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Italy: A disaster that science brought upon itself?

October 30, 2012
What happens when you believe your own hype

What happens when you believe your own hype

If you’re going to claim you have intimate knowledge of the future, you should be prepared to take the blame when it turns out that you don’t.

The jailing of six Italian scientists and a government official for failing to predict an earthquake has caused uproar in the scientific community. The men were convicted of manslaughter on the basis that they failed to give an adequate risk assessment of the 2009 earthquake in the central Italian city of L’Aquila, which killed 300 people. Outraged by the court’s verdict, the CEO of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science wrote to the president of Italy to tell him ‘there is no accepted scientific method for earthquake prediction that can be reliably used to inform citizens of an impending disaster’. The verdict is ‘perverse’ and ‘ludicrous’, says the science journal Nature….

But even as we condemn the Italian court for jailing these scientists, and Western society for failing to accept that sometimes disasters just happen, we should also ask whether the scientific community itself bears some responsibility for how these men have been treated. Because today, scientists are at the forefront of depicting natural events as being easily blameable on the behaviour of human beings. Through its fulsome and ceaseless promotion of the climate-change agenda, the global scientific community as it has fashioned itself continually makes a simplistic causal link between what men do now and what will befall the planet in the future – just as a link was made between the behaviour of those Italian scientists and the quake deaths that followed.

Also, the scientific community is forever depicting itself as soothsayer, as an almost all-knowing force, whose predictions of future calamity must not be challenged. When radical green activists march behind banners declaring ‘We are armed with peer-reviewed science’, and critics of the environmentalist agenda are slammed for being ‘anti-science’, you can clearly see that science has become a kind of unquestionable gospel of the future, a respectable version of what Nostradamus used to do. It isn’t only that court in L’Aquila that demonises uncertainty, lambasting those seven men for saying things that were ‘incomplete, imprecise, contradictory’; through the phrase ‘the debate is over’, the scientific community does the same thing in relation to climate change, frequently slamming those who seek to inject some healthy uncertainty about the future into proceedings.

via Brendan O’Neill | spiked

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