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Criminal Assurance

Written by FM Staff  |  Found in: Dinner Dialogue
Criminal Assurance

Imagine your son or daughter expressed to you their desire to use their love of science to help their fellow man.  Perhaps they could develop ways to create energy, food or drinking water, maybe prevent or cure a disease, or accurately predict hurricanes or earthquakes.  You might be proud, you might encourage might think twice, now. In Italy, six scientists, among Italy's most prominent geological experts, have been sentenced to six years in prison for reassuring citizens in the area of L'Aquila that a major earthquake was "improbable," following months of minor tremors.  A judge determined that the scientists were guilty of manslaughter of the 309 people who died when a 6.3 magnitude quake later hit the city. Despite a letter signed by more than 5,000 Italian scientists asking for the charges to be dropped, the group will have to win in appeal in order to avoid the jail sentence.

Read the article: L'Aquila quake: Italy scientists guilty of manslaughter (

Serve it up:

  • What consequences do you think would be appropriate for these scientists saying a large quake was "improbable?"
  • If  a group of geologists reported that a large quake was "likely" for an area that was then evacuated at large expense, should there be consequences for them?
  • Many feel that such a sentence will have a chilling effect on other scientists attempting to forecast natural disasters  - what positive or negative consequences can come from other scientist being more cautious or silent in their predictions? If you were a scientist, what changes might you make when reporting your findings or predictions?               
  • In Job 9, Job lists the fact that God can cause destruction though earthquakes as  a reason that no one can "contend with God".   If you were a scientist trying to predict earthquakes, how would you balance what you learn about earthquakes with what you know about God and His power?
  • So, in light of what happened in Italy, what advice would you give your son or daughter who wanted to use their interest in science to help people?

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