Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Unexamined Life, and Why It's Not Worth Living.

Weird insurance - insurance for obscure events: "Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson (GRIP) is a London insurance brokerage that has tapped the Twilight Zone market."

Insurance literally guards against worry, but requires cold hard cash for the soothing. One would expect people would only insure against events that have a reasonable chance of happening. One would be wrong.

One can get insurance for:

• being kidnapped by aliens
• becoming a werewolf
• being injured by a ghost
• protect against immaculate conception (over 10,000 policies sold!)
• eaten (as opposed to abducted) by aliens
• hit by an asteroid (which has been fatal once, in the 1600's)
• if a knife-wielding wife... (aka "John Wayne Bobbitt" policies)

Any of these are a mere $150 a year for $1.5 million in coverage! That is a deal. If one of these things does happen to a policy holder, they will be able to say "I told you so!" Which, of course, is priceless.

I don't know who might be the market for offbeat insurance policies, or how you would contact some of them. It's possible that there are mailing lists with categories like "castration anxiety" and "lyncanthropy." Because there seem to be people you can fool all of the time.

It's not just the gullibility. It's the outright stupidity. The list of stupid things people do with common household appliances is apparently so numerous that we need to be warned about each and every one.

It's a case of self-immunity, really. If one is in the habit of not thinking, not examining, not reality-testing one's assumptions, it is very very easy to get led astray by what, in retrospect, was blindingly obvious. This is how one becomes one of those people who appear in the news and lead to millions wondering, "What on earth were they thinking?" To which I always reply, "They were not!" It's a bad habit to get into.

For instance, six people die from furniture tip-overs every year. That isn't very many, and I doubt people worry about it. Yet six of them should have.

Carl Sagan once wrote, "One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we've been so credulous. So the old bamboozles tend to persist as the new bamboozles rise."

It takes courage to admit we might be wrong. It takes a seeker after truth to discover if we are wrong. Courage and truth are both good things, though.

So there isn't any excuse not to exercise both of them as much as possible.

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