It has taken me too long, but I’ve finally bitten into the new book Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, by my OC colleague Dan Gardner. I’m about half-way through, and it’s a thoroughly impressive work so far.
Dan opens the book by raising a conundrum quite dear to my heart: “We are the healthiest, wealthiest, and longest-lived people in history. And we are increasingly afraid. This is one of the great paradoxes of our time.”
There has been a rash of books and films recently on the politics and culture of fear, but unlike most of them, Dan is not content to blame the media, or blame corporations. He leads us through the evolutionary biology that underlies our sense of risk and the innumeracy that confounds our attempts at managing it, and only then does he turn to the way these cognitive dispositions allow for political manipulation.
In short, this is the best book out there on one of the most important subjects of our time. Under no circumstances should you give any consideration to Heather Menzies’ thoroughly incompetent review of the book in the Globe and Mail a few weeks back. The review would be a scandal, were incompetent reviews not the usual run of things in the Globe’s books section.