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The Problem of Denial

Mike Nickerson

Why we ought to look for a second opinion, from someone who has nothing to gain.

In the 1950s, Leon Festinger was contracted to study hundreds of papers in the emerging field of human psychology. While going over the literature he discovered a recurrent theme which he shared with the world in his 1957 book "A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance." What he discovered was that it is a natural inclination of people to avoid information that conflicts with their personal interests and/or established views.

From this understanding, "Conflict of Interest" guidelines were developed to remove people from making public decisions on matters where they have much to gain. It was recently popularized in the quote from Upton Sinclair in Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Nuclear power is making some people rich. It will serve the rest of us to compare the information on the safety and economic viability of nuclear power, given to us by those anticipating economic gain, with information from other sources.

If nothing else, nuclear facilities cost a lot of money. The refusal of the nuclear industry to build nuclear reactors without substantial government subsidies and loan guarantees and the fact that no insurance agency on Earth will insure nuclear plants against possible accidents speak loudly about the overall economics and safety of nuclear power.