Which is Worse?

Life is interesting precisely because it's perplexing.

We're always encountering not-so-simple choices, questions that at first glance would seem to be straight-forward but that, on further consideration, confront us with trade-offs. And these dilemmas, whether trivial or weighty, often take an odd form. Instinctively searching for "better," we find that the world's imperfections force us to face many choices by asking, "Hmm... which is worse?"

Too much exercise or too little?

Worse: too little exercise

Both can be bad for you, but Kenyon's fitness director sees lethargy as far more widespread, and more harmful

Disposable or cloth diapers?

Worse: cloth

The truth is that both pose environmental problems. Given that it's a wash, why not opt for convenience?

Burglary or identity theft?

Worse: burglary

A prosecutor sees the question on the gut level of fear and vulnerability.

Foreclosure or bankruptcy?

Worse: foreclosure

If you're facing the loss of your home, the lesser of two evils is bankruptcy, says a Chicago-based attorney

A dirty kitchen or a dirty bathroom?

Worse: A dirty kitchen

Think bathrooms are gross? The kitchen offers a multitude of nooks, crannies, and surfaces where microbes can build an empire, says a veteran public health official

Ignorance or arrogance?

Worse: neither, and both

Parsing the problem, a philosopher sees ignorance and arrogance as two sides of the same coin. Arrogance, he finds, is a special kind of ignorance

Driving on underinflated or overinflated tires?

Worse: underinflated tires

Take it from Gambier's premier car repairman

Being in a job too long or not long enough?

Worse: not long enough

Even if you feel stuck in a job, stay there long enough to establish yourself, says a seasoned career-services expert

Insects or insecticides?

Worse: insecticides (for the average homeowner)

Actually, it's complicated, says a Kenyon biologist. With this question, neither choice is cost-free

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