Scientists convicted of manslaughter for failing to be psychic

Words cannot begin to express how upset, angry, and filled with contempt I am by this:
Italian scientists resign over L’Aquila quake verdicts

Two scientists resigned their posts with the government’s disaster preparedness agency Tuesday after a court in L’Aquila sentenced six scientists and a government official to six years in prison. The court ruled Monday that the scientists failed to accurately communicate the risk of the 2009 quake, which killed more than 300 people.

We wish we could predict earthquakes. We really, really do. So many lives could be saved. But there is as of yet no way to make those kind of predictions. A series of small earthquakes? Depending upon how you define it, those occur all the time. Hell, we can only sort of predict the imminent eruption of a volcano, and the mechanics of that, the pressures that dictate an eruption, are relatively simpler and there are far more “tells” – seismic activity, increased outgassing, etc.

Nature agrees: 

There will be time enough to ponder the wider implications of the verdict, but for now all efforts should be channelled into protest, both at the severity of the sentence and at scientists being criminalized for the way their opinions were communicated. Science has little political clout in Italy and the trial proceeded in an absence of informed public debate that would have been unthinkable in most European countries or in the United States

Hey Italy, while you’re jailing people for failing to predict disasters, how about extraditing the horrendous human beings who played fast and loose with the financial markets and caused the global economy to shit itself? That had far more potential for being predicted and arguably has caused even more human suffering. What about jailing people who have refused to listen to repeated warnings about global climate change?

Or I suppose this pattern could continue and the next time a doctor fails to predict a heart attack, or a traffic cop fails to predict an accident, they’ll end up in jail.

This is ridiculous. Contemptible.

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