Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thinking About Risks

Joe Biden, speaking at Justice Breyer's confirmation hearings in 1994:

"The American people have no doubt that more people die from coal dust than from nuclear reactions, but they fear the prospect of a nuclear reactor more than they do the empirical data that would suggest that more people die from coal dust, having coal-fired burners.  They also know that more lives would be saved if we took that 25 percent we spend in the intensive care units in the last few months of the elderly's lives, that more children would be saved.  But part of our culture is that we have concluded as a culture that we are going to rightly or wrongly, we are going to spend the money, costing more lives, on the elderly. . . I think it's incredibly presumptuous and elitist for political scientists to conclude that the American people's cultural values in fact are not ones that lend themselves to a cost-benefit analysis and presume that they would change their cultural values if in fact they were aware of the cost-benefit analysis."

Does this mean I should keep worrying about terrorism and boycotting GM crops?  Sometimes we need scientists to tell us what's actually killing us.  Think indoor radon.

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