Can only prove non-science wrong

Before we drilled for water we employed at water diviner.

He wandered around the paddocks with a forked stick which pointed down at a spot where he told us we’d find water.

When the driller turned up we told him that and he laughed and said we’d wasted our money. “The trouble with water diviners is that you can only ever prove them wrong,” he said. “If they’re right without the backing of science you don’t know if it’s just luck.”

This applies also to anyone who says they can predict earthquakes.

Ken Ring has terrified people in Christchurch by warning there could be another big earthquake this weekend. Some are so scared they’ve left the city.

David Winter took a scientific approach to his predictions and showed them for what they are here and here; his account of being on TV here and the Campbell Live interview here.

The full moon will be very close to the earth tonight, but David shows that lunar phase is a very poor indicator of earthquake strength.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the people who have found Ken Ring’s prediction the last straw and have left the city for the weekend. Emotion beats facts and their fear is understandable.

And I applaud those like Keeping Stock who is visiting friends and whanau in spite of it; and Nick Smith and the Skeptics :

The minister and the Skeptics Society are planning to have lunch in the Sign of the Kiwi, one of the tallest and oldest buildings in Christchurch, at noon this Sunday, the day Ken Ring predicted another earthquake would hit the city.

The minister, who has a background in earthquake engineering and a PhD in geotechnical engineering, told NBR he had been taken aback by the number of people taking Mr Ring seriously.

So will there be an earthquake in Christchurch this weekend?

Who knows? There might be and there might not be, there is no credible scientific method of predicting that.

12 Responses to Can only prove non-science wrong

  1. robertguyton says:

    You employed a water diviner?


  2. Cadwallader says:

    Yet Nick Smith believes in man-made climate change? Remarkable!


  3. homepaddock says:

    Does giving someone a half dozen of beer count as employment?


  4. robertguyton says:

    You rewarded him for waving his willow wand around?


  5. homepaddock says:

    Reward, compensated, whatever you call it the driller was right we wasted our money.


  6. robertguyton says:

    I hear from a lot of salt-of-the-earth farmers who swear by their diviner.


  7. Chris Bird says:

    We have also used a diviner to find water for irrigation on the farm. He refused any payment as he said a god given gift could not be sold.
    There was water where he said to drill and heaps of it. We have also used another person as well and drilled and found good water, so it does work. You need faith!!


  8. david winter says:

    Thanks for the link Ele,

    Been a very strange couple of days, epsecially reading the comments when the NBR picked up the post! The latest seems to be that I’m making money out of all of this (I should like to know about that), I’m in the pockets of the Business Round Table, and presented a counterpoint to someones claims is impinging their free speech. I just have to tell myself this is not a representative sample of readers!


    Is there rule that any thread mentioning Nick Smith has to include the ETS? If there isn’t it seems to happen naturally, I’m starting to wonder if a significant proportion of the right-most right wingers in this country aren’t actually deluded about the scientific evidence for climate change.


  9. Tired Farmer says:

    Last week I heard a scientist saying that Ken Ring must be mistaken as science had got it all sussed over a hundred years ago and then later on I heard that scientists only discovered the Teutonic plates and their significance 100 years ago.

    Could it be that we will all go to our graves with a lot to learn in all respects?


  10. david winter says:


    Of course, if I thought we knew everything about the world I’d find it very hard to get up in the morning (or find a job!). But you don’t need to know what causes earthquakes to know it’s not the moon.

    FWIW, Tectonic plates (not teutonic, though they were proposed by a German!) were first proposed about 100 years ago, but it wasn’t until the 1950s or so that the theory was widely accepted and New Zealand, and our weird plants and animals, provided evidence for that ‘mobilists’ during the debate


  11. Tired Farmer says:

    David,thanks for the correction re the spelling,I should have checked, but the scientist I heard did say that the science was settled 100 years ago.

    One way or another it looks like earthquakes are part of life and I suppose we should concentrate on opposing problems our Govt are determined to create,such as the Emmissions Trading Scheme and the Marine and Coastal Area Bill.
    In the days of my youth I recall seeing old timers locate water and coal by divining which could have been good luck and experience which no doubt plays a part in science to.


  12. gravedodger says:

    Whatever anybody places by way of credibility on Ken Ring’s Earth Quake theories and the possible effects of the gravitational “pull”of aligned terrestial bodies, one thing is certain. His predictions have influenced many many people to actually get off their posteriors and prepare mentally and practically for a personal program for the aftermath of an EQ disaster with options for safe places, survival kits self reliance, earthquake proofing property etc. All as a voluntary action plan without a massive and largely ineffective advertising program (proven time and time again over the last six months), state coercion or other compulsion paid for by a nanny state with their sticky socialist fingers in my back pocket. One very adamant anti Ken Ring friend of mine in spite of calling his predictions utter rubbish has finally placed a survival kit in a garden shed with clear access.

    Talk about “scare mongering” I personally am far more upset at the continual anti nuclear propaganda “news” rubbish about the unfolding “disaster” at the tsunami damaged nuclear plant in Japan. That “IS” SCAREMONGERING BY THE IGNORANT and in the case of TV1 financed partly by MY WALLET. How many approaching disasters have we successfully negotiated so far while the 100, 200 whatever thousand souls are actually very very dead from the very real disaster.

    Any parent, carer, teacher or whatever who, with their position of trust who cannot counter what they see as the ravings of a madman must be very deficient in the skills they need to do their job.
    BTW I have availed myself of the rantings of the moonman and it has never been financed by compulsion unlike the rantings of other madmen as regards AGW and the compulsory levies by the equally deranged Dr (wouldn’t get to treat an ingrown toenail) Smith who imho has threatened the economy of our nation with his slavish belief system manifested as the ETS.
    How many people who are so scathing of Mr Ring have surreptitiously peeked at “Your Stars” without a second thought as to consequences sometimes months too late in the dentists rooms.
    I humbly claim to have found Plastic waterpipes submerged on land purchased from the “placer” who left no evidence as to location, with two wire wands, a skill I didn’t know I had until Number one daughter found she had “the power” and demonstrated to me I had it also. I guess that puts me in threat of “burning at the stake after as a warlock eh.

    History has been littered with snakeoil salesmen and charlatans for all of time,(remember the money wasted on the y2k bugs) and tomorrow will see another one come out of the swamp and a few will be given credence by some. It is called freedom of speech int it.


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