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Attention! Danger: what fear does to us

35/2020, 28.10.2020

BfR Knowledge Dialogue discusses how to deal with uncertainty

"Fear and society" cannot be discussed these days without mentioning the coronavirus pandemic. But in some ways, we have been living in an "age of anxiety" - an expression coined by English poet W. H. Auden in 1947 - for some time now. While nuclear war and dying forests were once contemporary topics, issues such as species extinction, climate change and immigration (among many others) are causes for concern today. But is society’s constant alarm really justified? And: how can we gain confidence despite all of this? These are the issues that the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment’s (BfR) Knowledge Dialogue will discuss on 2 November 2020 from 4 pm to 7 pm at the Magnus-Haus in Berlin. "In crisis situations, science cannot always provide absolute certainty," says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "But it can help us to deal with uncertainty."

"Between fear and confidence: how risks challenge society" is the theme of the Knowledge Dialogue that followed from the BfR's stakeholder conference. Notable experts from science, philosophy and the media have been recruited for the event. These include Professor Dr. Heinz Bude (sociologist, University of Kassel), Professor Dr. Maren Urner (Media Psychology, University of Applied Sciences for Media, Communication and Economics Cologne), Professor Dr. Borwin Bandelow (Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Göttingen), Professor Dr. Wolfgang Freitag (Philosophy, University of Mannheim) and Shary Reeves (actress and author, Cologne) in addition to the moderator Ulrich Schnabel (“Die Zeit” newspaper, Hamburg).

Only a limited number of people have access to the event because of the coronavirus situation. However, the Knowledge Dialogue will be broadcast online via livestream in German and English. Registration (up to 30 October 2020) at You will also find the link to the livestream here in due course. Please note that the Magnus-Haus, Am Kupfergraben 7, 10117 Berlin, is not handicapped accessible.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the German federal government and German federal states ("Laender") on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.


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