Perception, Reality, and Statistics

Perception – Nuclear power is dangerous.

Statistics – Adjusted for the kilowatts produced 4,000 people die due to coal related issues for every one due to nuclear related issues.

Nuclear power sure seems dangerous. It worries us a lot. But we don’t worry much about coal, even though statistically it’s much more dangerous for the power we get from it.

Perception – But nuclear power has great potential and unknown dangers.

StatisticsShow that coal ash is more radioactive then nuclear waste.

Perception – Big, bulky vehicles like Hummers and Jeeps are bad for the environment.

StatisticsShow that vehicle manufacturing techniques and ingredients have a significant enough impact on the environment to, in many cases, more than offset the loss due to poor fuel economy.

Reality? Too many variables to really know in most cases. So much depends on how data is interpreted, what assumptions are made, etc. For instance, not long after the release of the paper showing the environmental advantages of owning a gas-gussling jeep there was a rebuttal published that cast serious doubts on the conclusions drawn. Both papers seem reasonably credible on the surface.

Yet another reason why people can hold such widely disparate opinions — or opinions that seem to fly in the face of what appears to be conclusive evidence. In the battle between perception and reality perception usually wins…for a while…

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