Oct 22 2012

Italy makes fallibility a major felony

Hey kids! Got dreams of being a scientist? Well don’t do it – because if you do, you risk being thrown in prison for six years, barred from public employment for life, and liable for court costs and damages, all because you failed to say exactly when an earthquake was going to happen.

Yes really.

Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 deadly earthquake in L’Aquila.

A regional court found them guilty of multiple manslaughter.

Prosecutors said the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake, while the defence maintained there was no way to predict major quakes.

The seven – all members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks – were accused of having provided “inexact, incomplete and contradictory” information about the danger of the tremors felt ahead of 6 April 2009 quake, Italian media report.

In addition to their sentences, all have been barred from ever holding public office again, La Repubblica reports.

The judge also ordered the defendants to pay court costs and damages.

The irrationality of it is frightening. Yes it was a really bad earthquake, but the badness of the earthquake doesn’t make scientists who failed to predict it more guilty. Jeezis. Wouldn’t you kind of expect a judge to realize that?

I have a prediction: Italy will suddenly find itself bereft of scientists.



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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle

    Words fail.

  2. 2

    So can Italians sue their government for not taking scientists warnings seriously enough about climate change?

  3. 3
    Pierce R. Butler

    And Pliny the Elder now has to pay for the complete restoration of Pompeii.

  4. 4
    Raging Bee

    Here’s a recent comment to the story that offers some insight as to who benefits from this scapegoating:

    Reality = families can now claim compensation from the scientic firms and departments etc & bankrupt them and ruin good reputations rather than sue the govt which didn’t have enough safety measures in place for the buildings despite knowing the fault was there..and save corrupt politicians for more chicanery…

  5. 5
    Raging Bee

    And in all fairness, are these scientists being punished for their actual work — or for caving to political pressure not to cause any alarm DESPITE what their actual work told them? The article should have gone into that aspect of the story a bit more.

  6. 6

    While they are at it, if they could jail some economists, that would make my day :)

    In any case, the mind boggles!

  7. 7

    Raging Bee: the current state of science makes predicting when an earthquake will occur impossible.

  8. 8
    Emily Isalwaysright

    Quelli Italiani sono pazzi!

  9. 9
    Marlow Up River

    My deity failed to make a safe place for me to live. Just saying.

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