Philip Alcabes on fear

(via onegoodmove)

Philip Alcabes was just on the Daily Show, and talked about how our fear gets the better of us. We fear things that are less real than the real dangers that we are exposed to every day. Here is the interview:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Philip Alcabes
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis First 100 Days

His book is Dread: How fear and Fantasy have Fueled Epidemics from the Black Death to the Avian Flu. Here is the description.

The average individual is far more likely to die in a car accident than from a communicable disease…yet we are still much more fearful of the epidemic. Even at our most level-headed, the thought of an epidemic can inspire terror. As Philip Alcabes persuasively argues in Dread, our anxieties about epidemics are created not so much by the germ or microbe in question—or the actual risks of contagion—but by the unknown, the undesirable, and the misunderstood.

Alcabes examines epidemics through history to show how they reflect the particular social and cultural anxieties of their times. From Typhoid Mary to bioterrorism, as new outbreaks are unleashed or imagined, new fears surface, new enemies are born, and new behaviors emerge. Dread dissects the fascinating story of the imagined epidemic: the one that we think is happening, or might happen; the one that disguises moral judgments and political agendas, the one that ultimately expresses our deepest fears.

Sounds like some insight can be gleaned from this book on the debate over GE crops? What hidden political agendas are behind the frankenfood fears, and how real is it compared to other dangers. Jeffrey Smith, for example, calls genetic engineering “one of history’s greatest man-made health and environmental threats.” Case in point?

Update 9:35 pm: Maybe if I could embed the right video… fixed now.

Follow Karl Haro von Mogel:

Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.