On Monday, seven seismic experts were convicted of multiple manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison because they did not give fair warning to the residents of L’Aquila that a large earthquake was going to occur on April 6, 2009. Say what? Since when have earthquakes become predictable? This was probably the dumbest verdict I have ever about! And it seems I’m not the only one to think so! Italy’s disaster head, Luciano Maiani, has resigned his post in protest to the verdict, as well as the commission’s vice president and emeritus president. Prof. Maiani stated, “These are professionals who spoke in good faith and were by no means motivated by personal interests, they had always said that it is not possible to predict an earthquake! This is the end of scientists giving consultations to the State.” The prestigious science journal, Nature, also came out to say that “the verdict is perverse and the sentence ludicrous.” Well put, Nature! I couldn’t have said it better myself!
This verdict enraged the scientific community all over the world, especially since the defendents are some of the most prominent geological scientists and seismologists in the field. They were accused of giving “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” about whether the small tremors felt in L’Aquila prior to the large one were a warning for the large one that ended up destroying the old town center and killing more than 300 residents. The situation of the quake and it’s devastation were, no doubt, horrific and sad, but to put blame on those doing geological research to learn about earthquakes and to perhaps, one day, be able to make predictions, is ridiculous! This verdict angers me and makes me feel sorry for those scientists that were so wrongly accused – with situations like these, anyone inclined to pursue studies and research in this very important field is going to think twice about it if there is a chance that they could be blamed for something which they have absolutely no way of predicting! As the Interior Minister, Anna Maria Cancellieri, said: “There is the risk that doubt will no longer be allowed to form part of scientific judgement.” This is science, after all. Researching of hypotheses is key in discovery – sometimes the hypothesis will be proved and at other times, it is disproved, thus furthering the scientific experimentation to find the answer.
Here is a list of the convicted – don’t they strike you as serial criminals?
- Franco Barberi, head of Serious Risks Commission
- Enzo Boschi, former president of the National Institute of Geophysics
- Giulio Selvaggi, director of National Earthquake Centre
- Gian Michele Calvi, director of European Centre for Earthquake Engineering
- Claudio Eva, physicist
- Mauro Dolce, director of the the Civil Protection Agency’s earthquake risk office
- Bernardo De Bernardinis (pictured), former vice-president of Civil Protection Agency’s technical department