Why you might not want to believe a Skeptic.
THURSDAY DECEMBER 08, 2011
pic: moon theory is hard for some to swallow
It is interesting that the spokesperson of the NZ Skeptics Society, Ms Vicky Hyde, who has recently claimed
that 67% of women are stupid vs 44% of men, thinks that longrange forecasting is astrology just because it mentions the moon. By the same token she appears to believe that fishing and gardening by the moon is also astrology, as is anything to do with prediction of tide tables. If that is true then Hyde herself is part of her dullard 67%. The mere mention of the word "moon" seems to conjure up, in the weak-minded, notions of spells and potions by moonlight, gypsy curses and were-wolves. But any student of history will be aware that all sciences were once considered part of lunar-oriented astrology. It was a mapping system that placed Earth in our part of the cosmos and gave it positional identity, and it provided agriculture with a workable calendar. It was not just about star signs and your love life. As the sciences became larger in themselves and needed to fractionalise, astrology morphed into medicine, pharmacy, meteorology, animal husbandry, biology and astronomy. You would not call a doctor an astrologer these days, although once your medicine could only be administered by a qualified astrologer and gulped down perhaps when Venus was in the 4th House. Nor is today's quantum physicist an astrologer, yet the fathers of modern physics; Galileo, Kepler and Newton, all called themselves astrologers.
What is known today as astrology is not what it still means in nonwestern societies, and should not be used as a tool to attack the sciences, as the Skeptics constantly try to do. By promoting this conflict they only serve to destroy the fabric of science, because by calling to arms those who have some personal gripe against people who decide to enjoy their democratic freedoms to think for themselves, Skeptics raise the ire of those with their own faith in alternative methods and beliefs. Is there no one in the scientific community who takes a passing glance (they would say with amusement but there would be genuine interest) at a tabloid horoscope, or who acts upon an unproven hunch? How is it that the spokesperson for the Skeptics is allowed to grandstand and pass judgement on subjects she knows nothing whatsoever about? The astrologers do not attack skeptics in any way; they accept that some may disagree with them. Then why does Ms Hyde bully every minority viewpoint? Since when did Skeptics occupy the high moral ground? Who gave them this mandate? Who elected them NZ's Think Police?
In almost every news release on behalf of the Skeptics Society, Ms Hyde has found reason to work my name into her article, so she can yet again denigrate my work, slander my name and spread untruths. She has never been challenged, because media will not print anything that comes from my pen. They, too, prefer to go with their saleable story rather than hear the other side. In actual fact I am not an astrologer, have never been one, and have never done a horoscope for anyone in my life. Nor do I "predict" earthquakes. I present the historical pattern and warn of its continuance, allowing that readers, should they choose, make their own prediction. It is a long way from claiming that I predict earthquakes. Longrange forecasters present likely scenarios, never certainties. From such a report, like that for a cyclone, snow dump or flood, people may get prepared. The event may not happen, but the warning is of potential only, and when the potential is there, the event might come about. For example rain will certainly not happen without potential, but rain needs both cloud and a cold layer meeting it, and in the absence of the connection of the cold layer it may be a dry day that just has the look of rain. It is the same with earthquakes. When the moon is full, in northern declination, and at perigee, and high solar activity has just preceded, earthquake risk is enhanced because of the disturbance of the earth's magnetic field. If the pattern has been one featuring an earthquake in a certain place on every one of these times in the immediate past, then the potential for it to repeat given the same conditions as before, such as moon positions and strength of solar wind, is high. Because all this involves sun, moon, tides, cycles and observation-patterns, this is science, not astrology. You will not find any of this in a Womans Weekly horoscope.
The Skeptics Society seem to have resurfaced after an absence. They went underground after their 20 March 2011 much publicised "Skeptics Lunch" in a restaurant above Christchurch went horribly wrong. Some claim the event was underwritten by the taxpayer. Whatever else they ate they all ended up with egg on their faces and there was shame all around. The publicity-seeking politicians, media representatives, scientists and Skeptics gave speeches on the subject of earthquakes, after I had been reported as saying a significant one, the next largest after 22 February, would probably occur on that very day. I had pointed out that the moon was the closest to earth that day for the whole year and for 19 years. It wasn't rocket science and over 40 earthquakes were recorded over that 24-hours. Speaker after speaker rose at the lunch table to say predicting earthquakes was all nonsense, that it couldn't be done, and that if one happened then it would be coincidence. MC Sean Plunket, a prominent radio personality, said that free speech was okay as long as it was informed, accurate and reliable, echoed by all present. That seems to be a perfect definition of non-free speech. Is this the path of democracy? He implied that people should not be allowed to think for themselves, and that science and the media, presumably represented by himself, had all the answers.
But I had never in any interview said some earthquake on 20 March would be one for the history books. There were only ever two media interviews, one with Marcus Lush and one with John Campbell, after which I avoided all media comment for four months. Most media comments supposedly attributed to me post 28 February was media invention and/or misquoting from what had been on my website for many months. I only said that the time/date of 20 March would be memorable, in an article on my own website that had said "The time will be just before noon. It could be another for the history books."
The astronomical fact was that 20 March was the closest the moon came to earth in 19 years and wouldn't be as close again til 2016. The last time the moon was in the same position, in 1994, Arthurs Pass, about 90kms from the Christchurch CBD was hammered with 12,337 earthquakes, including two above-6mags and ten 5-6mag events. (compare: there have been 9,185 recorded events in the region since 1 September 2010). A little over a week before 20 March, when the perigee was already in its closest-for-19-years position, Japan had its biggest tsunami in all its history. The date was always going to be destined for the history books. Future science history books can now record in hindsight that three above- 4mag earthquakes occurred around lunchtime in Twizel, just down a few roads from where the Skeptics were lunching and as they were eating and confidently proclaiming nothing was going to happen. Twizel had been previously dormant for the past 3000 years. That evening there occurred a 7-intensity earthquake in Christchurch, the biggest earthquake in Christchurch since 22 February. It was the one the Skeptics, scientists, media and polticians had confidently and vociferously declared would not happen.
(we acknowledge Geonet NZ for the above screenshot). Many people had left the Christchurch CBD for that day and night, expectant of an event. They may have been relieved not to have been in Christchurch to feel what was downgraded by the media to a 5.1 mag that evening. (But according to USGS, 7-intensity equates to about 6 mag. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/mag_vs_int.php)
Some residents have said it felt greater than the 7.1 on 4 September, and a screenshot of the drum displayed it as the 7-intensity before it was down-reported. It was felt as far away as Dargaville. The mainstream evening news did not even report the three significant earthquake jolts in the Twizel area earlier that afternoon: at 1:10pm (4.6 at depth 8.6km), 1:33pm (4.3 at depth 5km), and 1:34pm ( 4.3 at depth 5km) time periods, and given daylight saving, some might say close to the initial suggestion of ‘around lunchtime’ and possibly close enough to Christchurch to be considered a correct prediction. In short, I was shafted by the media, who had already invested much in their description of me as a prince of evil.
If people do not want to align these events to the theory I am discussing then that is entirely their choice. Others may think that when suggestions made 6 months ago about what might occur, actually occur, it may be something more than coincidental. This is the real prediction process, not proclaimed by some Christchurch wizard-like figure in a hat and flowing cloak, but made by the people themselves, sufficiently armed with patterns, with hindsight and with observable facts. I test myself all the time, as others should. And I have concerns about continuing earthquake activity in this small country and particularly the Christchurch region, and I only sought to make people prepared. Recently on open forums we have seen the odd scientist break away from the mother pack, and concede that there is a lunar link to seismic events. It is not yet mainstream science, but then, the mavericks have always brought reform and changed science's direction, and not the conservative skeptics who hounded, decried and mocked the new-direction thinkers during their lifetimes.
Sadly there will always be people like the spokespeople for the Skeptics Society who appear to be afraid of the dark. Their nemeses are new ideas, alternative practitioners, ghosts, witches, astrologers, different cultural practices, talk of aliens, and unidentified noises in the night. The Skeptics need to grow up. We live in a society that has schools. Education teaches intelligence, and people are free to think and to decide for themselves what to believe. Thinking NZers do not need the ever publicity-seeking Skeptics Society to direct them. Skeptics disbelieve everything and believe nothing, hence their name. They aim to destroy differences in their name of Truth. It is a Socialist leftover, and history is studded with Stalinist/Mao/Hitler/Gaddafi/Amin/McCarthy purges, in which madmen try to enforce their thoughts and beliefs, at times through violent means. Is it not healthier to entertain alternatives, then decide on a wise course, partly supported by belief which is honed by experience? Who cares if someone thinks they have seen a ghost or an alien? So what? They are entitled to their beliefs. We all have a democratic right to our differences. We need to rid ourselves of gestapo-like Skeptic organisations that have no tolerance for anyone who thinks outside their square. These self-righteous inquisitors are the true enemies of freedom.