” says Hyde.

Janice Thornton, the café owner-operator, is pleased that the fear- mongering engendered by Ring is being addressed and delighted that her hilltop café is the chosen venue.

“The Kiwi is still flying high,” she says.

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