Bill O’Reilly Adopts the Precautionary Principle

Ann Coulter has written a column arguing that low doses of regulation are actually good for you.  Through the so-called hormesis effect, she says, the low doses stimulate the body’s protective mechanisms and actually produce health benefits. She was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly about this.  As Huffington reports:

She repeated this assertion to a skeptical Bill O’Reilly, who told her that, even if there was scientific discussion going on about the effects of radiation, it was the media’s job to be “responsible” and “err on the side of caution” about radiation. “You have to report the worst-case scenario,” he said, adding that there is a clear scientific consensus that “some radiation will kill you.”

“Err on the side of caution.”  “Report the worst-case scenario.” I only wish he would take the same approach to other environmental problems.

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Reader Comments

3 Replies to “Bill O’Reilly Adopts the Precautionary Principle”

  1. If claims about the hormetic effects of some types of radiation are accurate, then stressing the risks of radiation would not be to “err on the side of caution,” as it could bias reporting and consequent policy decisions in a direction that results in worse health outcomes. This is why the “precautionary principle,” as traditionally articulated, is not a particularly valuable guide to policy decisions. In the current situation, I suspect that the magnitude of the risks from excessive radiation exposure is substantially greater than any possible benefits from hormesis, but this does not undermine a preference for risk balancing over “precuationary” approaches.

    Also, FWIW, when I’ve been on O’Reilly’s show in the past, he was not particularly skeptical of the desirability of greater environmental regulation.

    Jonathan H. Adler

  2. Re-read your first sentence. Coulter endorsing low doses of regulation would also make for good fodder. 🙂

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Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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