The ethics of earthquake prediction

Sol A., Turan H.

SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING ETHICS, vol.10, no.4, pp.655-666, 2004 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 10 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2004
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11948-004-0045-1
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.655-666
  • Keywords: earthquake prediction, ethics, responsibility, freedom, consequentialism, rights view, PARKFIELD, CALIFORNIA, JAPAN, LESSONS, QUAKES, CANNOT
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Scientists' responsibility to inform the public about their results may conflict with their responsibility not to cause social disturbance by the communication of these results. A study of the well-known Brady-Spence and Then Browning earthquake predictions illustrates this conflict in the publication of scientifically unwarranted predictions. Furthermore a public policy that considers public sensitivity caused by such publications as an opportunity to promote public awareness is ethically problematic from (i) a refined consequentialist point of view that any means cannot be justified by any ends, and (ii) a rights view according to which individuals should never be treated as a mere means to ends. The Parkfield experiment, the so-called paradigm case of cooperation between natural and social scientists and the political authorities in hazard management and risk communication, is also open to similar ethical criticism. For the people in the Parkfield area were not informed that the whole experiment was based on a contested seismological paradigm.