Earthquake Scientists Sentenced to Six Years
Welcome to Italy, the very last place on earth where the world's first working earthquake prediction machine will be installed, purely for liability reasons. The 6 seismologists, who were convicted of multiple manslaughter for failing to predict the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that killed over 300 people in 2009. Predicting earthquakes is impossible, by current scientific standards, but that didn't stop the Italian criminal justice system.
Atheists and other nonbelievers tend to have a healthy respect for science, and I hope that every one of us were offended at yesterdays ruling. I was even a little incensed at the way it was reported. "Seismologists were outraged," wrote several news outlets. Seismologists? All scientists everywhere are outraged, by my meager estimation, and I should hope even that is an understatement. The activist in me wants to do something about this; then again, the activist in me is still pretty pissed about what the Catholic Church did to Galileo.
Maybe one good takeaway from this, while we stand in solidarity with these scientists in however many ways possible, is to recognize that a staggering number of people believe an overwhelming amount of unscientific things. The collective dearth of a scientific reference in Italy with respect to the science of seismology made this verdict possible. In America, we have gaps in knowledge about all kinds of scientific areas: most people don't know what stem cells are; climate change is considered by many to be merely a political issue; there are wide gaps in knowledge about modern biology, modern physics, and yes, geology - I wonder what the man-on-the-street interviews in downtown Raleigh would yield with the question, "what causes an earthquake?"
By doing what we can to promote a general awareness of science in the lives of those around us, maybe we can help close the gap.