Italian judge’s anti-scientific verdict should not surprise us

Blog, Climate, Marco Navarro-Genie

Calling on people to stop asking questions leads to ignorance. Dissuading people from asking questions about scientific issues leads directly to scientific ignorance.

The purpose of scientific knowledge never has been to reach certainty and to stop questioning.  While science and technology mitigate some of the uncertainty in which we live, they do not get rid of it.

No science is possible without doubts. Questions are to science what oxygen is to fire: without doubt, science is extinguished.

This is a basic lesson that an Italian court could use, having recently convicted seven earthquake scientists for their failure to predict and warn the population about the 2009 earthquake that sadly injured thousands and killed more than 300 people in the Italian town of L’Aquila.

The sentences handed out by judge Marco Billi were higher than those demanded by the prosecution, which had asked for the accused to be given four years each. The judge also imposed lifetime bans from holding public office and ordered the defendants to pay compensation of €7.8m (£6.4m).

The verdict has been called chilling and shocking.  It may be easy to blame the judge for his supposed ignorance, but such blatant scientific ignorance does not exist in isolation.  It has a context.  

For decades now, some scientists have been writing and speaking vociferously and with unquestionable certainty about heat, cold and climate, making (outlandish) predictions about new glaciations, great tornadoes and giant hurricanes, massive rains and scorching droughts, floods and ice meltdowns, ravaging famine and the rapid disappearance of numerous animal and plant species from the planet, all due to planet cooling, and later planet warming. When neither trend could be sustainably established at a planetary level, they then resorted to the vacuous catch-all phrase climate change.

There is nothing scientific about the language flip-flopping.  It’s a classic political strategy: when reality doesn’t suit belief and the language we use to communicate our belief, we change the language to obscure the stubbornness of reality.

Notwithstanding the certainty with which some scientists speak about a purported link between human impact on global climate and the natural disasters they claim are caused by human intervention, there is no evidence that it is so.  None of it has stopped the alarmist from launching wave upon wave of warnings.

Yet, the greater culture seems to have absorbed the certainty with which these false predictions are made. It doesn’t matter that the predictions have not come to be.  There seems to be an expectation for warnings now at any conjecture of disaster.

To be fair, climate alarmists do not hold the monopoly on the exaggerated belief that science can solve and unquestionably predict just about everything, but alarmists have been directly and indirectly the most prominent  propagandists of that view, especially in the last decade.

The notion of “settled science” is the most damning in this regard, for it suggests that there is a point in which we come to know all and everything that we need to know about an issue (climate in this example), making such knowledge unquestionable and undeniable (which is why they call those who still ask questions, deniers).  Our own Premier Alison Redford in Alberta, a human rights lawyer, holds the view that the science is settled.

Insofar as science suffers when scientific activity is deprived of questions, those who push for certainty display not only scientific ignorance but sustain the most intellectually obscurantist and anti-scientific disposition around.  Those who would deny the asking of questions in scientific settings have become the new Inquisitors.

Given that the public holds politicians in such low esteem, we may not be too concerned or surprised about their scientific ignorance.  But anti-scientific ignorance already populates many who have earned advanced science degrees and wear white lab coats, so it should not be that shocking or chilling that it also has come to populate court rooms and those who wear black judicial robes.