Running rings around the Moon Man?

By Peter Griffin 01/03/2011 142


John Campbell’s interview last night with “Moon Man” and self-proclaimed earthquake predictor Ken Ring was, according to the unprecedented stream of Twitter messages following it, a “train wreck”, “harsh”, “disappointing” and “poor journalism”.

campbell liveMedia veteran Dr Brian Edwards weighed in (site loading slowly today) soon  after the appearance to condemn Campbell’s effort:

John, your mindless, bullying, tirade against ‘moon man’ Ken Ring on tonight’s Campbell Live was perhaps the worst piece of egotistical, self-important, out of control, closed-minded, biased, unprofessional  non-interviewing I have seen in more than 40 years of New Zealand television.

With respect to Dr Edwards, I think he is over-reacting. What John Campbell engaged in was on a par with a mild episode of BBC Hardtalk as fronted by attack dog intellectual Stephen Sackur – though without the finesse or, it has to be said, the intellectualism. In a sense, the interview with Ken Ring was a train wreck, but at least Ring wasn’t permitted to air his banal theories in a softball interview, the trap a journalist at the Gisborne Herald fell into:

The Gisborne Herald has been the only media outlet to ask him about his success highlighting the likely dates of quakes, he said.

’Nobody has interviewed me at all. The way I see it the geologists have got it all wrong – they say these earthquakes are not occurring on any known faults, but earthquakes create faultlines as they go.

Not that the Gisborne Herald felt the need to consult a geologist, an astrophysicist or a scientist of any persuasion in this single-source story.

It is this type of easy media exposure which Ken Ring is adept at manipulating to his own end. Let us not forget that Ken Ring publishes a long-running and presumably lucrative series of weather prediction almanacs – his website is currently pushing the version for Ireland.

Giving Ring airtime in the media has turned out to be a very bad idea – people are taking his theories seriously and in the wake of last week’s quake, many are considering leaving Christchurch in the days around March 20, when Ring next predicts a quake will occur. The Campbell Live interviews preceding the exchange with Ring showed how intelligent, hard-working and obviously fearful Cantabrians have bought into Ring’s scientifically unfounded predictions.

Given all of that, its not surprising that Campbell was angry, that he was unwilling to give Ring a free run as so many before him have done. Campbell succeeded in shutting Ring down and tore into his theory as he should have done. But so unfocused was the attack that the average viewer never even got to hear a summary of Ring’s theory before Campbell attempted to demolish it. The overall impression for those who had only vaguely heard of Ken Ring then was that of a poor old man sitting alone in a TV studio being shouted at by a flustered and clearly angry John Campbell. Tragically, people are flocking to Ring’s defence as a result.

The irony is that Campbell could have simply asked Ring four or five simple questions and stood back as Ring shot himself in the foot attempting to answer them with his wacky pseudoscientific explanations. That’s all that would have been required for the average Campbell Live viewer to write Ring off as a crackpot and move on.

The set-up of the interview didn’t help, with Campbell on location in Christchurch and Ring stuck up on his own in the Auckland studio. At least TV3 didn’t put Ring head to head live on national TV with GNS Science seismologist Dr Kelvin Berryman – that would have been unfair, inappropriate and have made for bad TV.

I yesterday spent much of the day at the Science Media Centre trying with limited success to persuade journalists not to give Ken Ring any more airtime. Unfortunately last night’s episode of Campbell Live has resulted in a lot of people lending moral support to a guy who is preying on the fear of vulnerable quake victims. I don’t think that’s what John Campbell set out to achieve but it was a side-effect of the shotgun approach he took when he needed the incisiveness of a surgeon’s scalpel.

For an analysis of Ken Ring’s earthquake predictions check out this piece by fellow Sciblogger David Winter


142 Responses to “Running rings around the Moon Man?”

  • The irony is that Campbell could have simply asked Ring four or five simple questions and stood back as Ring shot himself in the foot attempting to answer them with his wacky pseudoscientific explanations. That’s all that would have been required for the average Campbell Live viewer to write Ring off as a crackpot and move on.

    Perhaps, the problem with that approach is it opens the door to the “Gish Gallop” – it’s so much easer to make up more and more nonsense than it is to debunk it. If he had free reing to answer questions he’d have waffled on about lunar cycles and solar flares and least some people would have thought he sounded like someone that knew what he was talking about…

  • Yes true there’s a danger of that – the climate sceptics are masterful at it. You need to give someone like Ken Ring just enough rope… Campbell didn’t get the noose around his neck, just flogged him with it!

  • “Giving Ring airtime in the media has turned out to be a very bad idea…”

    Maybe, but your expressed position misses the point. Once the decision is made by a media entity to provide a public platform then the law requires certain standards to be met, and they clearly were not on this occasion. That is the point that Edwards, as an experienced media man, is making, and I absolutely agree with him. Furthermore I suggest that the unprecedented feedback of 700 comments to the TV3 page that accompanies the piece, with 95% (sample of 100) expressing disquiet about the standard of the interview, shows that the community as a whole believes that broadcasting standards were breached. I have myself just filed my first-ever complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, so enraged was I … And I agree that Ring’s ideas are quackery!

  • Peter, Ring maywell be a charlatan but the science behind his theories is solid and well documented: the moon does deform the earth’s crust, causing what’s known as an earth tide.
    Here is what the GNS wesbite says about it
    “Seismologists have investigated the effect of the moon’s gravity for many years. The short answer is that while the moon does deform the earth slightly in a 12-hour cycle called the solid earth tides, it doesn’t seem to have an effect on the time an occurrence of big earthquakes. There are difficulties in understanding the effects of tidal forces because they are relatively small. However, if a fault or region is ready to rupture, it wouldn’t take much to tip the local stress field to the point of rupture. It’s worth noting that there is a much better correlation between the earth’s gravitational pull on the moon and moonquakes. Yes, seismographs have been taken to the moon and have recorded between 300 and 600 ‘moonquakes’ per year.
    reference: http://sylph.gns.cri.nz/what/earthact/earthquakes/earthquakefaq.html#17

  • @mjwd48 that quote is pretty much what Kelvin Berryman said last night on Campbell Live: “The short answer is that while the moon does deform the earth slightly in a 12-hour cycle called the solid earth tides, it doesn’t seem to have an effect on the time an occurrence of big earthquakes.”

    And that really is the point when it comes to Ken Ring trying to predict earthquakes – it doesn’t stack up scientifically in the context of what we know about the effect of the moon’s gravitational pull.

  • @mainlyme My position on Ken Ring yesterday in relation to the media was a: don’t give him any airtime b: If you feel you must because of the concern his theory is raising in Canterbury, go in armed to dismantle his unscientific theories. Option B didn’t quite work out for John Campbell, but the worst interview in 40 years of broadcasting as Dr Edwards suggests. Come on, a tad dramatic I think!

  • MainlyMe,

    A little pedantic this, but while the absolute number of complaints might be meaningful in some way, the balance of them for/against will likely be meaningless – straw polls from the internet in any form (e.g. including counting comments on Facebook pages) are far too subject to crowd pressure, knee-jerk responses, etc., to be meaningful in my opinion.

  • The problem that has resulted in significant public response is not about the lunar theory, but about the extreme example of predetermined/biased journalism. The bottom line is that the experts are no more accurate in their predictions… One does not need to be a rocket scientist or even a geologist to know that there unknown fault lines, that earthquakes usually occur along fault lines, that existing fault lines can be extended by earthquakes and new fault lines are created by some earthquakes.

  • @ PG
    Advice: “a: don’t give him any airtime b: If you feel you must because of the concern his theory is raising in Canterbury, go in armed to dismantle his unscientific theories” Gee that really worked didn’t it! For he first time in his entire life Ken Ring has the exposure he dreamed of. I see he even features on Twitter’s NZ trend list.

    @ GJ.
    Yeah .. pedantic. Presented the number as an indicator not as a statistic. And I stand by it!!! Now 883 comments on the TV3 page. Ring will have a grin from ear to ear!!!

  • I think that the interview went badly was not just Campbell’s fault, it was pretty obvious that Ring was not prepared to answer questions, but expected the usual ‘soft’ treatment in which he could spout off unchallenged. This then ended up being messy as Campbell then tried to rein him in and ask questions. Ken Ring carried on talking regardless of Campbell’s attempts to get him to address points and even when pinned down on a question such as on his qualifications, Ring waffled and blustered but never actually gave an answer. This was important, as he has claimed variable amounts scientific training which undoubtedly do not exist. I think what is being missed here is that this was never set up to publicise Ring’s claims which have already been covered by other media, it was set up to question him on those claims. This means that the whole point is missed, and that is that after making a number of broad unscientific predictions of ‘earthquake activity’ he’s had a near enough hit to garner him some attention (which no doubt will profit him considerably in book sales). He is now exploiting the situation and in doing so is playing on fear, this in effect ends up being the situation where someone falsely screams ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre causing a panic as already fearful people place credence in his claims and act accordingly.

  • Spotted this gem relayed from comment on the TV3 site, to Brian Edwards’ site and now here (let’s hope blockquotes work):

    This, from a poster on TV3′s website (over 600 posts, so far.)

    Ashleigh in Christchurch
    01 Mar 2011 1:14a.m.

    I think John Campbell is just tired like the rest of us down here. Perhaps more opporunity to speak should have been given to Ken Ring but are any of you aware that this man has co-authored a book called “Pawmistry” a guide to palmistry for your cat? I am SERIOUS! This is not a wind up, the book actually exists on Amazon. Google it. I wish John knew of this and had a chance to pop it into his interview with KR, I’d also like to know if he is a scientologist too?

    petersmith,

    “The experts” (your words) don’t try make predictions beyond evidence, it’s a big difference.

  • @GJ said… ““The experts” (your words) don’t try make predictions beyond evidence, it’s a big difference.”

    Actually, they make predictions based upon assumptions… big, big difference. I had never heard of Ring before Campbell’s rude interview. It was the rude interview that has given Ring his day in the sun… nothing else, just rudeness.

  • Peter Smith,

    I’m not sure why you are poking at (taunting?) me. You wrote that the bottom line was the accuracy of predictions. I pointed out how they are done matters, too. (Read David’s post, for example.)

  • @diaz… have another look at the interview…”http://www.3news.co.nz/Ken-Ring-I-predicted-the-Christchurch-quake-/tabid/367/articleID/200226/Default.aspx”

    Go to 6 minutes into the tape. Ring is expressing his condolences as any normal human being would do and Campbell goes in for the kill… the rest is history. The problem is a bad interview, not the claims and counter claims regarding differing theories.

  • @GJ
    You’re an odd fish. You lambast me for citing a count of comments as indicating a trend, then you select one item, a single data point, derived from the same source that swims against the tide like it validates your belief system. Most odd!

    “Experts don’t make predictions beyond evidence” Really? I thought that the scientific process is
    1. observe data,
    2. form a hypothesis,
    3. found predictions based on that hypothesis, and
    4. observe whether the prediction occurs
    5. refine the hypothesis.

    Irrespective of your belief system there is at least some alignment in Ring’s approach with that plinth of knowledge creation.

  • @GJ, Poke? Taunt? You have to be kidding! Aren’t people allowed to express opinions any more? Scientists use assumptions every day to make predictions based, to a large degree, on probabilities and historical data. Assumptions are not evidence, they are assumptions based on experience and sometimes historical evidence. Rear vision mirrors help us drive safely, but they do note give us direction for what’s around the corner.

  • Taking a leaf from GJ’s book and highlighting a comment entered to the TV3 Campbell Live feedback page, this at least attempts to provide light over heat. The entry is by Concerned Viewer, and reproduced here in full:

    It is a shame John Campbell didn’t take the time to do some research prior to this interview. While a contested theory, there are credible geologists, physicists and others (with multiple degrees each!) who have published in credible journals reporting statistical correlations between lunar tides and solar winds and certain kinds of earthquakes in certain places – including shallow, and not all of them minor. Some research suggests increased effect for these tides working in conjunction, which seems to be the crux of Ring’s approach. This work is available online via Google Scholar. What a shame TV3 didn’t bother to talk to *any* of these scientists in its attempt to discredit Ring, instead relying on local GSN experts who haven’t been trained in those areas and whose narrow specialisation may well be blinkering them to insights offered by other disciplines. I don’t know if Ken is right, but believe his theory may have some wee nugget of insight in there somewhere that deserves more serious consideration than TV3 and John Campbell gave it last night. See the following as examples of recent work.

    S Tanaka, M Ohtake… 2004 Tidal triggering of earthquakes in Japan related to the regional tectonic stress, Earth Planets and Space, – zisin.geophys.tohoku.ac.jp

    Sachiko Tanaka, et al (2002) Evidence for tidal triggering of earthquakes as revealed from statistical analysis of global data, JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 107, 2211, 11 PP. doi:10.1029/2001JB001577

    Elizabeth S. Cochran1,*, et al 2004: Earth Tides Can Trigger Shallow Thrust Fault Earthquakes
    Science Vol. 306 no. 5699 pp. 1164-1166, DOI: 10.1126/science.1103961

    G. Anagnostopoulos, et al,(2010) Solar wind triggering of geomagnetic disturbances and strong (M>6.8) earthquakes during the November – December 2004 period. Arxiv preprint arXiv

    S.D. Odintsov, et al 2007, published in Izvestiya Rossiiskoi Akademii Nauk. Seriya Fizicheskaya, 2007, Vol. 71, No. 4, pp. 608–610.

  • Sure, my remark was brief – I’m flat out – so maybe you’re reading into it. (Some people are pretty wound up at the moment, after all.) But jumping on me for a casual (and I emphasise, friendly) passing remark is a bit harsh. It wasn’t about “the scientific method” per se or anything elaborate, just that you don’t go off making predictions based on nothing much. Common sense, surely?

    MainlyMe,

    I did not “lambast” you. In fact, I deliberately went out of my way and turned on myself (my remark re pedantic) deliberately so that I you’d understand I wasn’t attacking you — I extended you that courtesy. Describing me as “an odd fish” is pretty rude.

    you select one item, a single data point, derived from the same source that swims against the tide like it validates your belief system.

    No offence, but I think you’re on the wrong page (see above).

    Peter Smith,

    You seem to have missed the point I was making. Your latest reply reads as if I opposed that scientists use assumptions. I didn’t say scientists don’t use assumptions – where they’re can be warranted or can be put to good use. (The use of them will be backed, of course.)

    Just so it’s clear: I asked about ‘taunting’ because I didn’t know how to read your wording, as your words came across as pretty harsh. If that’s not the case, fine, just say so. (Without the brickbats!) My apologies if that has come across the wrong way you, but in my defence you own wording “Actually, … big, big difference” can read badly, too.

  • Is this a blog for scientists? For people with open minds? I cannot understand the vitriol towards this guy. Sure, if you some of you think what he does is no better or worse than astrology, that’s fine, but last I heard New Zealand was a democracy, and a democracy that encouraged free speech!

    @grantjacobs you really need to chill out, I can’t believe how combative this forum is!

    As for me, I don’t ‘believe’ in Ken Ring, but I don’t discount what he says either.

  • MainlyMe,

    Berryman volunteered reference to that line work when interviewed.

    The commenter you cite misses that this work isn’t useful in making predictions of earthquakes, as Berryman pointed out during the interview. (You did need to piece this together from two or three things he said, which may make it less obvious.)

  • Grant, it’s a bit rich to now claim that your hurried, off the hip comments may have been taken out of context.

    The facts are these… Campbell was totally rude to Ring… it was not an interview but an ambush that has backfired badly.

    There is solid published research giving credibility to space activity being related to seismic activity.

    Seismologists are mostly of relevance after an event and struggle, despite their billions of dollars of historical research, to predict what might happen let alone what will happen.

    Regardless of Ring’s credentials, his predictions were entirely useful for those who acted upon them… whilst the basis may be anecdotal and coincidental, the fact remains that he has believers and Campbell has given proof that Tertullian was correct when he said, ‘the blood of the martyr is the seed of the cause…’ (or words to that effect.) It is clear that much of what’s being written is ‘twittering’, not adding to an intellectual discussion.

  • Clem, the “vitriol” is towards a guy pushing flaky theories and as a sideline making a decent earner selling books based on those theories.

    He is welcome to do that, it is a free world. But it needs to be pointed out that his theories don’t stand up to scrutiny from the scientific community. That’s what Campbell was trying to do last night, but unfortunately fell over himself in his eagerness to do so.

    Bottom line, when a whole bunch of people in Canterbury are shaken and fragile, people need to know that what the guy is spouting is seriously shonky scientifically… that’s all.

  • I found the interview to be pretty poor but then perhaps John Campbell is under a little more stress than people understand. He has been covering the earthquake here in Christchurch so I’m guessing he is unlikely to be getting much sleep like the rest of us given the number of aftershocks. Furthermore the media may be seeing a lot worse than what is being seen on TV and may have lost some good friends in the CTV collapse.
    No, it wasn’t John Campbell’s best interview, but perhaps having to interview someone who claims to have predicted the earthquake, yet didn’t publicise this widely until after the quake and with a body count approaching 200, was a bit of a challenge for him.

  • clemdevine, since when has it been a requirement for scientists to have ‘open minds?’ :-)) Many scientists I know are so locked into their pet theories that it seems the two, when juxtaposition, appear to be an oxymoron…

    I think we can agree that Campbell’s interview was rude, predtermined and undertaken with a closed mind… Does Campbell have a degree in journalism?

  • @clemdevine

    “Sure, if you some of you think what he does is no better or worse than astrology, that’s fine, but last I heard New Zealand was a democracy, and a democracy that encouraged free speech!”

    Sorry, I must have missed something here. Whose free speech is being prevented on sciblogs?
    It is also worth noting that free speech always has limits – shouting fire in a crowded room for example.

  • @PG
    “But it needs to be pointed out that his theories don’t stand up to scrutiny from the scientific community. That’s what Campbell was trying to do last night”. Based on the perfromance which, not being JC is the only basis any of us can rely on, I cannot agree with your assessment. I think it was JC’s intention to denigrate Ring as a person, and he would have succeeded had Ring not been so composed.

    @PS
    “Does Canmpbell have a degree in journalism?”
    Not according to his Wikipedia page. Here it states he has a B.A. (Hons) and that he learned his journalism on the job. Quite ironic given his passion for Ring’s qualifications!!!

  • Hold on @michael edmonds, Ken Rings posts have been on his own website the whole time, he hasn’t just come out and said so.

    It’s up to him to do what he feels is right. The media has seen fit to make it a story now, as they are entitled to do so. It is unfair to criticise somebody for making a living whatever they say or sell.

  • This is fascinating…. Here’s a post on Ring’s website dated Monday 14th Feb…

    It means ths area of the sun that corresponds to NZ is again seeing some activation. The window of 15-25 February should be potent for all types of tidal action, not only kingtides but cyclone development and ground movement. The 18th may be especially prone. The possible earthquake risk areas are N/S faults until after 16 February, then E/W faults until 23rd. The moon will be full on the 18th and in perigee on the 19th. This perigee will be the fifth closest for the year. The 15th will be nodal for the moon. On the 20th the moon crosses the equator heading south. Strong winds and swells may arrive around 22nd to NZ shorelines.

    These are opinions and not predictions, based on observation of repeating lunar patterns.
    http://www.predictweather.co.nz/ArticleShow.aspx?ID=334&type=home

    Google “Ken Ring” then click on news… Can’t see anywhere where he’s bee taking advantage of the quake… put -queensland -3news and -sciblog into the search…

    This one stands out…

    “Driving with the car practically on two wheels to get down a street in Wainoni I think back to an editorial meeting on Monday where, against scoffs of some of the other senior journalists, quietly spoken John McCrone said he planned to write a feature on Ken Ring, an Auckland-based man who claims to be able to predict earthquakes through the study of the moon and tides.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4704299/Reunited-after-the-quake-mother-and-child

  • @clem

    “It is unfair to criticise somebody for making a living whatever they say or sell.”

    Tell that to the guys at Fair Go or Consumer!

  • @Peter Griffin that’s an unfair comparison, considering I have read nowhere that subscribers of Ken Rings paid content are upset with his service. As a disclaimer I don’t buy his services, or his almanacs.

  • Here’s story that if correct will ask some serious questions of New Zealand scientists and experts.

    http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201102280347.html

    Funny how Campbell hasn’t interviewed people who were in a position to prevent loss of life.

    Remove the deaths due to the two relatively modern buildings designed and inspected by experts and it makes the older buildings look quite safe…

  • @clem – do you really think Ken Ring’s paid subscribers would want it to be publicly known that they weren’t happy with the quality of his weather predictions after paying good hard cash for them? I don’t think so….

  • Grant, it’s a bit rich to now claim that your hurried, off the hip comments may have been taken out of context.

    If that’s exactly what’s happened it’s not “a bit rich” at all. To make them out to be “hurried, off the hip” is casting aspersions: I’d have expected the better man to apologise and move on – just a thought, but I draw you to my last sentence: “My apologies…” I’ve done the best I can to extend the benefit of the doubt and try be courteous.

    Ken Ring is trying to sell something that lacks support (see David’s article, for example, as I suggested earlier), just like his previous “ Pawmistry”. We can all laugh at the Pawmistry thing. It’s kind-of silly, and probably is mostly harmless* – provided no-one takes it seriously. (There lies the rub.)

    But to do similar on something that affects people’s lives, and—important this—to continue to promote his wares, as it were, at time like this is stooping pretty low. I believe that’s a part of where Campbell’s interview is coming from. See the comments following from Alison’s article for example; it seems it took quite harsh comments from others on other forums to get him to stop promoting his claims during the early stages of the disaster despite it being common knowledge that people where suffering – that last claim is based on his words, not mine.

    Clem,

    you really need to chill out, I can’t believe how combative this forum is!

    That’s a straw man you’re throwing that at 😉 I never wrote in anger in the first place and am being very patient over this. (You might want to consider the combativeness not mine — just a thought.)

    (* Not meaning to channel The Hitchhiker’s Guide!)

  • “Ken Rings posts have been on his own website the whole time, he hasn’t just come out and said so.”

    My point being, that if he had truly predicted a quake of this magnitiude and believed in his prediction then why didn’t he broadcast it more vigorously? particularly with all the lives lost.

    But then I guess a 10 day window, which only mentions the possibility of ground movement is hardly a prediction at all? Particularly given that “ground movement” would cover any of the multitude of aftershocks/quakes felt in Christchurch. His “predictions” carry the same vagueness of the standard charlatan psychic or tarot card reader.

  • @ PG
    “do you really think Ken Ring’s paid subscribers would want it to be publicly known that they weren’t happy with the quality of his weather predictions after paying good hard cash for them? ” Errr … yes! Isn’t that the whole basis of the Fair Go programme you channeled???

    This forum is degrading into unscientific squabling and irrationally defensive position taking. Time for me to leave!

  • MainlyMe… It is difficult to recall any “sciblog” where contraire opinions are discussed rationally or objectively… and to think tax-payers money is used to provide the so-called science website.

    I’m out of here too… it’s been entertaining if only to reinforce how blinkered some science-minded people are.

  • Did anyone get an impression that John Campbell may not have wanted to do the interview? Maybe he was instructed by a producer to run with it?? Just a thought…..

  • Petersmith – re the link. I think I would be on safe ground if I suggested that there are few engineering seismologists that have not tried to influence their masters, councils and numerous governments on the danger of earthquakes throughout NZ. I emphasise throughout NZ. The fact that it was built in 1975 should send a messaage. The CTV building was planned and built before the 1976 regulations came into force. Whether it was planned and built with foreknowledge of the engineering required to sustain a quake such as the last, or, planned and built to the letter of existing regulations must be left to experts who will be called to the inquiry.

    All scientists and experts can do is offer advice. It is up to the politicians to decide if they will heed it.

    I am certain there some very upset scientists and engineeers around at the moment.

  • The only upshot of all this is that many more people have now heard of Ken Ring, thus negating anything Campbell hoped to achieve!

  • Grant, thanks for that link. Ken Ring will be encouraged to read Dr John Bevan’s words… “so it is reasonable to suggest that tidal stresses could have an influence on faults that are already stressed close to their breaking point.”

    Makes you think… doesn’t it… especially given the proximity of the quake to the surface and ocean and the likely extra stresses following September’s quake…

  • “This forum is degrading into unscientific squabling and irrationally defensive position taking. Time for me to leave!”

    translation – You guys won’t validate my woo so I’m leaving.

    “I’m out of here too… it’s been entertaining if only to reinforce how blinkered some science-minded people are.”

    translation – science is so annoying when all they want to talk about is facts and won’t accept beliefs or “opinions” (Ken Rings term I believe).

  • News just in: Campbell’s opening passage of his show tonight re-affirmed he considers Christchurch does not need Mr Ring’s “predictions”, that he apologised for over-stepping the mark, and—important this—he offered Mr Ring a fairer chance to present himself, but Mr Ring declined.

  • Michael Edwards said, “translation – science is so annoying when all they want to talk about is facts…”

    I’m RATFLing… what facts? Even Grant took to lauding the credibility the recently retired ‘Wizard’ gave his fellow believer’s arguments. As Grant has noted Campbell unreservedly apologised for his childish petulant behaviour last night… Ring didn’t have to go on air to give Campbell the chance to have another go… why would he?

  • Why wouldn’t he? Certainly many of his supporters have complained that he should have been given the opportunity to speak more freely. It does look a bit odd to be offered such an opportunity, & to decline.

    While I thnk of it, further up the comments thread there were comments along the lines of ‘what happened to free speech?’ Everyone here has been free to speak freely & indeed, Mr Ring also has that freedom & exercises it, on his blog & elsewhere. But ‘free speech’ doesn’t mean freedom from having one’s ideas questioned, particularly if we’re on a science forum & the speakers can’t produce robust science-based evidence in support of their arguments.

  • Peter Smith,

    Even Grant took to lauding the credibility the recently retired ‘Wizard’ gave his fellow believer’s arguments.

    Not correct. This is not what the Wizard said, nor what I did either.

    Please don’t misrepresent others – it is a very low form of argument and I’m quite capable of speaking for myself, thank you.

    On that note, with regard to your earlier comment:

    “Ken Ring will be encouraged to read Dr John Bevan’s words”

    I don’t see geologists denying a (minor) influence of tidal effects, etc. For example—as both Peter Griffin and I referred to earlier—Berryman offered this in the interview.

    What geologists have objected to is claims that you can predict an earthquake in the way Ken Ring claims to.

    The point is, holding up this portion of a sentence as “news” seems neither here nor there.

    You’ve also offered the portion of sentence you quote out of context, but readers can work that one out for themselves. (I could spell it out, but it’s tedious.)

  • @ Alison;
    “Why wouldn’t he?” Consider these reasons. First tonight’s invitation was a reframe of the ambush he was entrapped with yesterday. ( See the video at 10’53” when Ring states “I thought you were supposed to be interviewing me about my theory and that is why I came on here.”) When you’ve been ambushed and beaten up once, why would you accept the thug’s invitation for a reenactment? Clearly Ring is not so stupid.

    Secondly, it was evident from tonight’s introduction to Campbell’s cynical apology tonight that he was approaching any subsequent interview with the same set closed mind that had blinded him last night. So why would Ring honour Campbell with the opportunity to recover face?? My expectation is that Ring will pop up on Sainsbury shortly before D-day who will delight in upstaging JC.

    (For the record I am a non-subscriber to Ring’s theory, but I am prepared, in the manner appropriate to scientific endeavour, to give him a hearing. Wish that others here had not closed down to rational discussion.)

  • Alison said, “Certainly many of his supporters have complained that he should have been given the opportunity to speak more freely.”

    Alison… I don’t see Ring supporters on this list… I see people critical of Campbell’s rude unprofessional ambush… I’ve never read Ring’s theories… don’t intend to either…

    This thread has been enlightening…

  • @Michael Edmonds
    “translation – You guys won’t validate my woo so I’m leaving”

    No, I said exactly what I mean, which is “This forum is degrading into unscientific squabling and irrationally defensive position taking”. Like GJ ” I’m quite capable of speaking for myself, thank you”.

    And if you had read back through the thread you would have seen that I am no sycophant for Ring’s theories, merely a proponent for the open mind that all scientists require to perform as scientists. It is the absence of that situation in this blog that I find so tiresomehere. I have been drawn back by Alison’s entry. believing her to be someone who at least acts rationally.

  • @mainlyme

    I think most people here and elsewhere agree that the original interview was a fiasco and it is good that John Campbell apologised. I’m guessing the stress of covering the quake is proving challenging for John Campbell.
    I also can’t see why he would do a second interview as the first one has gained him so much sympathic support. But it would be quite nice to see someone else interview him so long as they ask some good questions as Peter suggested above.
    However, a more detailed explanation on TV along side a few probing questions would be most educational for the NZ public.

    Also can anyone tell me what the exact details are for the March prediction? Given a single day has been specified I am interested in seeing how this turns out and if the media will notice.

    @petersmith

    RATFLing? does that involve flinging rats? As Grant pointed out you have misread his use of the Wizards comments.
    The facts I’m talking about are those which would show that Ken Ring is capable of predicting earthquakes and or weather. Sadly these seem to be missing from anything he has written. His predictions/opinions appear to me to follow the same pattern as a sideshow psychic – vague.

  • MainlyMe,

    “Wish that others here had not closed down to rational discussion”

    While the only “evidence” offered by you to back Ken Ring’s “predictions” has had no response (the list of references you gave) it hasn’t been “shut down”.

    In fact, if I recall correctly, the Science paper you refer to was actually mentioned in the SMC page I linked earlier. Certainly the commentary offered on that page gives some context for you.

    Perhaps you could paraphrase why you think that they are relevant and say more that what the geologists on the SMC page do for us?

    Peter Smith,

    Alison… I don’t see Ring supporters on this list…

    Alison can speak for herself, but speaking for myself I took her reference to “his supporters” to mean all the various places people having commenting, the TV3 website, Facebook, Edward’s piece, etc.

    This thread has been enlightening…

    Excuse me for saying this, but I think it would work better if you didn’t persist with tart remarks about others like this and offered more constructive comments.

    On that note, have you read David’s article?

  • @mainlyme

    apologies, my “translation” overstepped the mark but I still disagree that “this forum is degrading into unscientific squabling and irrationally defensive position taking”. A few strong statements but still a general agreement that the interview was a fiasco.
    I think the biggest disagreement is over whether Ken Ring should have been given airtime or not. I think he should be given airtime but with someone who will politely ask probing questions.

    And I am quite aware you are not a proponent of RIng’s theories

  • Grant asked, On that note, have you read David’s article?.

    Grant, in the context of Campbell’s PR disaster, Ring’s theories and David’s article are irrelevant… the issue is about rude interviewing…

  • Petersmith,

    Why should I correspond with you? You complain about the lack of “facts”, then when invited to contribute excuse yourself!

    Good riddance.

  • Petersmith,

    You objected to a lack of “facts” and made pot-shots about the lack of science, then when politely invited to offer substance excused yourself. Also, I wrote giving JC’s response: circling back to before that (as you are asking to) is not moving forward.

    ‘Good riddance’ => find someone else to play with 😉

  • @GJ
    I am in danger of letting the anger speak, but that would be no more helpful than Campbell’s disgraceful tirade last night.

    Why are you expecting me to defend Ring’s philosophy, when I have ON THREE OCCASIONS stated that I am not a “believer” in it? In any case the veracity of his theories is not the focus of the Griffin article or of the subsequent debate you have entered. Lest you need reminding, this discussion is founded on a disgraceful bit of journalism (now acknowledged by its perpetrator), about standards of journalism and the right for a person to be heard in a civil debate directed at the ball, not the player.

    Further you have the audacity to paint others as the perpetrators of the malice erupting in this thread when a track back shows you repeatedly as the primary perpetrator. You try to excuse yourself by asserting that points were “made hurriedly” or “taken out of context” (in otherwords, it’s our fault) or self-deprecation (“A little pedantic this…”) but that does not wash. You own your words AND the effect that they have. Choose them carefully.

    @ ME
    Thank you, I understand and appreciate your comment..

  • @GJ
    You told Petersmith
    “Why should I correspond with you? You complain about the lack of “facts”, then when invited to contribute excuse yourself!

    Good riddance.”

    For others who doubted my earlier assertion that “unscientific squabling and irrationally defensive position taking” here is the final proof.

    It’s like playtime in the sandpit!

  • @ Michael – there are no exact predictions from Ken about the March event – so far I’ve seen two different versions (the ‘moonshot’ & a considerably vaguer option). Just writing something about this at the moment. For petersmith & mainlyme – this is one of the problems that I have with Ken’s ‘predictions’ – they are vague to the point of being useless (or of allowing just about any event to count as a ‘hit’). It would be great if Ken would provide more clarity or precision when he’s asked (& I have asked, always politely), but unfortunately that’s not forthcoming. If you ask a scientist for a prediction about something they’ll give it, with an indication of how probable they think it’ll be, & they’ll try to be as precise as they can. Vagueness just muddies the waters.

    (And for the record, Grant is correct in his interpretation of what I meant about Ring supporters in my previous comment here.)

  • MM,

    Why are you expecting me to defend Ring’s philosophy

    You must have missed my last comment to you. I took the trouble of putting that right on my own initiative.

    You offered the comment listing the references and remarked that people where trying to shut things down. All I was doing was inviting you to take the only real substance I could see you had offered re the science further, thinking it would be more productive to talk about the science (or lack of it) than personal potshots. (Like those you’ve just issued I have to admit.)

    Instead you both seem now want to swing back to not science. I’m not being evasive, it’s just you two keep shifting what you want, which is impossible for me to try help.

    Further you have the audacity to paint others as the perpetrators of the malice erupting in this thread when a track back shows you repeatedly as the primary perpetrator.

    No, I did not, nor I did not try create fights – it’s just not my style. I spent a lot of time today trying to clear up that up already. I’d appreciate it if you would not restart it by accusing me of things I haven’t done.

  • Interesting. My brother just rang me as they had a small quake in Wellington and he was worried that Christchurch must have had another major quake.
    Then 5 minutes later an aftershock here in Christchurch.
    Reminding myself that correlation is not necessarily causation. :-)

  • Grant I’m not playing with anyone… it’s not a game in the sandpit…. the facts are that Campbell tonight acknowledged he stuffed up… end of story… that is exactly what this was about… not the theory or even the science… so sorry, you are spitting your own dummy from some kind of imaginary sandpit…

  • @Alison

    Thanks, that is interesting. I’ve already heard several people in Christchurch suggest that they are going to get out of town on March 20th because of a Ken Ring “opinion”. sigh. I think with people here being tired and stressed they are more susceptible to such rumours.

  • Mmmm. While I agree that the interview could have been handled better, I rather think that John C was – underneath it all – angry that rumours and unsubstantiated claims (from any source simply make people more tired & more stressed. And that anger boiled over into how he handled the interview, with the results that we’ve seen.

    Post should be up now, by the way.

  • Speaking just for myself, I can’t see the value of returning to the interview itself given JC has apologised and moved on. It seems to me that the thing to do is move on as well.

    You might note that Brian Edwards has expressed the same opinion. (I read of Brian’s opinion after writing this comment: I’m just adding this before I sent it in.)

    Petersmith: please note the wink I added – I was writing a fun, friendly hint. I never said it was “a game in the sandpit”.

  • GJ… “Good ridance” is not writing in fun… Grant, you write on the run… without much thought, no critical analysis, no depth, off topic, and dog people when THEY don’t understand what you are thinking/trying to say… for someone who prides himself as an objective scientist that is not a good look… [Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying you aren’t good looking (wink)… no, no, no, no…. I’m not saying you ARE good looking…(wink)…

    Alison, making excuses for Campbell’s rudeness doesn’t cut it either… the bottom line is he was rude and that was the sole reason for the public outrage and embarrassing apology. From what I can tell Campbell and those behind the story (the ‘scientists’) were the only ones angry… Haven’t heard of any one else complaining and he hasn’t been charged with anything…

  • @GJ;
    I endorse Petersmith’s observations on your contributions 100%. Please, this time rather than responding in prompt denial, sit in front of a mirror and … look/think.

  • I’d appreciate it you both would stop slagging me. I have patiently been refraining from abusing you in reply. I have been telling the truth; if you don’t want it there’s not much I can do.

    Wanting to talk about the interview is fine, I never said otherwise, but using that as an excuse for abusing me for inviting you to discuss the science is misplaced.

    I invited you to discuss the science based on *your* leads, it was not a case of me trying to change the subject. Can you see how I might feel about trying to move the discussion forward following *your lead* only to be abused for trying to do the right thing by you?

  • Grant, what were my “leads????????” Have you noticed that your posts are mostly defending yourself… trying to explain yourself… you should take a course in effective communication… you need it.

  • @ Petersmith
    “you should take a course in effective communication”

    Actually, according to his CV GJ has expertise in communications per this extract … “I have strong interests in science communication and am open to writing contracts or other work (e.g. editing) in this area.”

    Clearly it is our problem not his (to anticipate GJ’s response)
    (;->)*
    * Per GJ, the grin makes it OK.

  • Guys lets call it a day with the squabbling, bring it back to science-related stuff or discussion of the Campbell Live piece and/or apology or its time to shut the thread…

  • @PG;
    Given the focus of the post was the Campbell interview, his apol last night, it’s time to move on (notwithstanding that there will undoubtedly be Broadcasting Standards Authority consideration somewhere in the future).

    I vote close the thread. The science matters can be discussed in other SciBlog posts on the Ring Theories which remain active.

    Ciao!

    (PS. Any chance you might consider an alternative spam defense than ReCAPTCHA? One of the major frustrations I have experienced in this engagement has been trying to decypher the passwords needed to post. I have lately encountered math-based systems (eg 1234 + 4321 =….) that are substantially more user friendly.)

  • Peter Griffin,

    I agree. I stand by what I wrote in my previous comment.

    I’ve already left, as it were, as I feel I’ve done all I can to try put this right (I have only came back seeing your comment). I understand people are testy right now and I have tried my level best to be polite over this, and to not reply in kind.

  • (Just for clarity: my previous comment crossed over MainlyMe’s reply.)

    MainlyMe, re captcha words: just push the recycle button on captcha, it’d toss up a simpler one – hopefully sooner rather than later! 😉

  • Comment on John Campbell’s interview with Ken Ring Monday 28 Feb 2011

    Campbell’s Interview with Ken Ring is outstanding as the preeminent classic of how our mass media is controlled and how it so singularly supports the incumbent vested interests / status quo and the dogmas of mainstream thinking. Psychologists refer to this as the human condition of normalcy.

    Campbell’s so-called interview with Ken Ring is not journalism – it is the exact opposite. This was a biased misrepresentation of facts clearly contrived to destroy Ken Ring’s presentation of his science. I can hear modern day scientists in GNS groaning as they read this.

    As so many of their peers in New Zealand and throughout the world these scientists have forgotten the true purpose of real scientific investigation in favour of the easier and more lucrative work of maintaining the ‘accepted versions’ of reality that are now mostly dictated by an extremely sophisticated techno / industrial / military complex. Too much modern science, and the funding supporting its outcomes, is no more than searching for and discovering evidence to underpin the mechanisms serving techno / industrial / military complex and the wealth it generates for an elite plutocracy.

    Proof of this was when Campbell asked GNS’s Dr Kelvin Berryman if any scientific research had been done to validate the effects of the moon on earthquake events and Berryman replied “Yes it had be done – about 100 years ago”. HUH??? Did I miss something??? Campbell certainly missed it (or chose to miss it) given that he let that absurd comment pass without asking the obvious question, “How could research done 100 years ago possibly confirm or refute what any reasonable person with a good computer might be able to determine today – given the huge amount more available scientific data and the ability to manipulate and model such data over many scenarios not possible 100 years ago? It is horrifying to hear one of our leading scientists make an assertion that 100 year old research into moon influence on earthquakes could still be held as valid today – especially when it comes to trying to determine future events to potentially save many lives. Shame on what passes itself off as modern science that it has not investigated this linkage given the astounding results of Ring’s track record in such predictions.

    http://www.radiolive.co.nz/Ken-Ring-predicted-Chch-Earthquake-and-the-current-terrible-weather/tabid/506/articleID/16322/Default.aspx

    http://www.predictweather.com/ArticleShow.aspx?ID=306&type=home

    Being a very simple man – I make a very simple deduction – which is nevertheless grounded in some simple calculations i.e. given Ken Ring’s previous predictions (especially his greater accuracy in predicting weather patterns) and given the relative accuracy of his timing of events then surely it is incumbent on us all to sit up and take notice. But no – the vested interests who have never got anywhere near close in their ability to predict earthquakes prefer to attack the only reasonably accurate forecaster, on proven historic basis, because they refuse to recognize the science he has developed. And the journalist, Campbell, charged with presenting the two sides of such argument in an unbiased manner so that presumably intelligent viewers can make up their own minds, chose rather to support the established scientists against the outsider.

    Perhaps Campbell believes his appalling attempt at presenting the facts has made Christchurch and its citizens safer from some pernicious new form of witchcraft that can only end in sleepless nights for them all? If so then he is not worth one dollar of his over-generous salary.

    In all this we must remember that history is replete with such mindless protecting of the commonly accepted BELIEF (as opposed to any science worth its name) e.g. ‘the world is flat and if you sail too far the boat will fall off the edge’; and more notably the classic example when Galileo back in late 1500’s proved that a lesser weight body will fall at the same speed as a body mass of a greater weight thereby disproving Aristotle’s assumption that the reverse was true, yet his peer scientists of the day refused to believe the obvious evidence preferring instead to blindly accept the infallibility of Aristotle (who by the way never undertook any form of rigorous experimentation).

    Certainly it seems that as a species, human society has progressed not one jot in the ability of its individual constituents to think freely and remain unattached to the persuasions of commonly accepted truisms – regardless of how true or untrue they may subsequently be proven to be.

    It seems after all that we are a herd animal at our core – and clearly our shepherds and herders, in order to maintain hegemony of their current power-based dogmas, employ and highly reward, articulate pretenders to the notion of unbiased journalists and presenters of the facts.

    Erich Fromm describes this debilitating state of normalcy in an essay he wrote in 1954 titled ‘The Psychology of Normalcy’
    (for full article refer: http://www.erich-fromm.de/data/pdf/1954a-e.pdf )

    What is so deceptive about the state of mind of the members of a society is the “consensual validation“ of their concepts. It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth. Consensual validation as such has no bearing whatsoever on reason or mental health. Just as there is a „folie à deux“ there is a „folie à millions.“ The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make them virtuous, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths,
    and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make them sane.

    There is, however, an important difference between individual and social mental illness, which suggests differentiation between the two concepts: that of defect, and that of neurosis. If a person fails to attain freedom, spontaneity, a genuine expression of self, he may be considered to have a severe defect, provided we assume that freedom and spontaneity are the objective goals to be attained by every human being. If such a goal is not attained by the majority of members of any given society, we deal with the phenomenon of socially patterned defect. The individual shares it with many others; he is not aware of it as a defect, and his security is not threatened by the experience of being different, of being an outcast, as it were. What he may have lost in richness and in a genuine feeling of happiness is made up by the security of fitting in with the rest of mankind–as he knows them. As a matter of fact, his very defect may have been raised {141} to a virtue of his culture, and thus may give him an enhanced feeling of achievement.

    NOTE:
    folie – (psychiatry) is a psychological disorder of thought or emotion; a more neutral term than mental illness

    folie à deux is a term used in psychology / psychiatry meaning a syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief are transmitted from one individual to another

    folie à millions in this context is taken to mean a delusional belief held by the masses to be an indisputable and immutable truth (one might add further – it is indeed the apex of human madness and the primary symptomatic cause by which human societies time and time again throughout history come to accept a lie propagated by a plutocracy to maintain their political and financial hegemony of the masses.

    Now here is my FORECAST based not so much on science as the refutation of the most unscientific body of assumptions ever propagated in human history.

    Our Governments, particularly in the so-called free developed world have been for many years now totally misrepresenting the real facts of our economies and the global economy such as real rates of inflation. Just as in Galileo’s day, all the governments today, their bureaucracies and academic institutions are focused on propagating and maintaining an economic theory which, even though it uses very complex and high-level mathematics, is no more scientific than Caribbean witchcraft and voodoo. It is an economic theory developed by artifice and the virtual conjuring of statistics and figures that have as much resemblance to reality as Mickey Mouse has to high literature.

    Just as the earthquake in Christchurch has taken the population there by surprise so the coming and inevitable global economic cataclysm (caused by the fatal controlled explosion of the US monetary base) will take most everyone in the world by surprise, including the overpaid Keynesian savant economists; and this coming financial quake will have equally if not more devastating impacts on whole nations cumulatively resulting in the folie à millions. Unless there is a sudden and very swift reversal of these global economic policies and a renewed and invigorated return to the age old virtues of hard work and savings, where the dynamics of inflation and deflation are truly understood and contained, rather than reliance on unsustainable property bubbles to enshrine the masses in delusional comfort of appreciating house prices, then the outcome is inevitable.

    One way or another we are soon about to see and experience the effects of a financial tsunami – however, even the prescient Austrian school of economic theorists, many of whom, although they have, well before the events, called the recent financial quakes such as the 1987 share market crash; the Japanese Bubble popping of 1990; the Asia-Pacific financial crisis of 1997/98 and the resulting recent global volatility which many of them predicted, they are nevertheless, by their own admission, unable to predict the month or the year of the next big financial crisis – but one thing they are adamant about and that is that no country can keep expanding its money ad infinitum as US and many other countries are doing right now without it ending in misery.

    Be warned and take note.

    The day of reckoning is looming and we would all be advised to start making preparation for the inevitable day – just as it incumbent on us all to prepare for another possible earthquake in Christchurch and / or any other region of New Zealand. This will need a whole new shift in thinking – a whole new raft of solutions not the least being our recognizing the problems and limitations inherent in our current erroneous assumption that growing cities with large concentrated populations is the only rational, economic and scientifically valid way of progressing human population growth – nothing could be further from the truth. It will require the conceptualizing of new modern ‘state-of-the-art’ independent and environmentally-integrated communities being developed and designed to optimally serve the community residents and that will, to a much more effective degree, insulate them from both natural disasters as well as global economic catastrophes.

    But transcending all of this, it is my fervent hope and prayer that, especially in the light of the pain and suffering experienced by the resilient people of Christchurch, that we can, as one people united, rise above the debilitating divisions and boundaries that have been cemented in place by false doctrines and unworkable theories propagated by a powerful global elite to their direct benefit and that we can steer New Zealand to a truly free economy based on hard work and equitable sharing of resources whereby we can reclaim our place as world leaders focused on developing solutions that will not only insulate us from disasters (as much as that can be achieved) but it will establish our nation as leaders in sustainable communities along with the development and deployment of the necessary leading edge technologies needed to underpin any such development and the gainful employment that such strategy would generate.

    Now is the hour, as a united people, to move forward with a new sense of purpose and an open mind to new solutions and scientific endeavour, enthused by a new invigorated willingness to share and cooperate.

    This may also require a shift in our understanding of what constitutes democratic process and real leadership and how leadership qualities might be evoked and engendered in many more distributed and functional, fulfilling, participatory ways.

  • @allyoop

    “As so many of their peers in New Zealand and throughout the world these scientists have forgotten the true purpose of real scientific investigation”

    Perhaps you would like to provide some evidence for this rather than the tedious postmodernist, paranoid tripe you just posted.
    You talk about transcending and “a shift in our understanding” but you do not say what the change will be to or what we will transcend to. Just discontented mutterings about the world as it is (from a rather paranoid point of view in my opinion).

    Rather than ranting perhaps you would like to give us some idea of what this fantastic new world of yours will look like?

  • Peter Griffin, who do you think you are to decide what information I should/shouldn’t be allowed to hear?!?!
    Stop being so presumptuous.
    Ken Ring may be deluded and I certainly don’t subscribe to his predictions, but you have no right to determine what the public hears. You clearly think far too highly of yourself.

  • @alister I never suggested I was in a position to do anything of the sort. The media makes up its own mind about such things, but I suggested to Campbell Live that dealing with Ken Ring’s predictions required some careful handling given the lack of credible scientific evidence supporting his claims and the fact that the people of Christchurch are vulnerable, exhausted and scared. Their intentions were good, but the result was, as someone wrote on Twitter, a “train wreck”…

  • Peter said, “but I suggested to Campbell Live that dealing with Ken Ring’s predictions required some careful handling given the lack of credible scientific evidence supporting his claims and the fact that the people of Christchurch are vulnerable, exhausted and scared.”

    does your response imply that Campbell Live was interviewing Ring at least in part due to the Science media centre’s prompting? [Some of] the people of Christchurch are vulnerable, exhausted and scared… but I haven’t seen any evidence that that was caused by or due to Ring…

  • Peter Griffin said, “but I suggested to Campbell Live that dealing with Ken Ring’s predictions required some careful handling given the lack of credible scientific evidence supporting his claims and the fact that the people of Christchurch are vulnerable, exhausted and scared.”

    does your response imply that Campbell Live was interviewing Ring at least in part due to the Science media centre’s prompting? [Some of] the people of Christchurch are vulnerable, exhausted and scared… but I haven’t seen any evidence that that was caused by or due to Ring…

  • @petersmith “does your response imply that Campbell Live was interviewing Ring at least in part due to the Science media centre’s prompting?”

    Definitely not. The interview was already lined up by the time I contacted them and suggested it might not be such a good idea. As they say, the rest is history…

  • petersmith – a commenter over on my blog (the ‘original’, but I’ve done a copy-&-paste to bring it over to SciBlogs) wrote to say that he’d met a friend who had self-evacuated but who is pretty much terrified of being anywhere near the South Island on March 20th as a result of KR’s ‘predictions’. This is only a single data point but it is also evidence that at least someone has been scared by what he has to say.

    Alleyoop – there is no evidence that KR’s ‘predictions’ of quakes have been accurate; his statements are so vaguely phrased that pretty much any event could be claimed as a postive ‘hit’. You might like to read David Winter’s post on the subject: http://sciblogs.co.nz/the-atavism/2011/03/01/ken-ring-cant-predict-earthquakes-either

  • Hi, I have just joined this forum as a result of reading the above article, as it raised some important questions for me that perhaps can be answered here. I haven’t read all the 100 or so comments here, so please forgive me if these questions have already been addressed.

    “I yesterday spent much of the day at the Science Media Centre trying with limited success to persuade journalists not to give Ken Ring any more airtime”

    I find the above article and particularly the above comment extremely disturbing, and I have experienced a similar reaction from anyone I have directed towards the article. I am not an active subscriber to Ken Ring’s theories, however I find it strange that if he were such an obvious crackpot that the scientific communtiy would go to such great lengths to deny him airtime. My questions are as follows:

    – Do you not credit the average person with the intelligence to distinguish true science from ‘wacky pseudoscience’?
    – What is it about Ken Ring’s theories that you think resonates with people?
    – Should the ‘scientific’ community invest more time and energy in better connecting with the people, so they could experience the following that you are so fearful of Ken Ring obtaining?
    – Is the ‘scientific method’ that I hear so much about, so closed to alternative theories, so as to refuse to investigate them further?
    – Are you not genuinely interested in the fact that many farmers and fisherman, who’s livelihoods depend on it, consider Ken’s forecasting far more accurate than traditional science?
    – Why is there such a real and obvious fear of Ken gaining traction, and a blatant agenda to shut him down? Does it come from the scientific community, or from those who fund it?

    I am not from a scientific background, but I am from the real world, and I understand the way real people react to these things, and it is usually a with a combination of hope and fear. They are not always as rational and black and white as those that rely on science for all the answers, but that does not mean they are less intelligent.

    Whether you like it or not, there is a pleasant intuitiveness about the concept that the moon’s gravity can have an impact on seismic activity. The science communitys reaction to Ken’s theories comes across as insulting and really risks alienating the people further. It smacks of protectionism, cronyism and almost seems Orwellian in its nature. For a GNS scientist to claim Ken’s theories were debunked 100 or so years ago, appears to be clear evidence of how blinkered the science has become.

    If you want to maintain credibility, perhaps you should engage in these debates openly instead of shutting them down. Rather than banging on about the lack of scientific evidence, how about studying it for a while and seeing how it stacks up. Maybe its just bad PR, or the public perception is wrong, but at the moment the reaction seems bolshy and a bit childish.

    People believe in many things, not just those backed by current ‘conventional’ wisdom. At the end of the day it is the people who matter, and their reaction to this debacle should be enlightening. I hope you can shed some light on my queries.

    Cheers

  • Peter Griffen, you stated “I yesterday spent much of the day at the Science Media Centre trying with limited success to persuade journalists not to give Ken Ring any more airtime”. Clearly your actions indicate that you believe that you are in a position to determine what the public should/should not hear – it is that simple. Just stick to putting the scientific view forward – for that you’d get my support.

  • Mark,

    There are plenty of posts around the place talking about how poor Ken Ring’s method is. This post was talking about the problem of dealing with cranks in the media.

    There are really 3 choices:

    1) Leave them alone, but let their missinformation fester away (v. damaging in this case)
    2) Challenge them head on,which gives them exposure and, since TV is about theatre more that facts, runs the risk of alienating the middle ground
    3) Patiently debunk their crank theories. But evolutionary biolgosists and climate change scientists know how that goes – if you’re just making stuff up as you go along then it’s free easy to make more stuff up and much harder for a debunker to explain the flaws in each new idea.

    Given the great difficultly in presenting someone like Ring on the TV, I’m not sure that the best idea wasn’t to just leave him be.

  • @markj in answer to your questions…

    – Do you not credit the average person with the intelligence to distinguish true science from ‘wacky pseudoscience’?

    No, but the “average person” still gets around 90 per cent of their information about science from the media and more than ever the media is vulnerable to manipulation by people like Ken Ring who are very good at self promotion. Did you read the Gisborne Herald article I linked to? As such, information is lent credibility when it is presented in the media, often when it has none eg: Ken Ring in the Gisborne Herald.

    – What is it about Ken Ring’s theories that you think resonates with people?

    People hate feeling out of control – at the behest of nature, the weather etc. They want certainty and science doesn’t have all the answers for them. So they look for alternative theories for comfort eg: that humans can have no affect on the climate, its all bigger than us etc….

    The problem is this often provide cold comfort because the theories are not based on fact. This goes for various alternative health treatments as much as it does for Ken Ring’s predictions.

    – Should the ’scientific’ community invest more time and energy in better connecting with the people, so they could experience the following that you are so fearful of Ken Ring obtaining?

    Yes! That’s what we are trying to do at the Science Media Centre – help scientists engage with society more effectively and also to break down some of the barriers between science and the media. The more scientists we have who are able to explain the science in understandable terms and work with the media, the less room there is for charlatans and crackpots to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt, often for their own financial or ideological ends.

    – Is the ’scientific method’ that I hear so much about, so closed to alternative theories, so as to refuse to investigate them further?

    No, that’s what the scientific method is there for. If you have an “alternative theory”, or hypothesis, subject it to the scientific method, perform an experiment, design it properly, peer-review it, publish it, see if its results can be replicated. That is the further investigation you speak of and it is how new knowledge in the scientific world is created.

    – Are you not genuinely interested in the fact that many farmers and fisherman, who’s livelihoods depend on it, consider Ken’s forecasting far more accurate than traditional science?

    Many farmers? How many? I’d like to see some objective data on that – maybe an independent, anonymous survey of people who have bought his weather almanacs. I’m interested in it in the same way I’m interested that my parents drink colloidal silver even though its efficacy is not supported by the evidence.

    – Why is there such a real and obvious fear of Ken gaining traction, and a blatant agenda to shut him down? Does it come from the scientific community, or from those who fund it?

    What happened a week ago? An earthquake that killed hundreds of people. Now Ken Ring is predicting another earthquake in the same area. Don’t you think it is a little ill-advised at best, irresponsible at worst, to be pushing an unscientific theory that may result in people uprooting their lives, leaving the area, disrupting their efforts to rebuild their lives, on the basis of what some guy in Auckland think s might happen?

    I know what you are getting at in what you are saying about the gap between cold, hard scientific evidence and the “pleasant intuitiveness” of theories that sound good or seem like they make sense. And everyone loves an underdog, a battler who overturns conventional wisdom. But we are dealing with people’s lives here, not a bizarre paw reading or magic trick from Ken Ring’s colourful past.

  • @Peter Griffin
    I think that MarkJ is asking VERY sensible questions that are representative of those that the general populace need to be soundly answered. I hope that you have the time and are in a position to provide him with complete responses (a function very aligned to the Science Media Centre’s brief, I expect).

    It is my pub-talk experience that it is perceptions like those expressed by MarkJ that form (or at least contribute to) the rift between the person in the street and the science community, the very rift that the science community must mend if it is to hold the place in society that enables it to contribute to a strong future for the nation. Scientists are often perceived as arrogant know-alls who manipulate the system to serve their own ends (Hmmm … how could that be?).

  • PG says, “They want certainty and science doesn’t have all the answers for them. So they look for alternative theories for comfort eg: that humans can have no affect on the climate, its all bigger than us etc…. ”

    In terms of earthquakes as they relate to ordinary people, science has next to no answers…

  • STOP PRESS!!!

    I have just received an email from the Producer of Campbell Live (responding to my written complaint). Included in that is the following statement:

    “Mr Ring declined because he is on his way to Australia. He plans to come back on our show next week.”

  • @petersmith well just because we don’t have the full picture, is it right for some guy to pretend he does? I’d rather have a little bit of knowledge than a load of crap!

  • @mainlyme yes, I heard this from them, despite my better judgement, given what has transpired, a second appearance is probably actually a worthwhile exercise to clear up the confusion that was created the other night.

  • @markJ

    “Is the ’scientific method’ that I hear so much about, so closed to alternative theories, so as to refuse to investigate them further?”

    The scientific method tends to only consider theories for which there is evidence, and theories which are testable. Ken Rings vague opinions/predictions provide neither.

    And, like Alison I have come across people who are frightened by Ken Ring’s “opinion” that in March there will be another earthquake. And despite the fact that he subsequently claimed this opinion as quoted in the media is not correct, (see Alisons post at http://sciblogs.co.nz/bioblog/2011/03/01/predicting-earthquakes-hedging-your-bets/) he doesn’t seem to have indicated this in the media. So what we have are people scared by a “prediction” he doesn’t want to own, and has made no effort to correct.
    I look forward to a second interview provided that whoever interviews him is well prepared.

  • Mark,

    “Why is there such a real and obvious fear of Ken gaining traction, and a blatant agenda to shut him down? Does it come from the scientific community, or from those who fund it?”

    I’ve read objections from people that don’t seem to be scientists – I’m sure you have too, there’s lots of them! Perhaps it’s better to ask your openly-endedly so these people can be included too?

    One answer might be that they are concerned at the harm (stress, unnecessary hassle, etc.) his “predictions” might cause.

    For a GNS scientist to claim Ken’s theories were debunked 100 or so years ago, appears to be clear evidence of how blinkered the science has become.

    This is certainly what some people have have written second-hand, but this is not quite what Dr Berryman said!

    Put simply, it’s not that it was considered 100 years ago then an off switch thrown.

    Rather, he said that it was first examined (and found to be flawed) 100 years ago—his reference to ‘classically’, he then goes on to talk about more recent work relating to both small earthquakes and, separately, larger events after he referred to the ‘classical’ work. (I can understand people getting this wrong, however.)

    You might want to read the link I’m passing on to Alister below. In it some of the geologists make similar points.

    On a general note, there are a number of things that were fairly well-established some time ago, which while they have been refined since, the basics of what was found all the time ago still stands and are basically correct. Evolution is probably the best known to most people, but there are other examples, including some that go back even further in time.

    What people have written here shows a lack of understanding of science, really. Science constantly revises. It’s (very) rare for things to be entirely “overlooked” in the way this implies, older material is usually brought forward in with newer work in the way that Dr Berryman referred to.

    Alister,

    Just stick to putting the scientific view forward – for that you’d get my support.

    You may wish to read:

    http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2011/03/01/i-predicted-the-earthquake-scientists-respond/

    For example from that page Dr Mark Quigley wrote “I will always be willing to engage in scientific discussion and debate if it appears in an open and honest format. In the midst of a crisis, however, I feel quite strongly that the time is not yet right.”

  • PG said, “well just because we don’t have the full picture, is it right for some guy to pretend he does? I’d rather have a little bit of knowledge than a load of crap!”

    So what are you advocating? Censorship? Gadaffi style? Shoot anyone who has a contraire view?????

  • @petersmith

    “So what are you advocating? Censorship? Gadaffi style? Shoot anyone who has a contraire view?????”

    I fail to see how you draw that conclusion from what Peter Griffin said. Indeed he was asking a question, followed by a statement of what he himself would prefer.
    The use of hysterical hyperbole here adds no value in my opinion.

  • Michael Edmonds said, “The use of hysterical hyperbole here adds no value in my opinion.”

    Hysterical??? Hyperbole???? I don’t think so… it was Campbell who was hysterical… and the rabid ‘scientists’ who have been hysterical… so much so they would crucify someone who has a contraire view to theirs…

  • @petersmith

    so you are saying that the following is not hysterical hyperbole?

    “So what are you advocating? Censorship? Gadaffi style? Shoot anyone who has a contraire view?????”

    I agree with you that John Campbell was bordering on hysterical, but perhaps you could point out examples of “rapid scientists” I seem to have missed them?

  • Attention Michael Edmonds – re your reply to @allyoop

    Are you are a scientist Michael?

    It is patently clear what I wrote but it seems I need to spell it out.

    But maybe you have difficulty with language and you have no understanding of the extensive research that has been undertaken in field of what constitutes ‘sustainable community’?
    Or was it the comments on global economics that got you confused?

    Gee even most children today can understand what ‘sustainable community’ means – it is an optimum size (approx 5 to 10,000 people capacity) – and clearly such communities today can employ the latest renewable energies and other technologies etc with no need for massive super expensive infrastructure e.g. composting toilet /sewage systems requiring no external piping to huge costly sewage systems that break in times of earthquakes etc.
    (refer http://www.affka.com/compost_toilet.htm )

    It is worth noting here that aging infrastructure in big cities is one of the least talked about and least understood HUGE PROBLEMS for the so-called rich developed world in as much as the aging infrastructure is now reaching end of life and has a huge milestone around our necks – hobbling our economies and draining our finances as people like you maintain the immutability of ‘big city’ development (or have I misread your sentiments poorly expressed?)

    Do you remember the big gas pipe rupture in San Bruno California (9 Sept 2010)? here is link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_San_Bruno_pipeline_explosion

    Well that was just the tip of the iceberg. There were actually over 40 such ageing gas pipeline ruptures but luckily the rest did not sustain the same death toll. This is another huge future cost for US that they are going to struggle to pay for given their massive debt (public debt now expanding at rate of US$10 billion every day in 2011 – to put that in context, the US dollar today is worth less than a quarter was worth in 1971. The federal government spent $15 billion from 1789-1900. Not $15 billion a year. $15 billion cumulatively. Uncle Sam will spend $10 billion per day in 2011. The federal government spends more every two days than it did altogether for more than America’s first century (albeit that is not adjusted for inflation). Read more on subject at following web link from Ralph Benko, who is a member of the bar of the State of New York, is Senior Advisor, Economics, of the American Principles Project, and who was called by the United States Department of the Treasury to testify before the US Gold Commission on the constitutional history of American monetary policy.
    He is also an Advisor for The Gold Standard Now and an important contributor to the Gold Standard 2012 project

    refer:
    http://dailyreckoning.com/gold-the-states-and-federal-monetary-policy/#hl-Gold the States and Federal Monetary Policy

    Michael, I suspect you think that Christchurch should simply be rebuilt with modern glass buildings (as is current penchant in our cities) on the same ground in CBD – Business as Usual?
    Good luck to you and the poor souls of Christchurch in that event.

    Have you ever wondered why (excepting a few big skyscrapers in central LA) across that vast city of LA you seldom see high rise buildings? – Duh – do I have to spell it out for you.

    Have you ever read anything at all on this subject of ‘sustainable communities’ or ‘Transition Towns’? Or are you totally preoccupied in some abstruse science that has little if any relevance to our everyday living? Here is a link to Transition Towns New Zealand –

    http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz/

    http://sustainableprogress.blogspot.com/2009/04/sustainable-city-vision.html

    Also I advise that you do some real research into the real state of the global economy, and NZ economy, and then compare it with the mainstream nonsense being propagated in our mass media by the Keynesian savant quants who write reports to government order. Google and listen / watch / read those economists worth their salt who get their income from pay subscribers and corporations who rely on their advice for their investment strategies – these are the economists and analysts who have been calling it as it is and who predicted all the big problems well before there eventuating i.e. people like Dr Marc Faber, Gerald Celente of Trends Research in US and Jim Rogers billionaire and one time partner of George Soros in the quantum fund (to name but a few).

    As for how the true state of economy in US particularly (and elsewhere – given that the dynamics are the same in most developed countries like NZ ) If you care to do your research you might discover how the financial masters who privately own Federal Reserve hijacked the US economy in 1913 and since then have established the world’s central banking system (along with the fictitious economic theories that underpin it) who all answer to the BIS (Bank of International Settlements) curiously another privately owned and very secretive organization. You might also care to read about William White one-time economist at the BIS in this revealing article in Spiegel ‘The Man Nobody Wanted to Hear’

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,635051,00.html

    Also Check this out:
    How the Federal Reserve Bought the Economics Profession

    Refer The Huffington Post (link follows)
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/07/priceless-how-the-federal_n_278805.html

    Same dynamic applies in NZ and most other countries.
    This buying of expert opinion and research is now endemic in most so-called scientific sectors.

    For example, I have been, till recently, working in the energy sector in industry and I can tell you from first-hand experience that New Zealand CRIs have, in the main, done nothing but produce report after expensive tax-payer-funded report that in most cases concludes they need to do another report. I even heard a PhD scientist from Scion in 2007 state that they saw no future for biomass energy in NZ because they predict diesel price (get this) being NZ$0.87 in 2020 (that is 87 cents per liter in 2020) and that was presented at the Residues to Revenues conference in Rotorua 2007 at a time when diesel had spiked to over NZ$1. No kidding. And this was from the organization, heavily tax-payer funded, which is tasked with researching and analyzing best path forward for New Zealand timber and biomass industries. After sometime (one inside scientist even admitted this to me personally) it became very clear that these organizations know that in order for them to get more funding (on which they spend as much time as they do on pursuing any quality research) they have to configure their determinations according to the outcome of what Government of the day is wanting – in this specific case it was clearly to reinforce the hegemony and total monopoly control of the Government-owned electricity generator / retailers (as the skewed and totally non-free market model was originally set-up to maintain) and which is why today we have had approx 100% increase in power prices (remember prior restructuring we were told without doubt that it would result in reduced / contained power prices and greater efficiencies?) – and all this in spite of the fact that on a per capita basis New Zealand has more biomass resource than anywhere else in the world. Also worth noting here is that biomass is the most overlooked and most cost-effective and abundant renewable energy resource on the planet today. And NZ SOE’s have spent, and continue to spend truckloads of money (a great portion of which is state subsidies by way of obtaining AAU’s) on wind farms which are intermittent and the second most expensive renewable energy per kW next only to PV. To add insult to injury, during the last dry year when the electricity crisis hit in 2007 when spot market price on Feb 4, 2007 went through the stratosphere and the so-called free wholesale market had to be closed for a time, the big wind farms were only able to output approx 8% of their rated capacity – a huge cost for little return.
    Get the picture a little bit Michael??? Or is that too hard for you?

    For your reference following is link to report re the real state of biomass energy from the IEA (is that source bona fide enough for you Michael?)
    refer: http://www.ieabioenergy.com/LibItem.aspx?id=6124)

    On page 5 of the IEA BIOENERGY 2008 report it states:

    ‘The cost of environmental damage due to production and use of fossil fuel energy and certain chemicals and materials leads us to the inevitable conclusion that new systems of production must be developed. These should focus on reduction of pollution or hazardous materials, producing safe and environmentally benign products in a green and sustainable supply chain. For this to occur, a constant and renewable supply that has a low carbon cost is required. Globally, the only source of such renewable feedstock is biomass.’

    Michael, if you detect some paranoia in my writing can you please explain your analysis?
    All I see is accusation without substance – very scientific indeed.
    I am always open to constructive criticism and diagnosis.
    You however might prefer to keep your head stuck firm in the sand

    If I am paranoid, I have reason to be when I run into sensibilities that make commenst like your own.

    Einstein once stated:
    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.

  • @allyoop
    >All I see is accusation without substance – very scientific indeed.

    And you quote the Huffington site as evidence. Oh the irony!

  • gee Possum

    is it in the headlights?

    Is there someone out there who can make sensible comment?

    Inform me as to the UNSCIENTIFIC credentials of Huffington Post

    AOL just purchased Huffington for US$315 million 0 surely that provides you mainstreamers people with some comfort. Or is AOL part of some nutcase cosnspiracy too.

    Possum you have not even read the article on Hufffington becasue of you had you might have, before shooting unthinking from the hip. noticed the references to named Wall Street analysts as well as the comment from the highly regarded University of Texas economics professor – and Fed critic – James Galbraith. amongst other comments. This is real journalistic presenting of the other sides point of view also.
    It is a very well balanced and informative (if not scary) piece of journalism – read it and then post some contrary evidence from equally bone fide source.

    here is title and link to article again Possum

    How the Federal Reserve Bought the Economics Profession

    Refer The Huffington Post (link follows)
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/07/priceless-how-the-federal_n_278805.html

    I have made a great deal of substantive comment providing several bone fide source links.

    So far the replies I have had back are trite, unsubstabtive and purile in the extreme.

    Counter the arguments and evidence I have put forward with something of substance – not this dribble.

    Nevertheless it confirms the whole sad sorry dynamic regarding Ken Ring – accusations and denials and not one peice of scientific contrary evidence to refute his work.

    What a sad sorry bunch.

  • Allyoop,

    not one peice of scientific contrary evidence to refute his work

    With all respect you’re wrong here in two ways:

    Firstly, given it’s Ken Ring’s claim, it’s really his to demonstrate, not for others to disprove

    Secondly, despite this others have in fact worked on this, including one of our science bloggers. The article above links to this at the end (see sentence in bold at the end). For your benefit, here is the link:

    http://sciblogs.co.nz/the-atavism/2011/03/01/ken-ring-cant-predict-earthquakes-either/

    The Huffington Post may be a good source of politics, economics, general interests pieces, etc. (I wouldn’t really know as I don’t read much of politics, gossip, etc.) But regardless of this it has a long history of pseudo-science articles and is widely regarded as a laughing stock in the science communication community because of them.

  • Allyoop – much of your rather lengthy posting seems to be at a tangent to what the rest of us here were discussing; the world economic system was not what we were focussing on.

    Also, you complain that others have failed to read your links, but it appears that this is a mutual failing as you seem to have ignored thee links we’ve provided to just the sort of analysis of Ken Ring’s claims that you’ve asked for.

  • Grant said, “But regardless of this it has a long history of pseudo-science articles and is widely regarded as a laughing stock in the science communication community because of them.”

    Grant, you are sooooooo ‘the man!’ You believe 6 years constitutes a ‘long history????’

  • Petersmith – well, 6 years is all the history the Huffpo has, so I guess since its science coverage has been universally poor in that time, then one could call it a long history :-)
    But more seriously, the Huffpo is a bastion of anti-vaccination pseudoscience, it’s published material that uncritically accepts things like homeopathy, it’s promoted the completely unscientific nonsense that is ‘The Secret’… I could add to the list but suffice it to say that I think Grant’s comment is a fair one.

  • Thank you for the considered replies.

    I understand where you are coming from in debunking Ken’s theories from a scientific perspective, and I think that is probably a useful technique amongst yourselves. However most of the objections centre around the lack of credible scientific evidence supporting his theories and his failure to ‘prove’ them to the rigorous standards you adhere to.

    Unfortunately (for the scientists), the average person, although no less intelligent, has a lower requirement around the burden of proof than you do. This is their right, and as you have pointed out, the media have greater influence in the determinations of the public on these matters.

    The average person simply doesn’t have the time nor inclination to make make efficient scientific determinations in every facet of their life, so they use many factors in deciding what to believe. Plausibility is a key factor, and as discussed earlier, Ken’s theories have a nice ring to them. It seems entirely logical to me, that in times of fear and uncertainty (clearly caused by the earthquakes themselves, not by Mr Ring), people will flock towards someone who they perceive to have potentially useful and perhaps uncomfortably believable information.

    This is all natural human behaviour, and to try to control and change it by dictating the information flow is as bad if not worse, by your own standards, as what Kedoing accused of doing. There still appears to be no sound reason why Ken should be silenced, and attempts to do so will rightly be seen as censorship and an insult to our intelligence.

    Many a proven genius was once discredited as a charlatan and a crackpot (both grossly disrespectful terms might I add), and I suspect if Ken is able to continue to show, what the public to believe to be even moderate success & correlations in his theories, you will have a problem on your hands.

    Is jt possible, that if public sentiment continues to grow around Ken’s theories, that you may end up with a different brief around where to focus your attention?

    Science tells us there is no way to predict earthquakes. This other guy is saying that perhaps there is and maybe science should take a look at it. The public think that sounds reasonable, but you guys say he’s a crackpot. Putting Ken’s theories into a condescending series of complex looking third form algebra equations isn’t exactly going to win over the masses. Maybe better PR is in order. Or perhaps have some respect and chuck some serious modern day research at the idea, I bet in the current climate, such research would be financially supported.

    Anyway, thank you for your patience, I have found this debate interesting, not to mention a steep learning curve.

  • @MarkJ
    That is a very eloquent, and in my own experience, totally realistic description of the different worlds inhabited by the scientist and the lay public, that I weakly described as a “rift” in an earlier posting.

    I think it is critical that scientists hear how it looks “from the other side”, and ultimately for science communicators to develop the skill to both visualise the mass populace viewpoint and to ultimately leverage that to bridge the comprehension gulf. Only by that accomplishment will there be fertile ground for science to make the social contribution that it must make have if we are to continue to flourish as a species. For science may occur in the laboratory, but it is implemented in society. (Aside – I have long admired Paul Callaghan for his inate ability to bridge such gaps.)

    I thank you greatly for presenting the lay-world situation with crystal clarity, and I hope that it has provided a new perspective for the scientists to frame their future interactions with “the real world”.

    And if I could add one last observation of my own for the science community watching this debate. It is my view that Ken Ring honestly and genuinely believes that he has a key to forecast (word chosen advisedly rather than predict) periods of high risk for earthquakes, and by exposing those to public scrutiny is performing his own form of peer review. If that impression is right, then there is no deception (which requires intent) in his philosophy, and he is entitled to the dignity of a proper hearing accompanied by a rebuttal of clinical fact-founded logic wrapped in lay-comprehensible terms. The truth will out for the intelligent majority. There is far greater chance to win public support with that approach than will ever be accomplished by manipulating media and closing down discussion.

    The absolute freedom of the Third Estate is a critical pillar of democratic society, or at least of the one that I want to live in.

    Again, thank you MarkJ for your excellent engagement.

  • Many a proven genius was once discredited as a charlatan and a crackpot (both grossly disrespectful terms might I add), […]

    The more correct statement would be that there is a stereotype that “Many a proven genius was once discredited as a charlatan… [etc]”. In practice, it’s rare.

    Part of the issue is that the vast majority of science is not by “leaps” but by increment. The “leaps” thing is oversold by the mainstream media and popular thrillers, etc.

    I do generally agree that a straight-forward science debunking won’t work for many people in the public (it will work for some, though), but a few points you’ve said aren’t quite right in my opinion. I touched on some of these in my earlier reply to you.

  • Appears I cannot go back and edit an error in my post. When I said “If that impression is right, then there is no deception (which requires intent) in his philosophy” I meant “If that impression is right, then there is no DECEIT (which requires intent) in his philosophy.” Sorry.

  • MainlyMe,

    by a rebuttal of clinical fact-founded logic wrapped in lay-comprehensible terms

    I get what you’re saying but there’s a little catch to your suggestion, I think. It’s a sweet idea that a clinical rebuttal (on it’s own, anyway) will do the trick. I’ve been there myself and used to think as much (as I think is natural), but I don’t think it always works as well as we’d like to think.

    To my reading this suggestion runs a little counter-purpose to what Mark was saying (and I generally agreed with – see my earlier comment). Mark is, again to my reading, suggesting that a “pure logic” approach may have limited effect. (Mark may clarify – ?)

    Annoying and wrong-headed as it is, it does seem to often/sometimes (at least!) be the case.

    I have experienced this myself in practical terms. It’s one of the reasons when I try explain, say, homeopathy I keep it simple. Homeopathy is a soft target, mind you. Very soft 😉

    These issues very widely discussed on science communication forums, by the way. (Just clueing you in.)

    One problem I suspect with this discussion and the particular issue at hand is the difference “print” (including electronic here) and TV media. In TV, there really isn’t time for a genuine resolution of issues, etc. You couldn’t map an (in-depth) article or blog well to TV, for example. Without meaning to be cynic, in TV presentations, with perhaps the exception of long in-depth documentaries, TV is more about ‘impressions’, which plays out well for those who are salespeople at heart.

    Scientists are generally poor salespeople; people like Ken generally are good at it – it’s how they get to where they are.

    MarkJ,

    chuck some serious modern day research at the idea

    I should add, the geologists seem to indicate this area is already active and has been for a long time. I touched on this in my earlier reply to you; see also the SMC collection of feedback from geologists.

  • @GJ;
    “… clinical rebuttal (on it’s own, anyway) will do the trick.. but I don’t think it always works as well as we’d like to think.” Believe me IT WON’T work. You missed the critical point – “wrapped in lay-comprehensible terms…” (and the admiration expressed for Paul Callaghan’s skill in translating the most complex science – eg relativity – to lay comprehensible language).

    The second aspect that you appear to have overlooked is that I accept that not everyone will be won over, and so pitching for a sizeable majority is sufficient (“The truth will out for the intelligent majority”). Just as there will always be people who prove the placebo effect by administering homeopathic remedies, similarly even with irrevocable proof that Ring is indeed wrong you will never convince 100% of the population of that.

    The challenge for the science communicator is to form a cohesive argument in everyday language that is more persuasive (in terms that the public operates under per MarkJ’s post) than the alternative proposition, and to present that through a vehicle that has street cred, and that is not your academic scientist, given the public perception of scientist credibility in this field (see later).

    Sadly, what I see way too often is scientists talking to lay people in the same manner as they do their peers with excruciatingly detailed arguments citing academics Jo Public has no knowledge of nor interest in. By that approach Jo Publik gets frustrated and falls back on what (s)he already knows -scientists are arrogant, tedious, self-serving and untrustworthy. The scientist then sneers that it is too complex for Jo Publik anyway.

    We have to get beyond that to win this battle, and that means simple (maybe simplistic), logical arguments. That is what Ring has provided them – “the moon and planets exert sufficient gravitational force to shift millions of tonnes of water twice a day, so it’s only natural that the same force extends to the land mass and so increases earthquake risk when astronomical bodies are appropriately aligned”. Simple logic, and supported by risk forecasts that Jo Public deems fulfilled, credible within their own standards of lay proof (per MarkJ). If scientists cannot compose a comparable line of simple proof, then Ring’s ideas will prevail until events conflict BADLY with the expectations he creates. If his forecasts are as broad as others here interpret, then that may be a very long time indeed.

    Now back to the street cred. Sadly, in the earthquake field there are two things that work against the science argument. First Ring is offering them something they desperately want; means to avoid pain. They see that science has made no progress to giving that relief, indeed scientists offer little hope of that outcome, ever. Little wonder the alternative remedy gets attention. Secondly in the public eye, earthquake scientists have already spent substantial credibility capital, as many of the public think that scientists deceived them when stating that aftershocks would not be as powerful as (and so to lay-logic less destructive than) the initial quake. In otherwords to public perceptions, the scientists’ “forecasts” created expectations that were radically out of touch with the eventuality. (Please don’t walk me through the physics – I already get it. The point here is that the public doesn’t, and that is all that matters.) That bad start was compounded by science experts squabbling over whether this was a new event or an aftershock. The public don’t care – it destroyed their lives irrespective of the filial relationship! Jo Public: “Why don’t you scientists join the real world and focus on what matters”. Meantime Ring’s colateral rides sky high with the public sympathy vote after that bully John Campbell rudely ambushed him on TV.

    It’s going to be a tough battle. And that in a nutshell is why engaging on the lay public’s terms, not half way, but totally on THEIR terms, is the requisite to succeeding here.

  • @allyoop

    Actually what is “hard” for me is reading through your extremely long posts and realising that if you could write more efficiently and in a less post modernist style you could have put your ideas across in a post about 1/5 the size.
    With regards to to the content of your post, I do indeed understand what you are talking about. I also understand, as Alison pointed out, it is rather tangential to the general discussion here.
    Also you ask if I understand “sustainable communities’, and yes I do. However, as you didn’t actually use this term in your first posting and your comments related to this were quite oblique then perhaps you will understand why I am surprised you are criticising my understanding of it.
    With regard to the rebuild of Christchurch, I think this has to be thought through carefully and a more organic and socially orientated design which will enhance people working together seems like a good idea to me.
    And yes, I am a scientist. Trained in the chemical and biological sciences, but with interests in sociology and psychology as well.

  • @mainlyme

    “It is my view that Ken Ring honestly and genuinely believes that he has a key to forecast (word chosen advisedly rather than predict) periods of high risk for earthquakes, and by exposing those to public scrutiny is performing his own form of peer review.”

    A very valid point.

    However, are people remembering that John Campbell is a journalist (and one under extreme pressure at the time) and not a scientist. The scientist that John interviewed didn’t attack Ken Ring and while a number of scientists have commented on Ken Ring’s opinions their criticisms have been fairly mild and in my opinion reasonably polite.

  • “Why don’t you scientists join the real world and focus on what matters”.

    Then perhaps the focus should have been on the medical science being used to save crush victims and on the engineering and science that allowed people in the more modern buildings to survive the quake?

  • Michael Edmonds
    Comment on:
    “Why don’t you scientists join the real world and focus on what matters”.

    ‘Then perhaps the focus should have been on the medical science being used to save crush victims and on the engineering and science that allowed people in the more modern buildings to survive the quake?’

    Medical science treatment of crush injuries does not affect many people… Most deaths occurred in the ‘more modern’ buildings… even the modern forsyth Barr building had its stairwell collapse… what should be the mist secure part of a building!!

    The bottom line is that most people won’t even know Ring exists or that this venting of intellect is taking place… they just want to know ‘when’s the dunny arriving????’

  • I don’t think the “small” number of people saved by medical science negates its importance.
    The point I was trying to make was that perhaps the media would have been better to concentrate on how science was helping save lives rather than create such a hubbub about Ken Ring.
    And I’m not sure how old the Forsyth Barr building is, but I know that my work colleagues were protected by the excellent design of our six story building which was built in the 1990’s. I certainly agree with you that the collapse of stairwells will need to be something that needs to be looked into. And the tools to do that will be science and engineering.
    Technology (basically applied science) has played a key role in allowing people to contact each other and in getting large parts of the city up and running again. There are areas still without power and water but these are being worked on. I have friends in these areas and have run essentials out to them as well as to a distribution centre, as well as inviting them around for meals and showers.
    And though they may not be aware of this “venting of intellect” many others are, including those who are quite happy to use this disaster to push an “antiscience” agenda. Such attacks need to be countered.

  • MainlyMe,

    I’m well aware of the ‘lay language’ issue! It’s only the first thing anyone writing science for the public learns!! 😉

    Please note the wink 😉

    The second aspect that you appear to have overlooked is that I accept that not everyone will be won over

    That point wasn’t addressed to you, but to markj as I clarified in a later comment. That you can target the majority was my intention too, I left it implied in my aside to Mark. (I didn’t say otherwise or “overlook” it.)

    My point is focused on this portion of what I quoted from you

    rebuttal [consisting] of clinical fact-founded logic

    I was pointing out that a “pure logic” approach—what you suggested—in my experience doesn’t work as well as we’d like to think. Bear in mind here that the ‘pure’ is saying ‘on it’s own’.

    As I said, it’s annoying and wrong-headed as you’d think it would naïvely, but in my experience from following science communication for a little while (a few years) it doesn’t always pan out like that.

    What you are writing is what I might have a few years ago. It’s familiar ground. I’ve since come to the conclusion that pure logic in the public arena has it’s problems. You’d wish it were true, I used too, but the reality as I have come to see it is that you have to *drop* a certain amount of that ‘pure logic’ to get past the first base. That is, you have to do more that just lay language, but also drop a *lot* of the details and finer correctness. Once you’ve done that—i.e. you’re now communicating with a party that has some interest in a deeper explanation—then it’s easier to explain it in a ‘pure logic’ fashion. People in general are reluctant to invest much effort and all that.

    There’s a nuance to what I’m saying here. I’m not saying no logic.

    A lot of what is presenting is, from a scientists point of view, well short of accurate but “good enough” to convey “the gist of the final, overall thinking”. (Notice how this skips over a lot of logic: it short-cuts to the final thing, cutting corners, etc.)

    Certainly in the case of TV presentation—what’s relevant in the upcoming presentation—there’s a cliche: ‘style over substance’.

    Ken Ring played that card the other night. His substance was, well, you know, rubbish – but the style was pretty good. Whatever ‘victory’ he had was solely on style, really. (I doubt many would oppose that!)

    I should add here another point that’s not in this discussion that I’ve seen elsewhere. Russell Brown pointed out a lot of people (elsewhere) are writing as if Ken Ring were a novice to media when, according to Brown, he’s not. Ring apparently has a regular radio slot. I wouldn’t know as I don’t listen to radio – perhaps others could verify this. (Peter Griffin?)

    He is, of course, has a salesman side—that’s how people in his business get to where they are.

    With these thoughts in mind, I suspect short-format TV will struggle counter him properly, especially if it takes only a ‘pure logic’ approach. In short-form they’re going to be limited to a couple of individual points, rather than a series of logical steps, which a good PR person (read: Ring) will likely bluff around as there won’t be enough time to counter or box in. (In same ways he did this the other night, too.)

    Perhaps an at-length documentary might be able to expose the logical issues (they have more time), or perhaps if you have someone who is able to play the style game well with just enough ‘science lite’ to be credible that might work too – but there are few people who do this well on a TV audience level in my personal opinion.

    There’s a bit of nuance that’s hard to convey here: I’m not saying logic is wrong or should be dispensed with. I’m saying it’s unlikely to be what will carry the day in the end, in my opinion.

    You wrote: than the alternative proposition

    Being?

    The scientist then sneers that it is too complex for Jo Publik anyway.

    A more correct account here—I think—would be that the scientist says that it is too complex, meaning well, but some viewers/readers take the remark as off-hand and condescending.

    Part of examining science communication of controversial subjects, I think, requires a critical awareness of the difference between someone actually doing something, and someone being perceived as doing it by the other party.

    Perception matters :-)

    You’ll notice I pointed out similar issues with a few things markj wrote.

    (For one thing, it can create false notions of “us v. them”, or even “combat”, that’s often not really there.)

    Please don’t walk me through the physics – I already get it. The point here is that the public doesn’t, and that is all that matters.

    My point was even if you did ‘walk the public through the physics’ in lay terms, in my opinion it wont be the what carries the day in the end. In my experience a surprising number of things are not ‘sold’ on a truly sound logic argument—on it’s own at least—but on something that on close inspection is actually quite weak but is presented well.

    I’m not trying to split hairs either :-) It’s just if you still around science communication discussions you realise there’s this odd catch that often is really working—hugely ironically—is actually a variation the same ‘soft presentation’ stuff people object to!

    (While I’m writing, the issue isn’t physics but statistics, for the most part: the nub of the thing is correlations or not, rather than physical models – the ‘physical model thing’ is Ring‘s smokescreen, as it were.)

  • To expand on an earlier post, where I said “…that I accept that not everyone will be won over, and so pitching for a sizeable majority is sufficient.” I think that, like any battle for the public mind, the outcome of the Ring-earthquake-prediction-theory debate will be determined by the common view of the common person, the silent majority, and not by extremists at either end of the bell-curve.

    I suspect at this time that a poll of the (wo)man in the streets of Christchurch asking “do you think that there is any validity to Mr Ring’s earthquake predictions” would reveal a majority “Undecided” vote. That is a more fruitful ground for scientific arguments than wooing the already committed. But the genie is out of the bottle, so scientists will only accomplish their wanted outcome by sensible engagement and not by attempting to close down debate or manipulating the media.

    I hope that the Science Media Centre accept that now, and so will apply its resources to the best presentation and strongest representation of the scientific viewpoint in a manner that the lay person can buy into.

  • MainlyMe, Excuse me if I’m writing cross-purposes, I’m aware you’re saying logic on it’s own won’t work (I agree), but then you go off to write in opposition to me revealing—to me—you’ve “overlooked” (I’m being cheeky) the nuance of what I wrote! :-(

    Hence my laying it out more. Sorry if it overlaps with much of what you’ve said (but note the subtle difference, it matters in working out what to present).

  • Medical science treatment of crush injuries does not affect many people

    I could have sworn I read that a medic said most of the injuries they got were crush injuries. But, whatever :-/

  • Grant, your wanks are wearing thin 😉

    Science has very few answers… and statistics/probabilities none… who, even momentarily, predicted/forecast/factored in a second earthquake in Canterbury… We’d been told the chances of an earthquake on a previously unknown fault line were rare… now we have a second one in close proximity to the first… what would have happened if the tremor had been 10k off shore and caused a tsunami as well???? Given that ChCh is barely 14 m above sea level the mind boggles at the carnage.

    Take a look at this EXPERT authoritative report. Apart from confirming that ChC is built primarily on a drained swamp, it states that another earthquake wouldn’t be worse and that normal science based practice has all the answers… mmmm.. in hindsite how wrong is that… http://canterbury.eqc.govt.nz/publications/geotech-tai-tapu-interpretative?page=0,0

    Yesterday Key was saying the fact the IRD building is still standing is proof of the soundness of modern building code… what drivel… Such an observation is anecdotal and no more sound than someone being cured of cancer following a dose of homeopathic medicine… Key says foundations need to go down to solid ground. Where is the solid ground under ChCH???? The foundations needed are deep “floating” foundations… tectile… not rigid.

  • Grant said… “Medical science treatment of crush injuries does not affect many people

    I could have sworn I read that a medic said most of the injuries they got were crush injuries.”

    Grant… are you a scientist or simply a person who accepts what they read… if the former, then you shouldn’t claim this to be scientific evidence… if the latter, is that any different to someone reading about Ring’s theories/forecasts?

    There are 360k people in ChCh… the number injured with crush injuries is tiny in comparison… everyone is affected in one way or another by the earthquakes.

  • Grant… so when confronted with evidence you respond by saying “it’s not worthy of a reply…!!”””

    Of all the responses on this blogs, yours beggar belief… your replies do little to enhance the cause of science…

  • MainlyMe: The challenge for the science communicator is to form a cohesive argument in everyday language that is more persuasive (in terms that the public operates under per MarkJ’s post) than the alternative proposition, and to present that through a vehicle that has street cred, and that is not your academic scientist, given the public perception of scientist credibility in this field (see later).

    Sadly, what I see way too often is scientists talking to lay people in the same manner as they do their peers with excruciatingly detailed arguments citing academics Jo Public has no knowledge of nor interest in. By that approach Jo Publik gets frustrated and falls back on what (s)he already knows -scientists are arrogant, tedious, self-serving and untrustworthy. The scientist then sneers that it is too complex for Jo Publik anyway.

    And, also sadly, I have to agree that this is often the case. Which is one of the reasons that I & the other bloggers here are so committed to doing our best to help to bridge that gap. We may not be successful, but we do our best (we’re not all Paul Callaghans!).

    The problem remains the vehicle, doesn’t it? Most people get their ‘science’ from the mass media & in my own experience the mass media aren’t often interested in the hows & whys. We hear about the ‘breakthroughs’ (think of the recent to-do over fructose intake in pregnancy, or perhaps – going back a few years now – lyprinol) but not about the qualifiers, and then when things don’t meet the initial hoop-la then, well, those stupid scientists, why can’t they get it ‘right’ & just stop changing their minds? The other thing is the media tendency to look for balance when there might not be any – to present (say) homeopathy as the equal to medical treatment for a particular condition. This does provide an aura of credibility that in some instances isn’t really justified, but it all contributes to the general perception of science & scientists as a bit irrelevant/divorced from the real world. (Which is a pity given the importance of science & its technological spin-offs to the way of life that most – all? – of us commenting here enjoy.)

  • @petersmith

    “Medical science treatment of crush injuries does not affect many people… Most deaths occurred in the ‘more modern’ buildings… even the modern forsyth Barr building had its stairwell collapse”

    I’m sure the families and friends of those rescued would disagree. Do YOU know for a fact how many people suffered crush injuries?

    “There are 360k people in ChCh… the number injured with crush injuries is tiny in comparison”

    Given your line of reasoning, then the number of people killed in the Forsyth Barr building is so small compared to 360k in Chch, then it is irrelevant that the building collapsed.

    However, unlike you, I believe that saving even one human life is important and commendable.
    And some people believe that scientists are clinical. Your dismissal of the value of the lives of a small number of people sickens me.

  • GJ;
    I regret that I do not have time today for a detailed response to your assessment of the situation analysis I posted late last night. I would however like to expand on just one aspect, as I think it is core to the challenge ahead. That matter is the public’s assessment of (what they regard as) the earthquake science community’s prediction for them post Sept.

    They were told by scientists
    * there would be a gradual fall-off in frequency and intensity of aftershocks, within a range of up to one magnitude less than the original shake. (I know that has played out)
    BUT … they heard:
    * the “big one” is behind us, so we can get on with the rebuild

    We know what happened a week ago and so far as Jo Publik is concerned the science world betrayed them.

    Juxtapose that with Ken Ring who is perceived to have said “there is more coming, including a bigger one”. Given the facts that followed we should not be surprised that Ken Ring’s street cred stakes have risen at the expense of the science community. We move forward with negative equity with the audience we need to win here.

    I need to cut out now to do real work so I can eat to argue another day!

  • petersmith,

    Grant… so when confronted with evidence you respond by saying “it’s not worthy of a reply…!!”””

    No, I said your rudeness makes it not worthy of a reply. You won’t get responses from me if you write like that.

  • On that note,I’m closing comments off on this post, I think we’ve taken the discussion about as far as we usefully can. Thanks for your input!

  • […] population. Every mention of Ring, every Marcus Lush saying “you got that one mate”, even the well-meaning attempt by TV 3’s John Campbell to reveal Ring’s mendacity has served to build the moon man’s […]

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