Logical Conclusion to Scientific Prognostications?

November 2, 2012 at 8:52 am

Scientists often claim to know what the future holds. In such a milieu, some people will want revenge when science gets it wrong.

Brendan O’Neill has a fascinating analysis over at Spiked-Online titled A disaster that science brought upon itself. An Italian court recently found six scientists guilty of manslaughter and sentenced them to six years in jail. The prosecution’s position was that they had failed to adequately warn the public about an impending earthquake and, as a result, 300 people lost their lives.

Since science currently has no way of predicting when an earthquake will happen, this verdict seems perverse and medieval. O’Neill is appalled, but he also wonders whether the verdict may be the

tragically logical conclusion to the scientific community’s feverish adoption in recent years of the role of soothsayer, predictor of the world’s end and proponent of solutions for how to prevent it? Over the past decade, leading scientists have repositioned themselves as modern-day diviners, particularly in the climate-change debate, where they insist that not only can they tell us what the world will look like in 50 years’ time, but also what minute changes all of us must make now if we want that future world to be different.

He continues:

today, scientists are at the forefront of depicting natural events as being easily blameable on the behaviour of human beings. Through its fulsome and ceaseless promotion of the climate-change agenda, the global scientific community (as it has fashioned itself) continually makes a simplistic causal link between what men do now and what will befall the planet in the future…Today it is those who pose as pro-science who are most likely to treat natural events as being caused by individuals’ behaviour, and who are most likely to argue that catastrophes can be predicted and potentially offset through a secular form of eco-penance.

In other words, from the perspective of scientists, there’s a downside as well as an upside to standing in front of television cameras making bold declarations about matters that are actually unfathomable. As O’Neill observes:

If scientists play God, it’s also possible for them to be treated as the Devil.

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Read the whole thing here.

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h/t to Yvonne C

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Entry filed under: activist scientists, ethical & philosophical, predictions that failed. Tags: , , .

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