Italian Prosecutors Target Scientists Who Failed To Predict the Future



I understand the impulse to kill the bearer of bad news — it's rude, but understandable — but what about punishing people who fail to properly read their tea leaves so as to foresee unpleasantness in the future? That's what Italian prosecutors are doing in the wake of the devastating earthquake that killed over 300 people in L'Aquila; they're prosecuting seven geologists and volcanologists who downplayed the possibility of an earthquake shortly before the big event actually hit.

From the London Daily Telegraph:

Prosecutors in Italy have called for a group of scientists to be sent to prison for four years each for allegedly failing to give adequate warning of the L'Aquila earthquake in 2009 that killed 309 people and injured hundreds more.

The trial of the seven experts has proved immensely controversial, with the international scientific community saying that earthquakes cannot be predicted and that the experts are being made scapegoats for an unforeseen natural disaster.

But critics say that by downplaying the risks, they consigned hundreds of people to their deaths when the quake struck at 3.32am on April 6, 2009, reducing centuries-old buildings as well as modern apartment blocks to dust.

In calling for the jail sentences, prosecutors accused the experts of offering "an incomplete, inept, unsuitable and criminally mistaken analysis" of the dozens of tremors which rattled the mountain city in the days before the massive quake.

Note that in the days before the L'Aquila quake, researcher Giampaolo Giuliani was targeted by authorities for doing what prosecutors say the L'Aquila seven should have done. The Guardian wrote in 2009:

Meanwhile, Giampaolo Giuliani, a researcher for a physics lab in the nearby Gran Sasso, claimed in media interviews that he forecast the quake days earlier by measuring the amount of radon gas released by the earth, but was muzzled by officials.

Giuliani said Monday that he was placed under investigation by prosecutors for causing alarm after he sent warnings of a pending quake in the Sulmona area 30 miles south of L'Aquilato.

So, scientists can get into trouble for predicting disaster, and they can get into trouble for not predicting disaster.

Methinks that research and scientific inquiry will play a dwindling role in Italy's short-term future.

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  1. It’s Italy.

    Look at the whole Rafael Solecito/Amanda Knox trial. Their entire judicial system is little better than the Salem Witch Trials.

    1. I was just coming to say those Italian scientists turned me into a newt.

      1. It got better…

  2. we’re talking ITALY here. a country where they prosecute a film director for MURDER. because somebody died in one of his movies, so it must have been real.


    a country where amanda knox’s parents were prosecuted for … wait for it… LIBELING the police.

    iow, criticizing the police investigation got them criminally indicted

    otoh, prostitution is legal!

    1. At least they dropped the charges against Deodato. I doubt they’ll do that here. They want career-advancing convictions.

      1. yea, he just had to produce the actress. iow, guilty until proven innocent. i just think that story is hilarious when you talk about govt. cluelessness and incompetence and inredulity.

        “that totally looks real. let’s indict him for murder!!!”

        i’m still weeding my way through this article. not sure what to think yet, but leaning towards “this is fucking ridiculous even FOR italy”

        which is saying a lot

      2. Epi,

        They had no choice: he paradedthe actress he had supposedly murdered in court. Even the Italians are not so deranged that they will prosecute someone for murdering a person who is actually alive.

        On the other hand, the prosecutions of Giuliano Mignini – especially his habit of seeing satanic cults around every corner – and the fact he hasn’t been fired in disgrace yet speaks volumes.

        Of course, is he so different that the asswipe that prosecuted the west memphis 3?

        1. No. The thing is, this prosecution is even more baseless than the Deodato one (you can’t predict the future so we’ll jail you?), and that’s saying something, yet is more likely to stick. These prosecutors are true scum.

          “Are all men from the future loud-mouthed braggarts?”

          “Nope. Just me, baby. Just me.”

          1. No. The thing is, this prosecution is even more baseless than the Deodato one (you can’t predict the future so we’ll jail you?)

            Hey, you get no argument on me on that score.

            Honestly, Italian Justice is like what you get when you take the medeival system and remove Trial By Combat from it.

          2. Hail to the King, baby.

  3. This is why Seattle closes its schools when a flake of snow has been predicted to hit the ground, possibly, in the Puget Sound Region, within a 12 day window.

    1. and after completely fucking up snow/ice removal for weeks in downtown seattle and for refusing to use, god forbid … SALT on its roads, the mayor gave the city (iow himself) a “B”


      “Nickels estimated the city has spread about 8,800 tons of sand on snowy roads. He defended the city’s prohibition on the use of salt to melt snow. The policy was adopted in the 1990s, when Puget Sound chinook were added to the endangered species list, and experts warned salt runoff from roads could harm the fish.”

      note: sand does not melt snow. even a B student should know that. i grew up on the east coast. even small towns with little to no infrastructure used salt and ice didn’t accumulate. fuck the chinook! people were seriously hurt from slipping and businesses lost incredible amounts of money.

      1. Seems like Puget Sound should be able to handle a little extra salt for the few days a year it would be needed. And yeah, here in New England, roads would be solid ice all winter without salt.

        1. People complain a lot about living places with real winter weather, and I can understand it to a point, but I have to say, it’s the places I’ve lived with the worst winter weather that knew how to handle it–and it’s really not so bad if your city has decent snow removal (Chicago, Montreal…and ESPECIALLY Montreal. They knew what to do there, no question.). I’d hate to be someplace that gets the occasional snow and ice and just fucks it all up. (And of course, no one there knows how to drive in it either.)

          1. Ice storms in Seattle and Portland are far worse than someone even from New England or Chicago understands until they experience one. It’s not snow once it gets on the ground, it’s a sheet of ice. The roads literally become skating rinks. Before my first one, I thought “these stupid Pacific Northwesterners, don’t know how to drive in snow, ha ha” and then I experienced the Thanksgiving 2010 one.

            1. Watched a bit of the video. Been there. Done that. In Maine.

            2. I visited the Seattle area on a vacation in 2009. I noted raised reflectors for lane markers on some roads. I thought, “There must not be a lot of snow or ice here.” While walking through Queen Anne and Downtown, I noted that if they did get snow or ice, the city would be totally fucked. I decided then that if I ever moved to the Seattle area, it wouldn’t be to the city itself. Too painful to get around in the rare event of winter weather.

          2. I live someplace where you’d think people know how to drive, being that by the time things start to thaw the snow berms beside my driveway can be eight feet tall, driving in the first storm of the season is a nightmare.
            Cars sliding around, off the road, fishtailing, it’s as if they forgot how to drive over the summer.

            1. You sure you weren’t driving in Chicago? By the end of winter, no worries – first storm … WHITE STUFF FALLING FROM THE SKIES!!! WE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!

              1. Been there twice, both times passing through. No plans to return.

              2. Oh, yeah – that’s Michigan, too.


                Dumbass fat Michiganderanian-can’t-drive-motherfuckers. EVERY year.

                1. I don’t get it. I really don’t. I mean, you spend nearly half the year driving on the white stuff, then you forget how to deal with it after a couple equinoxes?

            2. Yeah, I experience that as well every year. Part of it is that people don’t think to put their snow tires on until it has already snowed, but there does seem to be a lot of just forgetting how it works when the road is slippery.

          3. It absolutely amazes me how bad people are at driving in snow or ice who aren’t used to it. And even how timid and stupid some drivers are where I live when it snows a bit. I drive 25 miles to work everyday and a massive snow storm is no excuse to miss work (at least not as far as I am concerned).

      2. In fairness to ice and heads getting cracked open and snow making business not do so well:

        People are not entitled to roads being in any particular state of convenience.

        People who slip on ice chose to walk on that ice.

        Businesses are not entitled to any guaranteed amount of patronage.

    2. They have to – no one knows how to drive in snow out here. At least in the Seattle Metro area.

  4. Does this mean Bernanke can be prosecuted for failing to predict the housing crash?

    1. src

      (March 28, 2007) “At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained. In particular, mortgages to prime borrowers and fixed-rate mortgages to all classes of borrowers continue to perform well, with low rates of delinquency.”

      (July, 2005) “We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.”

      (May 17, 2007) “All that said, given the fundamental factors in place that should support the demand for housing, we believe the effect of the troubles in the subprime sector on the broader housing market will likely be limited, and we do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy or to the financial system. The vast majority of mortgages, including even subprime mortgages, continue to perform well. Past gains in house prices have left most homeowners with significant amounts of home equity, and growth in jobs and incomes should help keep the financial obligations of most households manageable.”

    2. “Make it so.”

  5. I predict there will be a rise in doomsaying scientists in Italy. I probably shouldn’t be trusted though, I just don’t want to go to jail for not predicting this calamity.

  6. Italy, where satire is OBE…

  7. These guys need to release a joint paper linking the earthquake to global warming’s effect on the Earth’s crust and they will totally walk.

    1. I blame fracking in Pennsylvania

      1. Youtube provacateur Sam Bacile strikes again.

  8. If they’re gonna bust the geologists over this, they should definitely bust whomever hired that old lady who turned Ecce Homo into The Christmas Monkey.

    1. I thought that was a great improvement.

      Spain has tens of thousands of those gawd-awful portraits of Jesus. It won’t be missed.

      It is like somebody in the 23rd century getting upset about the desecration of a portrait of Elvis on black velvet.

      1. No one would dare desecrate Elvis on black velvet.

  9. If I recall correctly from when this first came out, the scientists said that there was a low likelihood of a major quake. Which means that there is some chance of its happening. So they have no basis at all to say that the scientists were wrong or irresponsible.

  10. This organization does not tolerate failure. (pulls lever, drops geologists into shark tank)

  11. so if my health insurance premium doesn’t go down 2500%, Obama and a lot of Congress go to jail?

  12. To hell with Libya, we should bombing Italy before they out-reproduce us with vicious imbeciles.

    1. The Italians did release Abu Nidal after the U.S. turned him over to them…. Got total cover from GWOT standpoint.

  13. Maybe we just don’t understand Italian culture, and the criminal case is just a ritualisitic expurgation of whatever crime angered the gods, and once the guilty are convicted they will sacrifice a couple of goats to Zeus instead and have a BBQ instead of putting anyone in jail.

    Or maybe they’re idiots. Who knows.

    1. Want that piss off Jupiter?

      1. err — won’t

        Grammar gods must not exist if my ass isn’t fried by now.

  14. The (earthquake)sience was settled?

    I was hoping they would jail all the “THE ICE AGE COMMETH” folks from the 1970s – but they reinvented themselves as GLOWBALL WORMING mongers and are coping a walk.

      1. I think “seance” is closer to what was going on with those global cooling/warmers in the 70’s.

        1. They do have one great consistency – the problem is Man, the answer is money and control to the State.

  15. Can one then also target politicians that fail to deliver on their predictions ?

  16. “But critics say that by downplaying the risks, they consigned hundreds of people to their deaths when the quake struck at 3.32am on April 6, 2009, reducing centuries-old buildings as well as modern apartment blocks to dust.”

    Presumably, centuries old buildings vulnerable to strong earthquakes already existed before geologists assessed the risks. How exactly would letting people know an earthquake might happen at some point have any effect on those buildings that already existed?

    “consigned hundreds of people to their deaths”

    Hundreds? Whopping.


    1. Good point. What would have happened differently if they had said that there was a good chance of a major quake in the near future? Evacuate the city until an earthquake happens? Doesn’t seem too likely. But then I suppose if the earthquake didn’t happen, they could charge the geologists with causing a panic.

  17. I don’t know about this – if earthquakes can’t be predicted with any degree of certainty, then why where these fuckheads predicting earthquakes? One group saying it would happen, one saying it wouldn’t and all of them talking outof their arses.

    If anythign I’d like to see this extended to mor “prophets”. You wanna sell me a tarot reading, sure – just know that if it doens’t come true I’m coming back with the cops.

  18. I don’t think people should be punished for what they say or write, regardless of who or what is offended, or even if people make judgments based on statements and die as a result. Trying to make life risk-free is to create a totalitarian-friendly environment.

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