Editorial: Charlatan Ring merits contempt

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Ken Ring. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Ken Ring. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

If another earthquake were to strike the battered Canterbury region today, it would not advance by one millimetre the claim by self-styled Moonman Ken Ring that he can foresee seismic events.

Ring's prediction that another big quake will hit Christchurch "on or about" March 20 has caused unnecessary alarm in a part of the country where alarm has scarcely been in short supply since September.

In times of huge stress, people can lose a sense of perspective; crackpot theories can take on a lustre of plausibility that more reflective consideration would quickly remove. Little wonder then that scientists, who see the principles of their calling betrayed, and counsellors, who have their hands full dealing with existing trauma, have expressed outrage at the pronouncements of a pseudo-scientific quack.

TV3's John Campbell notably lost his rag in a one-sided shoutdown of Ring, a lapse of journalistic judgment for which he graciously apologised the next evening. His rage was understandable though; having spent days in the shaken city and witnessed first-hand the anguish of the people living there, he felt passionately that they could do without being further scared.

Certainly, the Campbell Live coverage was better than the witlessness on display at TVNZ's rival Close Up, whose presenter Mark Sainsbury devoted several minutes to Ring believers, without feeling obliged to ask itself whether we should give a damn what a champion canoeist and a famous pop star think about meteorology and seismology. He then compounded the offence by interviewing one of Ring's charlatan counterparts in California.

The Canterbury region has been shaken by some 5000 aftershocks since the September quake - technically, the deadly February incident was one of them - so Ring can reasonably rely on chance to deliver something today which he can use to justify his ridiculous prognostications.

But that will not make the predictions right - or make it any less shameful that he makes them. His success rate as a weather forecaster is barely better than chance and the same goes for his predictions of seismic activity. They are not based on any scientific research but on quasi-medieval superstitions that belong to the days when witches were blamed for crop failures and storms at sea.

- Herald on Sunday

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