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Re: [cdn-nucl-l] Radiophobia is in a class by itself, Human reaction to rare events
Experts will disagree sometimes. Sometimes not. This is certainly a
factor to contend with that dies not help our cause. But I feel there is a
more fundamental issue at stake and maybe we can use the disagreement to
The issue I see is that far too many people do not think for themselves, ie
cannot or will not take the time and effort to be part of the solution. I
do not mean this as blame for anyone. Our society is in the place and time
it is in, for better or for worse. More people than not feel shat upon
(excuse the language) and certainly not empowered. Remember, you and I are
in positions of relative power and authority. Not so for the average Joe
who was traumatized by math in school and by the system in general, and who
is slugging it out in some menial job watching his tax dollars wander off
to political parasites, etc.
So, why not take the current LNT issue and use it as a platform for
discussion. I feel that it would be far more productive to use this as a
means to probe WHY we have used LNT and continue to use LNT, what its
limits are, when not to use it, what evidence it is based on, what new
evidence we have, etc. Talk about the process of making decisions...not
about what you think their decision should be. Bring them to the fountain
of knowledge. Most will only gargle but a few might be brave enough to
I, for one, do NOT like to be told what to think or do and I know I am not
It is worth a try, I think, since we are not making much progress with our
current approaches. Anyway, I have beaten this to death so I will now shut up.
Over and out,
At 05:58 PM 17/02/2004 -0500, Jerry Cuttler wrote:
>I think the problem of radiophobia is not about telling the public. It's
>with many professionals who resist looking at any scientific information
>that contradicts their preconceived ideas. They choose to ignore the
>evidence and will challenge any effort to communicate the real effects to
>When there is disagreement between scientists, the public will choose to
>be cautious. They will continue to believe that any amount of
>(human-made) radiation will cause excess cancers and excess congenital
>malformations. So we can't communicate to the public.
>Maybe cancer patients will listen. Who knows?
>----- Original Message -----
>From: <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>Whitlock, Jeremy
>Sent: Tuesday, February 17, 2004 8:33 AM
>Subject: RE: [cdn-nucl-l] Human reaction to rare events
>Interesting. The comparison with nuclear accidents raises several
>1) Probability is given much less weight than consequences in the public
>mind (e.g. the perceived risk of air travel vs. automobiles).
>2) Single events (a nuclear accident) are perceived to be inevitable (i.e.
>it has to happen at least once, right?), whereas multiple events (people
>buying Volvos, a "perfect storm", etc.) are perceived to be inherently
>rare, even if the total probability is the same.
>3) Radiophobia is in a class by itself -- the public is memetically
>programmed to dread any amount of radiation exposure above zero. (And no,
>we can't fight this by telling people that radiation is actually good for
>them, since memes are immune to rational thought).
>As far as I can tell nobody dreads a town full of people driving Volvos
>(except perhaps those from Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, ...)
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Bill Garland
> > Sent: February 16, 2004 5:13 PM
> > To: email@example.com
> > Subject: [cdn-nucl-l] Human reaction to rare events
> > Here's an interesting one.
> > "DALARÖ, SWEDENOn October 25th last year, a strange event occurred in
> > Dalarö, Sweden. 32 inhabitants all bought the same car, the
> > Volvo S40, on
> > the same day, independently of each other. Considering the
> > small size of
> > Dalarö, this was very unusual and completely unprecedented.
> > We asked a
> > documentary-maker to visit Dalarö, to try to find out how a small
> > dealership could sell so many cars in one day. The
> > documentary is only
> > being shown on the internet at
> > If you have the patience and bandwidth, watch the movie and
> > pay attention
> > to the overall reaction. A rare event happened and people
> > felt it must NOT
> > HAVE happened by coincidence. Too rare. Couldn't happen.
> > Now the story
> > is a bogus one (it is sad for a Volvo lover like me to see
> > that Volvo has
> > stooped so low), but the point is true nevertheless: if
> > something rare
> > happens, people don't believe it. It is obvious to them, the event
> > happened so it cannot be rare! So, how come they believe that a
> > catastrophe WILL occur for our nuclear rare events (10^-7 per year or
> > whatever)? I know that most people do not appreciate statistics and
> > probability - me included some days. But how can a person hold two
> > opposing views (rare events don't occur and rare events do
> > occur) at the
> > same time?
> > I guess the answer lies somewhere in the realm of people
> > treating rare
> > events with suspicion (because they are unfamiliar with them, by
> > definition) and really bad events with fear (a natural
> > instinct). I wonder
> > if this Volvo example could be used as a learning aid to get people
> > thinking about how to make decisions on matters that involve
> > uncertainty?
> > Bill
> > Bill
> > ~~~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~~~~
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