Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Anti Science Italy Jails Scientists


The epithet “anti science” gets thrown around all too loosely, usually by the political left as a demagogic tactic to win policy debates. But this is anti science. An Italian court has sentenced six scientists and a bureaucrat to six years in prison for failing to predict an earthquake. True to form among the mainstream press, the reporter drags in the Catholic Church, which has nothing to do with this travesty. From the Christian Science Monitor story:

Rarely since a Catholic inquisition in Rome condemned Galileo Galilei to spend the remainder of his days under house arrest for the heresy of teaching that the Earth revolves around the sun, has an Italian court been so wrong about science. Today, a court in the central Italian city of L’Aquila, 380 years after that miscarriage of justice, sentenced six scientists and a government bureaucrat to six years in jail on manslaughter charges for their failure to predict a 2009 earthquake that left more than 300 people dead. This headline isn’t the sort of thing that’s generally expected from Italy anymore. The church quietly abandoned its objections to heliocentrism in the early years of the 18th century, and by the early 19th, had fully accepted the scientific facts.

But according to the BBC, a modern Italian secular institution is now the one struggling to grapple with science. The seven convicted men stood accused of “inexact, incomplete, and contradictory” information about the risks posed by tremors in the weeks ahead of the April 6, 2009, earthquake that caused so much destruction. The seven, all members of the “National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks,” were convicted after an apparently emotional trial in which the testimony of people who had lost loved ones were allowed, as if it was relevant to the question of whether current science can predict earthquakes. No grief, no matter how great, can answer that question (which is a resounding “no,” by the way).

I’ve written on this nonsense before, opining that scientism was partly to blame for these ridiculous charges.  But I never expected a jail sentence for failing to accomplish that which cannot yet be scientifically accomplished. It’s like jailing Edison five years before the invention of the light bulb because a man fell down stairs in the dark and broke his neck. Yes, it’s that ridiculous.

Do the Italians understand what such a tyrannical and anti rational injustice will do to their reputation and the chilling effect it will have on the science sector? Do they care?


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