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Should Scientists Be Held Legally Responsible for Their Results?

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posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 01:42 PM
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This is quite an interesting article imo.


On March 31, 2009, a panel of scientists and civil servants met to assess the risk presented by a recent series of tremors in the Abruzzo region of Italy. They concluded that a major seismic event was unlikely. Soon thereafter, Bernardo De Bernardinis, the vice-director of Italy’s Department of Civil Protection, the organization that put together the panel, told reporters that citizens should not worry, and even agreed with a journalist who suggested that people should relax with a glass of wine.

Six days later, a major earthquake struck L’Aquila, a city in Abruzzo, killing more than 300 people. Soon after, citizens requested an investigation into the panelists’ findings, and the public prosecutor obliged. De Bernardinis and the panelists were charged with manslaughter and now face up to 15 years in prison. The L’Aquila judge who determined that the case could go to court said the defendants provided “imprecise, incomplete and contradictory information” and effectively “thwarted the activities designed to protect the public.”


Full POPSCI Article

It stands to reason that decisions made by civil servants to act upon certain findings that are made by the "scientists" are based a great deal on the terminology used to describe said finding.


The inquiry’s report, released in 2000, criticized scientists and civil servants alike for not adequately communicating that what’s unlikely is not impossible—for failing to admit openly that they could not rule out the risk of transmission.


This is what happens when common sense goes by the wayside and the "what if", "unknown", and "unaccounted" scenarios go out the window (so to speak).

It seems that scientists would be less likely to release findings if there was a chance those findings weren't exact as they could be jailed. As for this article and for science in general "they" often leave out the aforementioned scenarios because it goes against the basis for what science is intending to do which is prove something and for all intents and purposes (usually) leaving no stone un-turned (so to speak).

Often times it's the "what if" or more, "the unknown" or "unaccounted for" scenarios that catch us with our pants down (so to speak).

I feel that what this will ultimately lead to is how findings are presented, It would seem that as long as science leaves room for the "what if, unknown, and unaccounted for" scenarios in their findings any indecision therein would be put back on civil servants.

From here you open a huge can of worms (so to speak) as any civil servant reaction to such findings, especially as in the case of the earthquake above, cost money to implement. I would think Governments of this world would be less likely to shell out money due to the latter scenarios.

More consequentially and indicative to ATS, could this ever lead to personal "predictions" having the same out-come? Meaning, if one made a prediction, made it public, that prediction came true, yet no one enacted upon it, could civil servants be held accountable? Vice verse as well, could the "predictor" be held liable for any civil servant actions taken based on said prediction if that prediction didn't come to fruition?

Not likely I'm sure, but something to consider when making a prediction. As it is currently on ATS, if I recall correctly, your only penalty is having a prediction thread "HOAX!"ed and at the worst one would be banned from the site if it was knowingly a hoax. A far cry from prosecution but who knows what the future holds...indeed a "what if" scenario.
edit on 1/31/2012 by UberL33t because: (no reason given)




posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 01:51 PM
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No, they shouldn't. It should be understood that these people are simply going with the best statement based on all the available evidence. What they're doing is similar to a county sheriff telling everybody to remain calm and not panic when there's a burglar on the loose.



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 02:00 PM
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reply to post by AnIntellectualRedneck
 


By expressing it that way, it makes me ponder just how many "burglars" have been afoot that "we" haven't been made aware of by the "sheriff".

It raises the question of where is the line drawn between the decision to make scientific findings public vs. keeping a lid on them in an attempt to prevent mass hysteria?

Personally, I wouldn't want to be the guy(s) with that job

edit on 1/31/2012 by UberL33t because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 02:06 PM
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To answer your question, in the general case, No. Of course there are individual cases where a scientist falsifies data or knowingly says something they know to be false. And there are already laws to cover that.


Originally posted by UberL33t
It seems that scientists would be less likely to release findings if there was a chance those findings weren't exact as they could be jailed.


The above is exactly what would happen... science would come under even more attack than it is already (creationism, etc) and scientists would tend to not publish their results. And that would be a real problem.

And if somebody doesn't know the difference between "unlikely" and "impossible", that is hardly the fault of the scientists.



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 02:40 PM
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There's a considerable difference between holding someone legally responsible for their stated findings and conclusions of studies/experiments; and holding them liable for misleading and/or false statements.

Where these guys land in hot water is jumping in and saying: "Nah, there's not going to be an earthquake." Which is just silly and irresponsible. Any scientist should be able to point out that, while the study didn't indicate there was reason to believe a large earthquake was imminent - forecasting earthquakes has always been an elusive concept and a reliable method has never been detected.

The other thing to consider is just what good it would have done for the scientists to come out and say: "It's likely there will be another huge earthquake within the week!" Would it have really saved lives? Perhaps, provided panic could be kept to a minimum.

However, there's a precedent for what happens when such predictions are made, we had a scare, here in Missouri, back around the time I was born concerning the New Madrid fault.

www.factorybelt.net...


True, The Earthquake made fools of a lot of people, but in the opinion of many observers, the press was more foolish than everybody else put together. Before it was over, virtually every newspaper, magazine and TV station in Middle America exploited The Earthquake. Every earthquake prophet, prediction, preparation � and party � made headlines for months.

There was only one problem: The Earthquake never happened and no one who really understands earthquakes ever thought it was going to happen.



Then things began to snowball. Every time the Browning prediction was headlined, the public reacted � and every time the public reacted, the prediction was headlined. Sales of earthquake insurance went up � and the media wrote about it. Local emergency management officials held earthquake drills and the media wrote about it. The media wrote about it, and people began making plans to get out of Memphis on December 3 and 4. The same thing was happening throughout the region.

By mid-autumn, the media saw what they had wrought, and began to backtrack. In October, they gave front-page coverage to a report from the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council saying Browning's prediction was bogus. It also turned out that transcripts of his 1989 speech proved Browning had not predicted the San Francisco quake. He hadn't even mentioned it.

But again, it was too late. For whatever reasons, a lot of people decided to believe Browning, not the experts.


Edit: Best line in the whole article:


As the date of the prediction approached, the little town of New Madrid, MO, was so overrun with media that all the motels were full, some citizens went into hiding, and reporters were reduced to interviewing each other.



Another News Article Covering The Aftermath
edit on 31-1-2012 by Aim64C because: Missed the best line in the whole article



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 03:07 PM
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reply to post by UberL33t
 



The inquiry’s report, released in 2000, criticized scientists and civil servants alike for not adequately communicating that what’s unlikely is not impossible—for failing to admit openly that they could not rule out the risk of transmission.


It seems to me that if they are looking for someone to blame, and this need to blame is based upon the notion that scientist, or "civil servants" failed to "adequately" communicate that "what is unlikely is not impossible should first begin with their education institutions and their professors. If people need to understand that profound difference between unlikely and impossible - not a subtly nuanced difference but a great difference between these two words - then it is hardly the scientist that would be to blame.

The word "unlikely" is more likely to be synonymous with the word "improbable" than it is with the word "impossible". There are more words offered as synonyms for "unlikely" and one of them is the word "absurd", which is also found to be a synonym of "Impossible" but if one actually bothers to look at synonyms used for both "unlikely" and "Impossible", it is reasonably argued that the synonyms for "unlikely" - "absurd" notwithstanding - are far more inline with the common understanding of the word "unlikely" and that the synonyms offered for "impossible" - "absurd" notwithstanding - are so dubiously stretched - if not "beyond" - to the very edges of the borders of rationality. It is arguable that is next to "impossible" to adequately offer up a synonym. Even "never" does "impossible" an injustice.

It is "absurd" to think that people can hold a scientist responsible for a populace with an inadequate education, which has resulted in inadequate critical thinking skills. Italy would have a better argument of suing God, and dragging the Vatican into the fray than blaming a scientist for using words people should but don't understand.

That said, scientists sometimes unleash some horrifying consequences from their results. It is - again - reasonably argued that the scientist responsible for unleashing the Atom bomb should have been held accountable, along with the military personnel who used this weapon of mass destruction, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Of course, if they build some sort of device that destroys the entire planet or universe, I suppose after that, an inquiry into the responsibility would be....well, "impossible".



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 03:42 PM
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Here is a perfect example of how projections can go wrong because there is not enough science available to be 100% accurate.

This is from an excerpt of the Hurricane Katrina Timeline.:


18 July 2005

US News reports: "If a hurricane comes next month," says Ivor van Heerden, director of Louisiana State University's Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes, "New Orleans could no longer exist."



Wednesday 24 August 2005 - 11.00 AM EDT: Katrina Named

NOAA renames "tropical depression 12" to "tropical storm Katrina".



Saturday 27 August 2005 - 2 days before - 4.00 AM CDT: Landfall Projection Changes to New Orleans

NOAA declares that Hurricane Katrina is now a Category Three "major hurricane with 115 mph winds." Hurricane force winds now extend 40 miles from the center of the storm. The projected landfall is now New Orleans; yet residents went to bed thinking the hurricane would hit the Panhandle. Forecast: storm surge flooding 2-4 feet above normal tide levels.





Landfall: Monday 29 August


In this example it's a toss up right? Who is to blame? The meteorologists that inaccurately projected the path based on their computer models? The civil servants that failed to act due to having prior awareness? A religious figure?

I have to agree with what I believe to be the consensus within this thread and as Jean Paul Zodeaux so eloquently states, the word I choose to encompass the notion of holding scientists legally responsible for their findings as it pertains to the article is....Absurd!
edit on 1/31/2012 by UberL33t because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 04:44 PM
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reply to post by UberL33t
 

Actually we can't even say the scientists were wrong. According to the OP story:


They concluded that a major seismic event was unlikely.
The fact is, unlikely events happen. I could tell you it's very unlikely that if you buy a lottery ticket, that you'll win the lottery.

Yes I look at the news, and I see someone won the lottery.

So was I right or was I wrong to tell you you were unlikely to win the lottery?

Even though somebody won it, I still think I was right to say that.

And as others pointed out, Earthquakes are notoriously difficult to predict.

It would be interesting to see the scientists exact words. I feel pretty sure they didn't say an earthquake couldn't happen, because they should know as well as anybody how poor our track record of failed earthquake prediction attempts is.



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 04:52 PM
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I do not think scientists should be held legally responsible, well unless they provide false results intentionally. I do however think some form of accountability should be placed on those officials who wrongfully talk of certainty just because they believe it is highly unlikely. With events such as OP Earthquake, taking a lax approach to providing data is irresponsible. Unfortunately much like ATS, personalities probably change the results of data. Some say CGI and the others say Aliens; sometimes it is just best to say not sure.



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 05:21 PM
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The sad truth is that often it is not the sciencetists but the corporations that employee them .... corporations lie and manipulate the results of tests and studies.....

the corporations should be given the death penality since they are people with free speech ... I have never seen a corporation go to jail.....



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 10:23 PM
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reply to post by UberL33t
 

Do you want to kill science?

Then hold scientists legally responsible for their results.



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 10:47 PM
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No we shouldn't.

But maybe we should consider holding citizens legally responsible for their inability to comprehend the word "unlikely" resulting in their wasting the court's time and money.



posted on Feb, 1 2012 @ 08:44 AM
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Originally posted by Open_Minded Skeptic

The above is exactly what would happen... science would come under even more attack than it is already (creationism, etc) and scientists would tend to not publish their results. And that would be a real problem.


Well that opens a whole new can of worms doesn't it.....

Should Creationists or indeed any religious types be held liable if the beliefs they expound are proven to be 'unlikely'.



posted on Feb, 1 2012 @ 08:48 AM
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I actually do not think it is so simple as saying yes they should or no they shouldn't.

Most scientists follow a methodology, get some results and publish their results, nothing more. Therefore scientists like these have no legal responsibility for their results - they are simply publishing data.

However, some scientists publish their data and then bang on about how this is correct and laws should be made / changed, etc, accordingly. These scientists are definitely leaving themselves open to legal responsibility as they are causing change through their results - if these are then proved to be incorrect they have cause massive upheaval, net spend, etc and all for nothing.

The way around it for scientists is to step back from the politics and simply concentrate on the science - leave it to others to try and effect change on the back of their results.



posted on Feb, 1 2012 @ 02:43 PM
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reply to post by 1littlewolf
 



Should Creationists or indeed any religious types be held liable if the beliefs they expound are proven to be 'unlikely'.


This; is, indeed, a can of worms.

The "problem" is that 'Creationism' is more of a philosophy than it is a theory. A theory can be experimentally verified (even if we do not possess the capability to run those experiments). A philosophy is more of a belief governing "why."

To re-iterate: Theories answer the "how?" Philosophy answers the "why?" We can develop and test a theory to define the mechanics of chemical reactions. We cannot test the assertion that those mechanics were put in place by some intelligent source; or, for that matter, that they came about randomly.

That is left up to philosophy and personal faith. We are faith-based creatures, whether we realize it or not. We must accept certain things simply on faith - such as our own existence and validity.

There's a quote that has been flying around for some time, the author unknown: "Reality is that part of the imagination we all agree upon."

It is important to understand the relationship between Faith, Theory, Science, and Reality.



posted on Feb, 2 2012 @ 08:51 PM
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Originally posted by Aim64C
reply to post by 1littlewolf
 



Should Creationists or indeed any religious types be held liable if the beliefs they expound are proven to be 'unlikely'.


This; is, indeed, a can of worms.

The "problem" is that 'Creationism' is more of a philosophy than it is a theory. A theory can be experimentally verified (even if we do not possess the capability to run those experiments). A philosophy is more of a belief governing "why."

To re-iterate: Theories answer the "how?" Philosophy answers the "why?" We can develop and test a theory to define the mechanics of chemical reactions. We cannot test the assertion that those mechanics were put in place by some intelligent source; or, for that matter, that they came about randomly.

That is left up to philosophy and personal faith. We are faith-based creatures, whether we realize it or not. We must accept certain things simply on faith - such as our own existence and validity.

There's a quote that has been flying around for some time, the author unknown: "Reality is that part of the imagination we all agree upon."

It is important to understand the relationship between Faith, Theory, Science, and Reality.


You raise a good point and I guess I was being a little sarcastic in my remark.

But then one could also argue that if scientists have put out a statement which according to their best knowledge is true, and yet the opposite happens and people are injured or die and those scientist are then forced to stand trial; what happens if a religion puts out a statement which to their best knowledge is true (e.g. homosexuality is evil, that child is possesed and the devil needs to be beaten out of her) and somone is injured or dies, should that religion then be held liable and its preachers be forced to stand trial?




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