Conflating Science With Magic

Where else but in the crux of the world of magic, Italy:

Seismologists Tried for Manslaughter for Not Predicting Earthquake
Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor, – Thu May 26, 5:55 pm ET

Earthquake prediction can be a grave, and faulty science, and in the case of Italian seismologists who are being tried for the manslaughter of the people who died in the 2009 L’Aquila quake, it can have legal consequences.

The group of seven, including six seismologists and a government official, reportedly didn’t alert the public ahead of time of the risk of the L’Aquila earthquake, which occurred on April 6 of that year, killing around 300 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

If you have faith in one thing, you will probably have faith in another. This judge, Giuseppe Romano, clearly has faith in science, as he defines the term, which apparently to him means magic. But science, in either research or application, is not a matter of faith, and it most certainly is not magic. At present, consensus has it that there is no science which has the knowledge to predict earthquakes reliably. It is irrational to blame scientists, indeed to charge them with a serious crime, for not performing magic.

I do hope we are not returning to a pre-Enlightenment kind of Dark Ages in which science and technology are seen as some sort of magic, and their practitioners as people who ply dark arts. That would break my heart. And it would quite probably destroy life on earth. We conflate science with magic at our peril.

H/T ellroon.

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  • Bryan  On Saturday May 28, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    There are places in Europe where the wheel is fairly advanced technology, and in Alabama, the lever is out of reach.

    • Steve  On Saturday May 28, 2011 at 10:27 am

      Bryan, I’ve heard Clarke’s law quoted for many years, and never more aptly than here. What else could explain a judge… absent evidence, presumably a person of moral probity and clear thought… regarding technological failure as manslaughter? I hope this is not part of a spreading trend.

  • MandT  On Saturday May 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Adgita’s zero sum: Never ever assume judges are persons of moral probity and critical reasoning , or that Italian law is actually about justice.

    • Steve  On Saturday May 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      MandT, I don’t, and I don’t. The assumption about judges was for the sake of discussion. Judges in Italy and on the US Supreme Court are all over the spectrum when it comes to probity.

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