Social Question

crazyivan's avatar

What do you think is people's most unfounded fear?

Asked by crazyivan (4501points) October 4th, 2010

If you judge by our ads and politicians, you would think fear is the only thing that motivates our species at all (other than sex). Some things we fear with good reason and other things we fear way more than circumstances justify.

So what is the most unreasonable thing that people fear on a national scale?

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55 Answers

KhiaKarma's avatar

I was going to answer, but the word “unfounded” caught me. If something is feared, especially “most feared” proof is irrelevant….at least to that person. So that aside, I think that germs and people’s idea that the savior is religiously applying antibacterial hand sanitizer—is pretty unreasonable.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

God and spiders, not necessarily in that order.

heresjohnny's avatar

I’d say the fear of public speaking is pretty unfounded. Really, what’s the worst that could happen? That doesn’t make it easier to do, though. I still get a little anxious when I have to speak publicly.

Another one, at least statistically unfounded, is fear of flying/crashing in a plane. Probably not as widespread as public speaking, but still relatively common. You are way more likely to die in a car accident than a plane crash.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think people fear honesty the most w/o foundation. Or even facing their own selves.

cockswain's avatar

Swine flu, SARS, anthrax,avian flu

YellowsubmarineOnfluther's avatar

more like spiders and then god as second scariest. Spiders are the anitchrist ha, but i think the number one common fear on a worldwide scale is death. People are afriad to die, they can not except it. Does not matter which race or what language we all have words for death and some fear death as an inevitability WHA, family guy reference.

eden2eve's avatar

People fear finding out that they are wrong.

Jabe73's avatar

I think when it comes to politics/political ads and commercials voters should fear someone if their opponent classifies them as a “liberal”.

Jeruba's avatar

That other people are really paying close attention to their looks, what they wear, and what they do. For the most part no one notices or cares. They’re too busy thinking about themselves.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@heresjohnny Really? The absolute worst? Everyone would boo you, and then some guy would go “Kill the ogre!!!” and the mob would chase you with torches and pitchforks, and then burn you at the stake for making a pact with the devil.

heresjohnny's avatar

@papayalily Hahaha! It sure feels like that could happen sometimes.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Terrorists. the odds of being killed by one of them are practically zero.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@poisonedantidote Probably more so in Montana than in Israel. Or NYC, for that matter.

augustlan's avatar

The “other”, whatever form that might take. Fear is kind of rampant these days, and it seems like a pretty bad base to make logical decisions on.

ucme's avatar

Fear of change. I mean, change is good is it not? Can be very refreshing.

Frenchfry's avatar

Fear and Dying.

ducky_dnl's avatar

Most people fear the idea that they aren’t open minded enough. When in reality (No on can deny it) we’re not as open minded as we think. I’m not 100% open minded about things and neither is anyone else on here. Don’t start anything because it’s the truth yall! :P

iamthemob's avatar

Ironically, considering the way you discussed drives, I think that the most unfounded fear in society generally is fear of sex.

BoBo1946's avatar

Fear itself…. seems like there was a quote about that!

crazyivan's avatar

@poisonedantidote I was wondering if anyone was going to mention that one. Great answer. Statistically speaking the odds of being killed by a terrorist are slightly lower than the odds of being killed by a meteor.

@augustlan That just about sums it up, thanks…

Austinlad's avatar

Fear itself.

Frenchfry's avatar

What bugs me in this question is the word unfounded? Anyone else? Is that kinda saying that the fear is silly? I am confused.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Frenchfry Yup. And that’s why I didn’t answer the question. I’m not really interested in telling someone else their fear isn’t valid, especially since it’s easy to say that, say, a fear of spiders isn’t valid right up until the person with the fear tells you a spider killed their mom.

augustlan's avatar

@Frenchfry & @papayalily I don’t equate ‘unfounded’ with ‘silly’, though I do get your point. I think of it as more like fearing something that is unlikely to cause harm. We all have our ‘unfounded’ fears (mine is heights), and I think most of us know that it’s not entirely rational to fear these things. Regardless of logic, sometimes we feel what we feel. I don’t think that’s silly, but I do hope that people can recognize that logic should prevail if our fear impacts others negatively. As long as our fears aren’t impacting others in a negative way (like, say, fear of Muslims might), what’s the harm?

crazyivan's avatar

In truth, all fear is unfounded. Fear is a vestigial emotion designed to overcome our sense of reason. As soon as evolution allowed our sense of reason to be a better barometer of danger than our sense of fear, fear became an antiquated and even handicapping link to our past.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@crazyivan I’m afraid… you might be right.

KhiaKarma's avatar

@Frenchfry that’s what I’m sayin’......waaaaaay up there!!! ;)

Frenchfry's avatar

@KhiaKarma I agree with you then!

mattbrowne's avatar


Risk management measures for swine flu, SARS, and avian flu is totally justified. Taking a potential pandemics seriously is totally justified. An unfounded fear would be that you will get the very next day after cases have been reported on the news.

cockswain's avatar

@mattbrowne Geez man. I was more referring to the national extremely heightened paranoia and fear over something that actually ends up affecting a tiny percentage of the population. More how the overreaction is not proportional to the threat.

crazyivan's avatar

@cockswain & @mattbrowne I think the question is where you draw the line between obsessive-compulsive disorder and just wanting clean hands. Sure, it’s justified to take measures to prevent a pandemic, but when you see people in Time Square selling painter’s masks for $1 a piece all day by yelling “Swine Flu Masks!” you start to feel that this line has been crossed.

cockswain's avatar

@crazyivan That is exactly what I had in mind.

mattbrowne's avatar

@cockswain – Yes, yes, of course. I just wanted to make sure that people don’t draw the conclusion it was all just a hype. Too many actually believe in such hype theories. Like the Y2K stuff was just a hype, because almost nothing happened. Yes, almost nothing happened. Why? Because the IT folks did a good job.

cockswain's avatar

Given that, I’ll concede my answer was not a terrific one to the question IF we can show actions by the CDC and similar organizations prevented an epidemic of those diseases. Maybe I could find such evidence by searching the internet, but I haven’t enough interest. Should you prove me incorrect, I’ll happily allow that without rebuttal.

On a related note, sales of duct tape, plastic sheeting and bottled water skyrocketed shortly after 9/11. Do we want to suggest it was only the actions of our illustrious government that stopped those from becoming essential to our survival?

mattbrowne's avatar

@cockswain – Every vaccinated person reduced the number of hosts as a playground for the swine flu virus to mutate into something more dangerous. To prove the effect on a global level you need two planets and one accommodates the control group with no vaccine, no information when and how to wash your hands and so forth.

cockswain's avatar

OK. I’m switching my answer to terrorist attacks in the midwest.

Fairylover78's avatar

I think I am going to have to go with the (unfound) fear people have of genetically modified foods, I see people freaking about that alot and at the same time they are stuffing their faces with triple cheese fried cheese cheese burgers… As of right now there has been no proof that genetically modified foods cause any negative affects, not saying that they won’t find something, but if you take into consideration the diets that most Americans have anyway and that Heart Desease caused by the foods we eat being the number 1 cause of death, well, i think if your going to be fearful of something food related, look at your dinner plate….

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Global warming.

cockswain's avatar

@mattbrowne If you singled my response out of all the others, I sincerely hope you aren’t going to let @CyanoticWasp slide by unscathed.

crazyivan's avatar

@cockswain I was thinking the same thing, but I didn’t want to open that can of worms.

mattbrowne's avatar

@cockswain – Come on, I acknowledged that the swine flu hype was wrong. I just wanted to point the difference between hype and pandemic potential as such. We should fear these pandemics and prepare ourselves properly without any hypes. So, we are in agreement.

mattbrowne's avatar

Trivializing global warming and climate change is grossly negligent behavior and totally unacceptable. But like evolution denial, climate change denial seems to be a US phenomenon. And we need to come up with good strategies to help people change their mind. I was hoping that Thomas Friedman’s book could help.

Here’s what I don’t get:

Most climate change deniers are also pro-life activists, right? How can anymore want to protect unborn life, but not want to protect born life? Even if there’s only a 60% chance that climate change will have dramatic consequences in 2050 and after, how can we not take this seriously? Sorry to be so frank, but it makes the anti-abortion stance appear like hypocrisy.

Undermining the precautionary principle when it comes to global warming just doesn’t make sense.

I want to protect both unborn life and born life.

crazyivan's avatar

The problem is the Republican Party and its propaganda machine. Sorry, but if you look at the common factor between evolution deniers and climate change deniers, political affiliation is the most pertinent correlation. I recently read a study (sorry no link) in which they interviewed climate scientists of various sorts and, of course, found that the overwhelming majority believed that golbal warming was taking place regardless of political affiliation.

The study then went on to ask the same questions of the general public and they found that with only a handful of exceptions all of the deniers were republicans. Religion, race and age had minor correlation, but the grand-daddy of them all was political affiliation.

It’s a shame, really. Nothing can be solved if we can’t all except the same facts.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Maybe I should have quit while I was ahead, and I could have just imagined that I was being called “stupid and lazy”. Now I’m “grossly negligent and totally unacceptable”. Oh, well. It’s not like this is new territory for me.

I don’t deny “climate change”. In fact, if we’re going to be honest we may as well admit that we live in a world of “constant change”. The problem for some of us is that the planet, the Sun and the rest of the Universe seem to operate in a different time scale than we do. When I hear people yapping about “cataclysmic change!” I’m reminded of my dorg when I take her with me in the car. When we stop at a traffic light she starts whining: “We’re not moving! We have to go go go! We’ll be here for ever!” Eventually—so far, every time—we get to where we were going. Imagining that we have much ability to mitigate much of the change the planet experiences is pretty hubristic, to my way of thinking.

Eventually—despite whatever we do or refuse to do—this planet will go its own way, too, as it has for billions of years and will for billions more. An ice age of 10,000 years or a 100,000-year recovery from a truly cataclysmic event such as an asteroid strike, or an insignificant decades-long little pimple prick of a mega volcano eruption are all nothing events to the planet. Likewise its current infestation of humans, I’m sure. Sea levels will rise and fall, mountains will crumble, seabeds will rise to become new mountains, and continents will continue their slow-motion meet-and-greet. (Maybe in Earth terms it’s more of a reel than a waltz, but it’s some kind of dance.)

But here’s another fact about global warming.

In 2005 Europe had a severe and highly publicized heat wave in the summer. Some 5,000 people were killed across the continent as a direct effect of the weather. Everyone would agree—and I agree—that that was a tragedy. It was a bad thing, it was because of the weather, and it was HOT weather. I stipulate that. But here’s the mitigating fact: In a normal winter (from UK Statistics) for the current decade the average winter weather kill in the UK alone is around 25,000 people. (That’s just the UK, that is, and not all of Europe, for the geographically challenged.) Isn’t that a tragedy, too? (Incidentally, when I looked this up several years ago the statistics I saw at a similar site—older—showed that average UK winter weather deaths for the period of the 1980s to around 2000 were about 50,000 per year.)

I’m not at all opposed to new technology when it makes sense. I would love to restart nuclear power plant construction and I support the research into fusion power generation. I’m glad to see that we’re working on alternative liquid fuels for transport to supplant our total dependence on oil for that purpose. I like the idea of solar furnaces, photovoltaics, tide power generation and wind power, too, for electric power generation—for places where that makes sense. But who imagines that we can base-load electric power generation on windmills and solar plants for the modern industrial societies that we actually live in? I’m not opposed to improved mass transit for cities and the commuters to those cities—but we don’t all live there, and I’m totally opposed to government fiat that attempts to force us to.

I’ve been around the fossil fuel power generation industry since my birth over a half-century ago; I recognize—have always recognized—that these fantastic fire-breathing machines I work on are dinosaurs. They are stupid, inefficient fire-breathing monsters—and like the dinosaurs of our planet’s pre-history, they rule. There is nothing to realistically challenge them now, especially if we’re not going to use nuclear power. I can’t wait until we replace these things; I’ve spent a career wondering when it’s going to happen and who will do it—and cheering them on all the way. But the technology to replace coal-fired power plants for cheap and reliable power generation hasn’t come along yet, and it’s foolish in the extreme to think that a blue-ribbon committee of academics and politicians can do it just by saying so.

They should talk to King Canute.

cockswain's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I’m not entirely clear on your position. I’m with you on the fact we’ll do zero lasting harm to the planet in an era-level sense, so in that regard we’re really just a blink in time. But regarding the continued survival of our species, you don’t think global warming is much of a concern? You acknowledge it’s happening, but do you think it’s anthropogenic?

As an aside, I think fresh water supplies will become a far more urgent issue for humans before global warming, although it is exacerbated by global warming in some regards. Not to say we shouldn’t make it also critical to reduce carbon emissions.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@cockswain I don’t really think that global warming (at least whatever part is or might be anthropogenic) is a great concern to the survival of our species, no. I’ll go farther: I don’t think that any current warming trend of whatever causation is a likely source of harm. According to the example I gave about exacerbating summer weather mortality and minimizing winter weather mortality, we have a lot of exacerbating to do in the summer before we approach what is a current “normal” winter mortality. I acknowledge that there has been some apparent warming in the past few decades, but that’s hardly enough to extrapolate from in terra terms. (It’s a lot for you and me and our current cohorts on the planet—I remember stronger and longer winters, and I’ve read about ice skating on canals in Holland, and those things are ancient history now, to me. But not to the planet.)

What we’re attempting to do is take a two-inch measurement from a ten thousand-mile trip and pretend that our models of the rest of the trip have any bearing on reality. If they do, then it’s pure coincidence.

I agree with you about fresh water, by the way. And the US can’t be smug because “we have adequate and predictable rainfall”—we’re using up aquifers that take thousands of years (a few beats of the planet’s heart) to replenish, and when we finish that, then we’ll have to make a new baseline for what is “adequate” rainfall. Topsoil is another vanishing resource; we haven’t learned how to manufacture that yet, either.

mattbrowne's avatar

Despite climate change almost certainly the human species will survive. But when 1 billion people will have survived in 2080, this still means that 9 billion people will be dead. Because the dramatically changed ecosystems can’t support the huge number of people anymore. That’s the real issue here.

Short-term the strong climate change denial movement will hurt the US economy big term, because too many people are unable to understand the following:

1) There is no 100% correct prediction about the climate in 2050 – climate is too complex
2) Human greenhouse gas emissions most likely contribute to global warming
3) It’s quite possible that natural cycles contribute as well
4) A few very cold winters or cool summers are no proof against the continuing overall trend
5) The vast majority of reputable climatologists think that the potential harm is enormous
6) Humanity would be very stupid not to apply the precautionary principle
7) The growing middle class in Asia will significantly affect supply and demand equation for fossil fuels
8) To create welfare for all world citizens we simply have no other choice than to invest in green technology

As the unfortunate climate change denial movement is most active in the US, this is bad news for the US, but good news for the rest of the world because innovation will happen elsewhere and the US will eventually have to import new green technology products. A nation of consumers instead of producers. Unless reason prevails. And there’s hope.

Above all, there’s Barack Obama’s audacity of hope.

cockswain's avatar

@mattbrowne I agree with all 8 of your points (but I’ve believed that for several years now).

The only counter-point I’ll make is that despite maybe half the US being morons duped by conservative propaganda, the rest of the nation is not. Innovation in green technology is a rapidly growing industry here. As an example, I don’t live far from NREL, the National Renewable Energy Lab. A scientist there who had a budget of $3M and about 12 staff, now has a $30M budget and 60 staff. Solar fields are being built all over, as are wind towers. I frequently see trucks with solar panels, and occasionally the trucks with the massive wind towers parts. Vestas opened two huge facilities here. Logically I know I can’t apply what I’m seeing in my area to the entire nation, but there is zero question it is getting funding and attention from the rational component of the US.

seazen's avatar

Little non-poisonous spiders.

LuvToRite's avatar

I think there most unfounded fear would be that someone would find out about their personal
life ( if they had a bad one) Some people have expearienced breath taking divorces or
stuff in that nature. It could scare them that you would find out and get them in serious

Response moderated (Spam)
peridot's avatar

A blanket unfounded fear might be “being found out”. You don’t necessarily have to have anything to hide—just that twitchy vulnerable feeling. Kind of like when a cop is behind you when you’re driving and you’re not doing anything wrong—you’re still like, “Oh crap…”

SABOTEUR's avatar


Despite everything anyone’s ever said about it, nobody knows exactly what death is or isn’t.
The only thing we know for certain is it’s something we’d prefer not to experience.

Fear is unfounded because there’s nothing you can do about it.
It’s inevitable.


SecondHandStoke's avatar

Those of personal responsibility and accountability.

MooCows's avatar

To get a disease there is no cure for and a slow death.

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