Wednesday, 23 February 2005
CNN ran a Reuters article yesterday on the discoveries made surrounding Ötzi the Iceman ("Alpine iceman reveals Stone Age secrets"). The discoveries reviewed were no surprise to anyone following this story, but the article ended with an interesting section on the alleged "Iceman Curse."
The article makes a big deal of the deaths (or near-deaths) of a small handful of researchers who have studied Ötzi, from cancer, car crashes, avalanches, and severe weather. Typically, the article fails to mention — let alone examine — the expected incidence of deaths by such causes before resorting to the paranormal explanation of a curse.
In our everyday, ordinary experience, we expect various percentages of the population to die from various causes each year. In the years since Ötzi's discovery, hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people have studied his preserved body, either through direct contact and examination or through materials produced by others (e.g., X-Ray films, photographs, etc.). It is perfectly normal and expected that some of those people would die over time from cancer, car crashes, avalanches, or severe weather. It would be unusual, and fairly interesting, if nobody in that group had died.
We should always examine probable natural causes first.