Humans have historically become tribal and bigoted towards others during times of peril. As much as we lament how ugly we behaved in hindsight, we are doing it again toward Syrian refugees. The psychology of risk perception explains why this behavior is so instinctive.
Early or excessive screening for various cancers can turn up false positives or equivocal results that aren't cancer but scare us into treatments we don't really need. New breast cancer screening recommendations are trying to reduce those risks.
Berkeley has required cell phone retailers to warn shoppers of a health risk from cell phone radiation, despite overwhelming evidence that no such risk exists. Policy making pandering to fear is dangerous in and of itself
In his outrageous dissent in the gay marriage ruling by the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia directly states in several ways that American's should not trust the Supreme Court, and should question American Democracy itself.
The Ecomodernist promise that human wisdom and its technologies can spare us a dystopian future is correct. But the promise of a good, even GREAT future, ignores our survival instincts to place ourselves and the immediate over the greater common good and the future. We're just not as wise as the Ecomodernists propose.
David Ropeik is the author of How Risky Is It, Really?, an instructor at Harvard University Extension School, and a risk-communication consultant.
About How Risky Is It, Really?
We are sometimes too afraid of lesser risks, and not afraid enough of bigger ones, and getting risk wrong can be a risk all by itself. Research from several fields of science explain this apparently irrational behavior. These insights, offered here in the context of current issues which supply a constant source of real-life examples, can help us understand ourselves and our risk decision making, and that can help us make healthier choices about risks for ourselves and for society.