Human Exceptionalism

Free the Italy 7!–Scientists Could Do 15 Years For Earthquake Prediction Failure

I wrote about this once before, but I think it is important enough to repeat.  In what I think is a material threat to the science sector, scientists are on trial in Italy because they failed to accurately predict a deadly earthquake.  From the Daily Telegraph story:

The trial – due to start Tuesday – has proved intensely controversial before it has even begun, with the scientific community arguing that it is impossible to accurately predict the timing and severity of a quake. But relatives of the 309 people who died when centuries-old buildings and modern apartment blocks crumpled on the night of April 6 say they are not blaming the experts for failing to forecast the event, just for fostering a culture of complacency which cost lives. Prosecutors say the six leading scientists and a top official should have given much clearer warnings to the people of L’Aquila that the city had been the subject of more than 400 low-magnitude tremors and that there was a real danger of a major quake.

They say clearer information would have allowed the inhabitants of the city, the capital of the Abruzzo region, to evaluate the threat and decide whether to evacuate their homes. The experts were members of a panel that met six days before the 6.3 magnitude earthquake at which they determined that the activity was probably not a prelude to a big quake.

This is an outrage.  These scientists face the possibility of 15 years in jail!

But we need to also look at the bigger picture. In some sense, I think the international Science Establishment should look in the mirror for at least part of the cause.  How often do we hear hype about the capacity of science to know truth, proper political policy, and even tell us right from wrong?  For the uneducated, that sense of false potency can set up some materially false expectations. Thus is the power of scientism to harm science.

Free the Italy 7!

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

Most Popular


Holy Week with Saint Paul

Just the other day, I ordered a replacement copy of The Passion of the Christ -- it can be so impactful for Holy Week meditation. In the years since its release, it’s become something of required Lenten viewing for me. But this year, there is a new movie to help with prayer, Paul, Apostle of Christ, released ... Read More

Heckuva Job, Paul and Mitch

As Thursday's editorial makes clear, the omnibus spending bill is a disgrace. That may be why about 40 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Democrats) voted against it. Apart from the absence of a DACA/Dream amnesty, the immigration portions represent a comprehensive victory by the anti-enforcement crowd. ... Read More
Politics & Policy

California’s Pro-Nuclear Renegade

If California’s upcoming gubernatorial race gets decided solely by money, Michael Shellenberger doesn’t have a chance. The latest campaign filings show that Shellenberger, an environmentalist from Berkeley, has about $37,000 in cash on hand. The frontrunner in the June 5 California primary, Lieutenant ... Read More

Encouraging Signs in Iraq

Last year, relations between the Iraqi central government and the Kurds reached what was possibly an all-time low when the Kurds held an independence referendum in which 93 percent of voters opted to secede. The timing was no coincidence: Iraqi forces had retreated from Kurdish territory in 2014 as the Islamic ... Read More