Seismic inconsistency

The tectonic tremors caused by the publication in yesterday’s Kathimerini of a report by Prof. Vassilis Papazachos on Greece’s high-risk earthquake zones bring to the fore the major issue concerning scientists’ and journalists’ social responsibility in issues that have a direct impact on the lives and safety of Greek citizens. In his remarks, the Thessaloniki University professor condemned the publication of his report by Kathimerini as «an extremely anti-social act (committed) by irresponsible and unscrupulous individuals.» Putting aside Papazachos’s characterizations, which are quite unusual for a university professor, one inevitably wonders: What is it exactly that triggered Papazachos’s indignation? Kathimerini did nothing but reprint a report that was published in a prestigious foreign journal, exposing, as he ought to, his findings to the international scientific community, his students, and to any interested citizen who could easily get the information via the Internet. If Papazachos, intimidated by the burden of his own heavy earthquake forecast, accuses us of taking his scientific study too seriously, he should let us know so that we do not repeat the same mistake in the future. Unless, that is, he believes that geophysics and seismology have no predictive power but rather share the same scientific status as theological disputes over the sex of angels, cosmological theories over the birth of the universe, and philosophical disquisition into existential concerns. If this is the case, then Papazachos and his colleagues have no right to fight, often in an artless fashion, over allegedly trivial issues such as the funds from the Third Community Support Framework that are allocated according to the expected practical merit of their research. Unfortunately, many news media displayed the same lightheartedness as Papazachos. They first rushed to reproduce Kathimerini’s revealing story, then went on to repeat accusations against it in an indecent and unfair fashion. When people working in the sciences and the media, two of the most sensitive institutions of Greek society, display an attitude whereby they place their personal and factional interests before the social good, it makes one sad to realize that the main perils facing us as a nation and as a society do not lie next to us or under our feet. They reside inside us.