4 April 2008

Falling stars and bathtub mishaps

I've been having a "discussion" over at Dr. Sanity with all the chicken littles trying to assure them that they sky isn't falling and Osama isn't going to spray poisonous gas all over their home in the South Dakota hinterlands. It's hard to let go, I guess. These people, lumbering along in their slow SUVs with Nukem til they Glo stickers on back cling firmly to the illusion that they're barely dodging fearless terrorist kazekamis who want to take away their Bibles and stacks of Playboys.

The statistical facts make this fear appear utterly ridiculous. John Mueller, a renown expert on terrorism, says that "your lifetime chance of being killed by an international terrorist outside of a war zone at present rates is about one in 80,000 . . . about the same as your chance of being killed by an asteroid."

Compared to terrorism, there's actually a much greater chance (by many order of magnitude) of drowning in your bathtub, choking to death on peanut butter, or dying from eating a raw carrot or a grilled hamburger. And the risk of dying in a car accident as you drive the SUV to the store to buy the duct-tape exceeds the risk of terrorism, asteroids, thunder bolts, raw carrots, Big Macs, and peanut butter munchies all lumped together. And now we're supposed to elect as president McCain who has built an entire campaign on the fear of the camel-herder invasion?

I recommend John Mueller's paper: Atomic Terrorist: Assessing the Likelihood.

John Mueller's book Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them is also definitely on my reading list.

2 comments:

Ole Blue The Heretic said...

This nation lives on fear. So much for the land of the Brave

Karlo said...

Sometimes I think mankind should just stop and wait for another 100,000 years before making any major decisions, ya know, let evolution catch up to our current circumstances. We're all still hardwired for sabertooth cat attacks and squabbles over slaughtered mammoths. We're like a bunch of five-year-olds who got a hold of loaded guns and are running around the neighborhood playing war.