Magazine article Work & Family Life

Nobody Ever Said All Our Fears Are 'Logical'

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Nobody Ever Said All Our Fears Are 'Logical'

Article excerpt

Our planet gets pelted continually by space debris and every thousand years or so a major asteroid hits Earth with the force of a hydrogen bomb. But this is not something people worry about because it's a "natural" danger, says David Ropeik, director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.

It seems we're much more afraid of manmade risks such as terrorism or bioengineered foods. Plus, we've never seen an asteroid hit on TV, so maybe we don't believe it could really happen.

At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Ropeik suggested that culture and our experiences teach us what to fear. Thus, we may be born with some basic phobias but we learn that DDT and terrorists are dangerous. He also makes the point that people tend to be much more afraid of catastrophic events than of everyday risks, in part because media coverage makes some dangers appear greater than they are in fact. …

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