You guys probably notice how we Europeans love to indulge ourselves on American stupidity. Turns out we're not always so clever ourselves though:
The following is edited copy pasta from this bbc article:
Six Italian scientists and a former government official has been brought to trial to answer for manslaughter over the 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy.
The prosecutors accuse the seven of "negligence and imprudence... of having
provided an approximate, generic and ineffective assessment of seismic activity
risks as well as incomplete, imprecise and contradictory information".
The defendants face up to 15 years in jail. Lawyers for civil plaintiffs - who
include the local council - are seeking damages of 50m euros (£45m).
The defence argues (of course) that there is no way to predict major earthquakes even in a seismically active area.
How stupid is this? Yes it is very sad, people died. But punishing scentists and calling them murderers for not fully understanding earthquakes is a bit harsh don't you think?
Hmm, I'm not sure on this one. I think if you can't prosecute the Met office for not being able to predict the 1984 hurricane, then you can't really prosecute a failed earthquake prediction.
However, if they claimed they were able to predict an Earthquake and failed to do so, they are essentially falsifying their abilities, to everyone elses loss.
They didn't claim that they could predict it.
That does seem to be the argument
Prosecutors allege the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake after studying hundreds of tremors that had shaken the city.
Basic, why give such a reassuring statement if you are completely unable to predict. If they are completely unable to predict, they should be giving no statements of any kind. Why say "well we can't predict anything, but we don't think that it could happen". Its just not really fair.
But they did say it was unlikely to happen.
Well, there had been some hightened seismic activity in the region in the months prior to the earthquake in question, so seismologists from all over had gathered trying to assess the situation, probably doing tests and comparing the results with statistical data, since seismology is still largly a science of probabilities. They concluded that they could neither confirm nor deny whether a major earthquake was imminent (or something like that). Unfortunatily for them the earthquake struck two weeks later, but you can't really with good conscience advise people to remain outdoors when you don't know whether the earthquake will strike tomorrow or some time next year.
I remember a documentary on Discovery Channel a couple of years back about earthquakes where a scientist made a prediction concerning Turkey, suggesting that the next big one there will hit Istanbul, possibly soon. Well they're still waiting for it, so if they were to head such warnings it would be hell of a long time to evacuate such a large city. The best one can do is to fortify our buildings to the best of our abilities, and dig sensors deep in the ground (like the Japanese) connected to alarms in the streets that can give people half a minute warning etc. Europe remain far behind other developed regions when it comes to these things, so I would suggest that others should be first in line when it comes to placing blame. =P
They concluded that they could neither confirm nor deny whether a major earthquake was imminent
Yet they offered a reassuring statement. If they could neither confirm or deny, why did they offer a reassuring statement?