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Seismologists’ trial likened to persecution of Galileo


Galileo is viewed as a martyr of science. Threatened with torture by the Inquisition, the astronomer was forced in 1633 to recant his assertion that the Earth moved around the Sun, and not the other way around as the Catholic Church then maintained.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: The News | International
By The News | October 24, 2012

PARIS: Scientists on Tuesday said the sentencing of six Italian seismologists for underestimating the risk of a 2009 earthquake was a blow to scientific freedom, and some likened it to the persecution of Galileo.

From research into new drugs to identifying rogue asteroids that could strike Earth or even weather forecasting, all branches of science that advise the public about risk are at threat, they said. Lord Robert May, an Oxford University professor of zoology and former head of Britain’s Royal Society, one of the world’s most prestigious academies of science, said “the sentence is truly shocking.

“The verdict might have been understandable in the Dark Ages, standing alongside the persecution of Galileo, but in today’s world it simply is an embarrassment to the Italian government and anyone associated with it,” he said.

Michael Halpern of US-based group the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) observed that the verdict came “from the home country of Galileo. I guess some things never change.”

Without the right to speak freely and independently, scientists become scapegoats, he said in a blog. “Scientists need to be able to share what they know — and admit what they do not know — without the fear of being held criminally responsible should their predictions not hold up,” he said.

Galileo is viewed as a martyr of science. Threatened with torture by the Inquisition, the astronomer was forced in 1633 to recant his assertion that the Earth moved around the Sun, and not the other way around as the Catholic Church then maintained.

“The verdict is perverse and the sentence ludicrous,” the journal Nature said in an editorial.

“Already some scientists have responded with warnings about the chilling effect on their ability to serve in public risk assessments.”

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