A court in L'Aquila, Italy, handed six-year-prison sentences to members of a national "Great Risks Commission". Residents noticed increased seismic activity. They were used to tremors, because L’Aquila sits on a major fault line, and they clearly noticed differences. Despite the increase in both size and frequency of the tremors, the scientists rejected the possibility of a major earthquake:
“It is unlikely that an earthquake like the one in 1703 could occur in the short term, …”
Six days later, the disaster struck. The L'Aquila 2009 earthquake killed over 300 people and left 1,500 injured.
The news are full with that, allegedly, scientists have been wrongly convicted for "failing to predict an earthquake". The precise opposite happened. They were condemned for pretending to have predictions.
Scientists, as usual, refuse all responsibility for what they do. One argument goes that if scientists warn but then nothing happens, soon none of the stupid non-scientists listens anymore to warnings. Well, yes, if your warnings are often wrong or biased and politically invested, people will come to conclusions; I call that "being rational". It is not an excuse for giving people a false sense of safety, thus exposing them to danger.
Having just failed to predict a complex system, the defenders of scientism add further predictions about another, yet more complex system, namely about what people perhaps would have done. That is not what we want science to be be about.
Science is there to tell us the correct thing, period. If others then do what they should not do, it will be their fault.
As is by now almost stereotypical rather than just typical, defenders of naive scientism love to compare to the trial of Galileo. Galileo is the Italian scientist who was tried as a heretic in 1633 for his affront to the pope, calling the pope a “simpleton” for not showing much enthusiasm for Galileo's theory, which contradicted the moon’s known influence on the tides.
News about science related issues, instead of being especially concerned with the truth of facts, are now the worst in that regard. Go look at the articles and try to find what the official reason for the manslaughter conviction has been. In spite of lengthy articles, all you can find is the straw man about a supposed conviction for "not predicting earthquakes” repeated again and again, dressed up with expressions of outrage by people who have stakes in the established scientific community.
Very worrisome, a red flag, also the moralizing. Emotionally disturbed about that justice has dared to touch one of their own, rationalization mechanisms set in and suddenly it seems as if scientists care about poor individuals being wrongly convicted. If scientists were concerned about innocent people being done in, they would be outraged about the vast numbers of innocent in jails and prisons, the victims of the “war on drugs”, and so on, but ... .