Seismologists Found Guilty

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Orleander, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

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    WOW!

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    I never expected this to make it to court, let alone them being found guilty. I thought Italy was more educated than this.

    Seismologists Convicted for Failed Quake Prediction

    Six Italian seismic experts and one government official were found guilty of manslaughter in October and sentenced to six years in prison for deaths resulting from a 2009 earthquake. The court found that they had failed to issue adequate warnings predicting the event. Colleagues across the world condemned the decision and worried that holding scientists criminally responsible for predictions will make them less willing to advise on important decisions that affect public safety.

    For months in early 2009, the small city of L’Aquila shook with minor tremors and then with a more significant 4.1-magnitude shock. Research suggests that small quakes immediately raise the risk of a large quake by as much as a thousandfold, says Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, though the probability is still only about 1 percent per day and falls rapidly with time.
     
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  3. Mazulu Banned Banned

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    Clearly they are charlatans. They don't mind taking government money for their so called research. What were they doing? Throwing parties and living off the government dime? Look at the destruction that they failed to predict!

    If these scientists had an ounce of courage, they would tell the government to legislate better building codes so these disasters wouldn't happen.
     
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  5. leopold Valued Senior Member

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    the italian courts have lost their ever lovin' minds.

    holding someone responsible for a failed PREDICTION is very disturbing to say the least.
     
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  7. Mazulu Banned Banned

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    I would say the courts are very progressive. Not too long ago, these charlatans would have been fed to the lions.
     
  8. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

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  9. AlphaNumeric Fully ionized Registered Senior Member

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    Yeah, they should be researching hyperdrives based on voices they hear in their head!!

    Opps, my mistake, that is what you would waste money on if everyone were stupid enough to give you a science grant

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    Not too long ago people who heard voices in their head and who thought God or aliens were talking to them would be given electroshock treatment.

    But you're lucky we don't live on those times any more....
     
  10. Mazulu Banned Banned

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    Why don't you take those super-strings of yours and go knit a super-sweater.

    You know I found some super-strings. They were clogging up my toilet.
     
  11. Mazulu Banned Banned

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  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Well it may be more complex than this article makes out. For example, if (a) these seismologists were retained by the government expressly to provide earthquake warnings and if (b) expert witnesses agree the data they had should without doubt have resulted in a warning being issued, then it could be reasonable to convict them of negligence - just as with a doctor whose patient dies as a result of him failing to treat appropriately a medically obvious and treatable condition.

    But the risk of the convictions is obvious: no seismologist will in future accept an advisory position like this in Italy without cast-iron legal indemnity!

    Interestingly it appears that in the US, legal indemnities for seismologists performing this function are already explicit. No doubt this is because the USA is such a notoriously litigious society - more so even than Italy.

    So I'm not sure which society is the more "educated"........!!
     
  13. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    I tend to hesitate about the way cases are tried in the press. Courts are bound by actual evidence, which I haven't seen, and which the reporters may not have seen. Worse is the way sensationalist reporting often eclipses true journalism.

    That being said, all court cases ultimately boil down to discretionary judgment, and judges are just as likely to be biased and politically self-serving as not. An apparent paradox is that we we give courts the discretionary power to pass judgment over the way defendants use their discretion.

    While the law that convicted these folks may be unfair and harsh by our standards, there are countless unfair laws and practices just about anywhere you go. Without knowing the facts of the case, I would tend to favor the defendants, and hope they get the decision overturned. But I would reverse my opinion if the evidence were convincing. My main objection is from skepticism that a group of people were jointly criminally negligent. And if they were, the legislature would seem to be negligent for failing to create checks and balances to prevent it.

    And of course the larger issue is that calamities will continue to happen as long as urban centers are established in naturally hazardous areas.
     
  14. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I think you are very wise to refrain from judging the outcome of court cases you have not followed in details. That is really my point too. Journos always seek an "angle" to a story, which means they are almost by definition not interested in dispassionate reporting. I must say I think a jail terms seems extremely harsh, unless they really were "asleep at the switch" - but then, I wasn't there in the courtroom.
    And I would agree that the most constructive approach to this disaster would have been to spend time learning how to improve the systems for next time. One might think it on the whole unlikely that imprisoning seismologists would help achieve this goal.

    But I expect they've appealed. After all, Berlusconi has been convicted of several criminal offences but is (self-evidently) not in jail, due to pending appeals......
     
  15. wellwisher Banned Banned

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    When the average person thinks of science, they expect a rational understanding of phenomena close to cause and effect. But some areas of science, like seismology, they heavily rely on computer oracle approaches to predict the future. The scientists are aware of this, but science public relationships is better served with an infallible image of science being about cause and effect.

    Global warming works the same way. We pitch this science like it is totally rational and infallible, when in reality it also makes use of computer oracles to predict the future. Maybe we need to set a consequence if the oracle is wrong and too much resources are wasted. This would expose the oracle approach, with science wanting to clarify global prediction, as much art as science.

    If seismology had been seen, as part science and part art, the justice system would have been more forgiven. But they assume the sales pitch, used to get the resources, was true, and this was not art therefore more subject to accountability.

    If you were sales pitching the government, to get resources, you can't say this is a good guess. That does not sit well with someone who is self serving and promoting their own career in government. Instead, you may have to say this is most innovative approach being used. This builds more confidence and might be seen as a feather in the bureaucrats cap. I would guess the bureaucrat who signed off was feeling career pressure from above and decided to take others down as he drowned; shift the blame. He had the government resources needed to get the result he needed.
     

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