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IMagius
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PostSubject: Science on Trial   Tue Sep 20, 2011 10:18 am

WTF is happening to our world?

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Nearly 4,000 scientists from around the world are supporting six Italian geophysicists and a government official who go on trial Tuesday for manslaughter for not predicting a devastating 2009 earthquake.

The 6.3 magnitude quake killed 309 people in the central Italian city of L’Aquila and towns nearby, injured more than 1,500 and destroyed 20,000 buildings.

Although the verdict could take months or even years, the case has already sent a chill through the scientific community.

“Scientists have to shut up,” Enzo Boschi, then president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, told Nature magazine.

“The academic legal community will be watching with great interest,” said defence lawyer Filippo Dinacci.

The National Commission for Forecasting and Predicting Great Risks, which met in earthquake-prone L’Aquila the week before the temblor, provided “incomplete, imprecise and contradictory information” according to the 224-page statement of charges filed in 2010 by public prosecutor Fabio Picuti.

“I know they can’t predict earthquakes,” Picuti told Nature. “As functionaries of the state, they had certain duties imposed by law: to evaluate and characterize the risks that were present in L’Aquila.”

Vincenzo Vittorini, who is a civil party in the lawsuit, contended, “This isn’t a trial against science,” he told Nature.

It’s an indictment, he said, of the “be calm, don’t worry” message sent out regularly to the town, despite minor tremors over several months and a 3.9 earthquake the day before.

Vittorini’s wife and daughter died in the earthquake April 6 and he spent six hours buried under rubble.

Journalist Giustino Parisse, who lost a teenage son and daughter, is also a party to the lawsuit.

“Science did not do what it was required to do,” he told the BBC. The national commission only intended on “pacifying” the population, he said.

According to the minutes of the now infamous March 31, Boschi was asked if the seismic rumblings could flatten the city as in 1703 and replied it was “unlikely, but the possibility cannot be totally excluded.”

Boschi had been surprised to see a dozen local officials there. He has since realized, he told Nature, that the point of the meeting was “to calm the population. We (the scientists) didn’t understand that until later on.”

Bernardo De Bernardinis, then vice-director of the Department of Civil Protection, told a news conference after the meeting the tremors were “certainly normal” and presented “no danger.”

In fact, he said, the tremors were a release of energy that could safeguard the region, something two scientists at the meeting said they disputed strongly.

Those two scientists, along with Boschi, de Bernardinis and others, face up to 15 years in jail if convicted of manslaughter. A separate civil lawsuit is asking for $30 million in damages.

“The charges against these scientists are both unfair and naïve. There is no accepted scientific method for earthquake prediction,” said Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

He warned of a “chilling effect” on researchers if the Italian court finds the scientists guilty.

This has to be the most insane and depressing thing I have seen in my life.
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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:59 am

Nothing is ever, EVER 100% fallible. Sometimes, shit happens. These people are focusing their pain and suffering at the wrong party.

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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:21 pm

You have to be kidding me. I got chills reading that. You're right, RS, they're focusing on their pain. It is impossible to accurately predict an earthquake. If they had warning signs that they didn't report, well I think that's standard protocol when it comes to earthquakes. You don't want to start a mass panic and its impossible to tell how strong they're going to be. Dangerous precedent here.
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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:15 pm

Quote :
“Science did not do what it was required to do,” he told the BBC.
Right. Science didn't predict WHAT EVERYONE KNOWS TO BE UNPREDICTABLE, therefore they're guilty of....something.

The most obvious problem here is that the scientists didn't cause the earthquake. What that means is that they're being forced to defend themselves over something that they only study--over something that they by definition are incapable of even affecting!!

Let's think about this for a second. This means that any scientist who's ever wrong and someone gets hurt (not even as a cause of the error--remember, the geophysicsists DID NOT CAUSE THE QUAKE), that scientist can be sued. If you're never wrong, you're not doing science, simple as that. ALL of us are wrong at some point, and most of us are wrong frequently. The whole bloody POINT of science is to figure out how we're wrong. So what this means is that science itself, as an institution, is on trial.

Science is what gave us more or less all of the wonders of the modern world. Medicine, computers, car, GPS, and on and on.

I don't think these morons filing this lawsuite understand what would happen if scientists went on strike. And that's exactly what many will do over this. Who wants to work when they can be hauled into a meeting with a hidden agenda, and sued for remarks that are scientifically accurate but not understood by the public?
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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Tue Sep 20, 2011 6:04 pm

Exactly, DW. This is a modern-day inquisition.

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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Tue Sep 20, 2011 7:26 pm

It's worse. At least hte Inquisition was a consistant aplication of their (flawed) metaphysics. This is nothing more than looking for a scapegoat, and picking the only people who can possibly help them to be the goat! The Inquisition had the excuse that they honestly thought they were doing the correct thing. These clowns don't have that.
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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Tue Sep 20, 2011 8:40 pm

Perfectly said Din.

This is disgusting. AN EARTHQUAKE KILLED THOSE PEOPLE, is what i want to yell at all the morons suing. Ugh. I need to go take a shower.

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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:39 pm

After reading that article, all I can say is; WOW!!!

Now as for my two cents: If the scientists weren't around and totally ignored those minor tremors because they were all looking at a more major tremor around Mount Tembora, Indonesia which could've sparked possibly a more deadly situation; the public would have to make one of two decisions, either stay because it was a minor thing, or flee because its a precursor to a major disaster.

Then I wonder who would they blame? Themselves or the scientists who weren't paying attention?[u]
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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:08 am

Fuck I'm screwed. In future they are going to prosecute me for failing to predict an economic catastrophe caused by a natural disaster which also wasn't properly predicted.
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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Wed Sep 21, 2011 8:45 am

Dinwar wrote:
It's worse. At least hte Inquisition was a consistant aplication of their (flawed) metaphysics. This is nothing more than looking for a scapegoat, and picking the only people who can possibly help them to be the goat! The Inquisition had the excuse that they honestly thought they were doing the correct thing. These clowns don't have that.

True enough.

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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Fri Sep 23, 2011 12:00 pm

I'm speechless. What the hell is the world coming to?
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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:24 pm

You're all surprised by this? The modern day trends for frivolous lawsuits and the anti-intellectual movement that is slowly creeping into our societies' collective psyche have both been going on for quite a while now. To be honest, the only thing I'm surprised at is that no one has tried to do something like this sooner.

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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:44 am

I'm not as much surprised as irate.

It's not the first time anti-intellectualism has crept into science. A few years back GSA basically threatened to shut down when the government tried to force science journals to run all articles by a government review board (to ensure that no national security secrets were leaked, nudge nudge wink wink). I was just as mad then--I decided that if they were going to do that kind of stupid stuff I simply wouldn't publish. They backed down, somewhat (now we can publish it, but there's still issues with it).

And that's the thing--the government has almost always backed down. They've realized that attacking science in a high-tech society is not smart. But people don't think that geology is important for society. It makes sense--when was that last time anyone here was at a mine? But the simple fact is that if it's not grown, it's dug up. Meaning that there are two jobs humans CANNOT live without: farmers, and geologists. And this lawsuit will shut down one of them.
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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:22 pm

An update on this: they've been convicted.

Fuck you too, Italy.

Only good news is that there's going to be an appeal, so maybe someone with more than two braincells to rub together will get this overturned (if not, see previous statement).

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go do something less depressing. Like watch the dog episode of Futurama.
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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:48 pm

Immediately after, a number of scientists in similar positions as those convicted resigned their jobs citing an inability to properly and effectively perform their duties with a sword of damacles hovering over their heads at all times. Four of them held top positions in the organization. There could very well be something of an exodus of scientists from Italy, with such a precedent set.

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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Wed Oct 24, 2012 2:16 pm

Instead of trying to do as best they can and put a tight confidence interval so that the best decision can be made, scientists will now have every incentive to basically divulge no information whatsoever from now on which will only result in more lives or money lost.

Your next weather report will be: highs and lows in the 0-100F temperature range, chance of rain: 0-100%
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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Wed Oct 24, 2012 2:58 pm

Actually, they can't withold any information. That's basically the accusation that got the scientists convicted in the first place: they failed to divulge the risks of the earthquake happening (translation: they failed to see into the future and predict the unpredictable).

So basically, all scientists in Italy are now fucked. Fail to foresee something? Go to jail. Try to foresee something but get it wrong? Lose your credibility and likely get fired or even sued or something.

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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Thu Oct 25, 2012 12:25 pm

So does this mean we can start suing police departments for failing to predict murders?

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PostSubject: Re: Science on Trial   Thu Oct 25, 2012 2:05 pm

Or CEO's and economists from failing to predict recessions and crashes? Or politicians from failing to predict anything?

Shit, that last one actually sounds like a good idea...

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