Earthquake prediction reporting another nominee for Bent Spoon

29/08/2011

NZ Skeptics awarded their 2011 Bent Spoon for journalistic gullibility to all media outlets and personalities who took Ken Ring’s earthquake predictions seriously.

The Bent Spoon was awarded telepathically by those gathered for the annual NZ Skeptics Conference which, appropriately given the winner was held in Christchurch at the weekend.

And there’s already another nominee for the next award. TV3 is reporting Ring’s predicting another big earthquake for Christchurch at the end of September.

He does qualify the prediction:

On his website, he says there is a “potent” lunar alignment in the last week of September, same as the one that existed at the time of the September 4, 2010 quake.

“Indeed, it may not happen, and we all hope not, but the main players will be in position,” he says. “For example we might observe that Dan Carter and Ritchie McCaw are on the field, but that does not guarantee a win.”

And the report does include this:

A 3 News analysis of Mr Ring’s predictions earlier this year failed to show any evidence he was able to accurately predict earthquakes, and even his long-range weather forecasts did no better than chance.

Given that, why bother reporting this latest prediction? There is no news value in further predictions from someone whose predictions have been proved inaccuarte and even with the qualifications giving the prediction coverage is taking it seriously.

The Herald report is even worse, it doesn’t bother to report the unreliability of his previous predictions.

All media should ignore his predictions as the unscientific guess-work they are and anyone with any doubts should read, or re-read, David Winter’s scientific evaluation of the predictions.


Can only prove non-science wrong

19/03/2011

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.


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