Twelve Questions

Sarah Daniell poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions with Vicki Hyde

It's the end of the world tomorrow, according to the Mayan calendar. Vicki Hyde, spokeswoman for the NZ Skeptics Society ponders what it all means and what she'd take to the bunker.

Vicki Hyde says she believes 'there is life out there in the universe'. Photo / Supplied
Vicki Hyde says she believes 'there is life out there in the universe'. Photo / Supplied

1. How's your post-December 21 strategy - do you have a cunning plan; a place to hide?

Considering I did, in the past two years, survive comet impacts, the rapture, asteroid fly-bys, an alien invasion, a super volcano eruption - because Yellowstone is about to go any day - and a global tsunami, I think it's business as usual. One strategy I do have sorted, in the event of a natural disaster, is a post-Armageddon survival kit which will last me three weeks instead of the three days Civil Defence recommends.

2. In the event of Planet X crashing into Earth, what would be on your list of essentials - your must-haves for the aftermath?

If the planet hits us then it'll be all over. I won't need anything. But I would really like to see the aliens. I've always wanted to see them. I'd stick a landing pad out for them. For any survivors in Christchurch a really handy trading tool would be Marmite.

3. What would be the upside for you, if the world were in fact to end tomorrow?

The demise of reality television and Fox TV. I'm worried that with the slowly expanding broadcasts flowing out into the galaxy, our kudos and credibility will be seriously damaged. Intelligent life? Go figure.

4. If you were to believe in something you can't explain by science - to make one concession to something "out there"- what would it be?

I will confess to an unsupported belief that somewhere out there in the universe, there is life - any card-carrying sceptic will agree. We have no evidence but we're looking for it.

5. What is the danger of apocalyptic prophecies? What effects do such proclamations have once we get beyond the joke-factor?

The problem, as we've seen in the past, is that people quit jobs, sell houses, uproot their families and euthanise their pets. There have been suicides based on apocalyptic prophecies. It goes back to the 1800s and probably before that. There's a great website called whatstheharm.net which tracks media stories on the effects of such prophecies.

When we had 12.12.12 someone carved a pentagram into the back of a 6-year-old. We might laugh but there are negative outcomes: 50,000 people left Christchurch with Ken Ring's earthquake predictions.

6. How did the small Vicki Hyde view the world - in a sceptical way? When did your scepticism manifest?

I was naturally curious and I read a lot. When I was 14, I went to see Erich von Daniken give a talk on ancient astronauts. I had a bent for science. I loved Carl Sagan's Cosmic Connection, which is lyrical and inspirational science. It was evocative and passionate and a reminder that science doesn't have to be po-faced or dull. I once did a scale model of the solar system in my bedroom. I had the earth at about 1mm and the sun at 12cm but when I went to do Betelgeuse, a red giant star in the constellation of Orion, I realised I needed a 98m wall.

7. If the world should be thinking of one thing right now, other than its end, what should that be?

Attainable and evidence-based solutions to our environmental issues like global warming. And socially? How to reduce the pay gap so that people can have a stake in their own communities and countries which would give them more control. That would provide a faster way to world peace.

8. In general, non-apocalyptic paranoid terms, where do you like to escape to? Where's your bolt-hole, far from the madding crowd?

I'd really like to live up on Deer Park Heights [Queenstown]. Up there you see the Remarkables one way and the lake to the south. You can watch the planes fly in below you. When you're there, you think - and I think any Kiwi would think - that's us. There's something about that particular mountain range.

9. What tests your scepticism?

I guess sceptics are optimistic that if you give people critical thinking tools they'll think rationally, but I'm not sure that's right. Mark Twain said you cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place.

10. When are you sceptical about your scepticism?

It's hard as a parent. I've had a daughter have brain surgery. You have to stand there and ask, what is the best information we have? What are the other possibilities? We see that now with the cause celebre - the mother who refuses to let her child have radiotherapy. I can understand. There's nothing more voluble than a parent with a sick child. No one wants radiotherapy or chemotherapy. But we do know they work. We know that by doing it, observing it in a controlled environment. Scientific method and critical thinking are the gold standard - its not a whisper, or a prayer or an ad hoc explanation.

11. What abiding wisdom do you hold dear?

There is a golden rule, and the basis of all philosophies and religions, and it's from Shakespeare. Love all, trust a few and harm none.

12. When you look back on 2012, for what are you grateful?

I'm really happy we've had a reduction in earthquakes. It's been hard living here {Christchurch], as a person, as a parent and as a science commentator. We've lost our supermarket, our library ... I'm grateful we haven't heard a peep out of Ken Ring.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 03 Sep 2014 00:18:18 Processing Time: 12ms