An Italian court has convicted six scientists of manslaughter for failing to predict a 2009 earthquake that killed several hundred people, and has sentenced them to six years in prison (not to mention a bodacious fine).
They said the earthquake wasn’t going to happen, and it did. People believed them, so the city of L’Aquila wasn’t evacuated.
The ruling has appalled scientists all over the world.
As a thought experiment, let’s turn the story inside-out. Suppose the scientists said there was indeed going to be an earthquake, and advised the people to get out of town. So you have mass terror, if not panic, looting of homes and businesses, vast expenditures of public and private money (the police overtime alone would be a whopper)–and then suppose there was no earthquake, after all. Would the scientists have been dragged into court in that event? Sent to jail for starting a panic?
If they can be held liable for not predicting a quake that did happen, it seems they could also be held liable for predicting a disaster that didn’t happen. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
But what about all those Global Warming predictions that are ca-ca? Hey, “the science is settled”–right? We’re all gonna die–unless, of course, we hand over all our money to the government and sign away our liberties, and do everything the government’s ace scientific experts demand of us: then they’ll keep the planet from getting too warm. Honest.
Maybe we need some of that stuff to wind up in a court of law.
While I can sympathize with those particular scientists in Italy, who surely must have meant no harm, this case ought to make us reconsider the role of the scientific establishment in our world today.
There is no God, say our secular sages.
That leaves a huge vacancy at the top–a place to be filled by puffed-up politicians and their scientific henchmen–
Who are now discovering that playing god isn’t quite so easy or amusing as they thought.