If you flip a coin 99 times, and it comes up heads every time, what is the probability that the 100th flip will come up heads? My guess is not 99 to 1, but 50 - 50. Am I wrong? Why?
Take this. Last summer the Ad Council in Connecticut told us that "900 kids a year drown in swimming pools". Not an average of 900 kids a year, but 900 kids a year! This is ridiculous, because it means that a kid's chance of drowning in a swimming pool shrinks as the number of mortalities expand. And over time, the families whose indifference to water safety reduces their numbers, will be socially Darwinized out of bodies of water, therefore lowering the number even more. The questions and implications surrounding a fixed number of deaths are many.
The Ad Council has probably told us, somewhere, that there are 47,000 kids killed by guns every year, a similar number killed in auto accidents. Some charitable organization in New Haven makes regular claims, by radio, that "every 1 in 5 babies is born dangerously premature". This is a mixture of the more stupid factoid that "every fifth baby is born dangerously premature" and the proveable statistic that"1 out of 5 babies is born dangerously premature". They're all different. But the first claim is numerically ridiculous, and syntactically idiotic, but it rolled off an copywriter's keypad, and it points to the odious nature of what is known as a Public Service Announcement.
PSA's, don't impart knowledge, because they're not meant to. They substitute information disguised as knowledge. The information is not quite wrong and not quite right; it's un-wrong and un-false but not exactly right and not exactly true. It's propaganda. As such, PSA's fall at the nexus of dogma and convenient fact, where tax dollars for the public good can be leveraged out out of a deceived population. In that way they're evil, and are indistinct from cynical, dishonest evangelism.
If you think that a more enlightened, educated population would be immune to the charlatanry of the PSA, you'd probably be wrong. Take the evidence gathered by Dan Gilbert in his 1991 article "How Mental Systems Work" (Google it). Hammer through the cement of academic jargon, and you'll learn something about yourself (the rational skeptic), and that other guy, the credulous nitwit.
You'll learn that, for most people, belief precedes doubt and doubt requires more mental effort than belief. Belief is a default state; it's passive. It occurs with simple comprehension. Even a negation statement like "the sky is not yellow" requires that the mind affirm the yellowness of the sky, and then evaluate the validity of the proposition. Truth or verification require work and guts.
Consider the advancement from gullible childhood to skeptical adulthood. Skepticism arrives late in the human mind, and under pressure it's one of the the first things to go. Distraction, stress, psychological manipulation; all of them disable the evaluative process of the human mind, and allow the default position, belief, to prevail. It's easier.
There's a whole lot more in Gilbert's article - thoughts on visual perception, the evolutionary value of immediate belief over doubt, thoughts on the"mind" and more. Just imagine...people who rule us know this stuff inside and out. I believe that's depressing.