I agree with Prof. Coyne’s concerns about ISIS’s dangerous ambitions rather than just its current level of violence, as appalling as that may be.
I would also take issue with Krauss’ false equivalence between terrorist acts and car accidents. The difference is that we choose to take the risk of driving cars – we do not choose to live amongst terrorists.
How scared should we be about terrorism? Every terrorist killing in a Western land—be it France, Britain, Denmark, or the U.S.—makes us more and more uncomfortable and frightened. Sometimes people go into full panic mode, or prey on those who do, like the odious Donald Trump.
But, in a new piece in The New Yorker,”Thinking rationally about terror” (free online), physicist Lawrence Krauss says we shouldn’t be so worried. The statistics, he argues, show that terrorist violence in Western countries is negligible compared to the normal background levels of violence, and we’re getting all worked up about very little. His argument includes these paragraphs:
There are about two and a quarter million people in Paris. This means that, if you were living in Paris on the day of the recent attacks, there was roughly a one-in-twenty-thousand chance of being a victim. While that may seem high, the annual…
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