Chas, I'd be interested in seeing the statistics on death rates in climbing over the years. Could you give me a reference for your statement?
Meanwhile, my remarks about the fear desensitization process comes from observations at the gym combined with what seems to be a steady parade of fiascos on the rock.
Consider the latest High E extravaganza, for example. What could the leader have been thinking? How did the second and third manage to agree to this arrangement? A little appropriate fear ahead of time would have avoided a major panic attack and rope mutilation incident later on.
Years ago people used to be afraid of High E. It was exposed and pumpy, even if the holds are big. Now a guy who can't do it without hanging on every piece takes two people up it, presumably less capable then him and without any of the basic skills needed to help themselves, ties them 15 feet apart, and then belays in the woods out of effective communication range. To my mind, only a touching faith that climbing is way safer than it really is would allow three people to acquiesce to a process so loaded with pitfalls. One can't help but wonder whether all judgement is suspended once the harness buckle is doubled back and and a proper figure-eight has been tied.
But this is just one example, I've seen plenty more and I'm sure everyone could chime in with their favorite.
With all due respect and admiration for the 5.13 kid, the example is irrelevant. I have no doubt that the path from gym to sport to trad will determine the future of the sport and will result in incredible achievements. But that doesn't diminish the observation that trying to make climbing apparently risk-free and attractive to all will end up drawing people into the more dangerous realm of trad climbing with an inadequate appreciation of the risks they are actually taking.