Dangers of prediction
Natural disasters always have a “what if?” quality about them, but never more than in Italy these days.
Recently, six Italian scientists and a former government official were sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of multiple manslaughters. Their crime was making statements that underestimated the possible dangers of an earthquake.
Turned out to be a devastating 6.3 magnitude quake that killed 309 people and destroyed large parts of the city of L’Aquila in 2009.
The seven convicted were all members of a national commission charged with forecasting and preventing major risks. The verdict has alarmed scientists who are called upon to predict and evaluate the dangers of earthquakes and other disasters. Some believe it will keep experts from speaking out, for fear of lawsuits or criminal charges.
If you think about it, the decision could have all sorts of legal ramifications. Can you hold someone criminally
responsible for making bad predictions that others act upon?
If so, should TV weather forecasters and political commentators be legally responsible for their predictions?