[ RadSafe ] Is there a way to quantify the effect of the fear and stress caused by the fear mongering

Doug Aitken jdaitken at sugar-land.oilfield.slb.com
Thu Apr 28 14:52:10 CDT 2011

And I think it has been mentioned that the "fear of radiological damage to
the fetus" could be a useful (or convenient) justification when there are
many other underlying reasons..... 

That being said, the other day I heard a very interesting interview on NPR
(Franz: National Public Radio here in the States) on the anniversary of
Chernobyl with a young lady whose family lived in Kiev at the time of the
incident. She explained that it was only recently, with the increased
attention to Chernobyl, that her mother finally got the courage and admitted
to her daughter that, at that time, she was carrying the girl in her womb
and there was a lot of talk of the possible effects of the radiation on
young people and especially those still in the womb. Her mother strongly
considered abortion, that apparently was being advised (whether by
authorities or scaremongers was not, unfortunately, clarified). 

The family did, however, move away from the area and the mother, thankfully,
decided against abortion. They eventually moved the states, where the young
lady is leading a highly productive life without (need it be said) any ill
effects of radiation exposure......

What is not known, however, is if this rational behavior was the norm or the


Doug Aitken
QHSE Advisor, Schlumberger D&M Operations Support
Cell Phone: 713-562-8585
(alternate e-mail: doug.aitken at slb.com )
Mail: c/o Therese Wigzell,
Drilling & Measurements HQ,
300 Schlumberger Drive, MD15,
Sugar Land, Texas 77478

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Franz Schönhofer
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2011 2:32 PM
To: 'Clayton J Bradt'; rich at tgainc.com; llowe at senes.ca
Cc: radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Is there a way to quantify the effect of the fear
and stress caused by the fear mongering



Thank you so much for your mail. This is one of the most valuable and
thoughtful ones I received on RADSAFE. I believe you can live with it, that
I (or others) do not support your ideas in all details – but for me, the
objections are really tiny!


I am happy anyway that during the discussion about Chris Busby the “good old
RADSAFE” has been revived, with clear discussions, statements, answers and
replies to them and nobody seems to be insulted because of a different view!


In the case of abortion I agree with you. One of your underlying facts seems
to be that probably the number of women being in such a situation is much
lower than the number of people exposed to poverty, alcoholism,
malnutrition, hopeless living circumstances in the closely affected areas.
Western Europe (including the former the Eastern block) cannot be compared
to the area of Ukraine or Bjelorussia. I would understand abortions in those
Eastern parts much better than in Western Europe. I do not know of any data,
and I would not be surprised if they were not available. Do not forget the
factor of education!!! 


There are so many other factors underlying the decision for abortion –
especially fear for social degradation, rising living costs and as mentioned
irrational fears distributed by mass media.


Thanks again!




Franz Schoenhofer, PhD

MinRat i.R.

Habicherg. 31/7

A-1160 Wien/Vienna



-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: Clayton J Bradt [mailto:CJB01 at health.state.ny.us]
Gesendet: Donnerstag, 28. April 2011 21:01
An: rich at tgainc.com; llowe at senes.ca; franz.schoenhofer at chello.at
Cc: radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu
Betreff: Is there a way to quantify the effect of the fear and stress caused
by the fear mongering


I would like to respond to three related posts:

Rich Gallego: "Is there a way to quantify the effect of the fear and stress
caused by the fear mongering of articles like these? The Los Angeles Times
had an article this past Sunday on Chernobyl and it appeared that suicide
and depression were not insignificant effects of the accident. One has to
wonder what effect these exaggerated and erroneous proclamations have on the
people living close to the damaged reactors."

Franz Schoenhofer: "So my question to RADSAFE is, whether there are any
investigations known about the psychological effects of the sensational
exaggerations of the massmedia and the constant absurd indoctrination with
fear for life and health. I cannot find anything like that in the two US
papers I read daily on the internet (Washington Post and USA Today), neither
on Swedish newspapers." 

Leo M. Lowe: "... one measure of the real impacts of the fear and stress
caused by Chernobyl is the number of induced abortions brought about by
perceived potential birth defects.  The number of excess induced abortions
in Europe due to this fear has been estimated in the tens of thousands, and
even higher."  

Rich, Franz, and Leo,

I did my undergraduate work and a year of grad school in psychology - before
I wised up and eventually switched to physics - so I feel somewhat qualified
to opine a little on the subject of psychological "measurement". The
quotation marks are significant here because any measurement of
psychological data, that is behavior, can never claim more than nominal
scale status. Psychologists often attempt to measure behavior by counting
events, such as the number of abortions in a given population over a defined
time frame, and by doing so claim to have achieved ordinal scale data thus
allowing comparisons between populations and time frames. The more abortions
under conditions x,y,z, the greater the effect, etc. But this is an act of
self-deception on the psychologists' part because, continuing with our
example, each abortion is a unique event resulting ultimately from a
singular set of circumstances, motivations, stresses, etc. In order to count
events, objects, apples or oranges they must belong within a category of
identicals. Human behaviors (at least) are each a singular event because
behavior is determined by perception and perception is ultimately context
dependent. No two events occur in exactly the same context and therefore
cannot be counted as repetitions from the same class of object. 

In short, there is no legitimate way to quantify the psychological effects
of scare mongering or of any other behavior. Scare mongering, and the
spreading of dis-information are best handled with the tools of moral
philosophy, not science.

Clayton J. Bradt
Principal Radiophysicist
NYS Dept. of Health
Biggs Laboratory, Room D486A
Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12201-0509


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