"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

The Perfection of Science

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The court decision from Italy sent six scientists (seismologists, I believe) to jail after a finding of guilt on the charge of manslaughter. The crime was failing to properly warn the public of the possibility of a serious earthquake in 2009, that ultimately killed 309 people.

The court ruled on Monday that six scientists and one ex-government official were guilty of manslaughter for failing to adequately warn Italians about a deadly 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, in the Abruzzo region. Each defendant was sentenced to six years in prison.

It is always risky to second guess the court system anywhere…but a finding of guilt and this sentence seem outrageous. 

It raises an interesting question about the public perception of science.  There is an obvious expectation of accuracy of prediction, that frankly doesn’t exist in any of the predictive sciences.  I wonder if the last 10 years of yammering about climate change, and the constant refrain to ‘trust the experts’ has perhaps convinced people that scientists are able to speak absolute truth at will?

Science doesn’t provide us with an inerrant source of truth.  The scientific method provides us with predictability based on repeated observation of the natural world, but it never guarantees the outcome.  Weather prediction is a fine example, which runs around the level of pure chance (that is, you have as much ability to predict the weather by guessing as you do with climate modelling).

The potential impact of that ruling will be to stop scientists from making any predictions whatsoever, or, like the terror threat level in the USA, the predictions will become so constantly threatening to ensure that they capture any possible outcome.


Written by sameo416

October 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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