A study in the news last week perfectly captures why it’s getting harder and harder to figure out what’s risky. Maybe you heard about it…findings that suggest potential health benefits of organic food; Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses
The study illustrates three reasons why it’s getting harder to make informed judgments about risk:
- More and more, scientists are acting as advocates as they do their research and write up their findings, selectively asking just the right questions, applying just the right methods, and emphasizing just the right information to support their opinions rather than provide us with an honest dispassionate assessment of the evidence. The paper shows a clear bias toward organic food in many ways.
- Risk assessment is also getting harder these days because our brain uses a subconscious instinct-over-intellect risk perception system that relies on feelings more than facts, only the issues we face are more and more complex and need more careful analysis, not less. But even as we need more information, the modern news media shorten and simplify as never before, making mistakes and leaving out a lot of what we need to put things in perspective.
- And it’s getting harder to intelligently assess risk when in an internet and social media age which provides unprecedented opportunity for anybody to reach the whole world with facts so obviously distorted and spun by advocacy that we ought to ignore them, except the nature of human cognition being what it is, the internet feeds our lazy brain’s preference for AFFIRMATION more than information.
Read the full, original article: What the new study on organic food tells us…about the difficulty of making informed judgments about risk.