Posted by Ben Worthen
If you don’t have a super-fast, super-small computer in a few years, blame the moral majority. It turns out that most Americans find nanotechnology, the scientific field most likely to produce such a breakthrough, morally unacceptable.
That’s according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin who are studying people’s attitudes towards nanotechnology, an emerging scientific field that involves manipulating molecules and atoms. They found that just 29.5% of the 1,000-plus Americans surveyed said they thought nanotechnology research was morally acceptable.
Our first reaction was that 70% of people must not know what nanotechnology is – President Bush, who has openly relied on moral views to shape his scientific agenda, has made nanotechnology one of his scientific priorities, after all. And Dietram Scheufele, the U of W professor who led the survey, agrees to a point. People’s understanding of what nanotechnology is hasn’t advanced much over the last few years, he tells the Business Technology Blog. “So people rely on mental shortcuts,” lumping nanotechnology in with other new technologies like stem cell research and genetically modified foods, he tells us. The same people who object to those fields – often on religious reasons – object to nanotechnology. (Incidentally, the heathen Europeans are just fine with nanotechnology.)
What’s noteworthy, Schuefele tells us, is that the objections are contained to the field itself, not the breakthroughs it could lead to. Overwhelming majorities across religious backgrounds supported the benefits of nanotechnology, anything from computers the size of a pin to stain-resistant pants. “Most people have very little objection to building a better computer,” Schuefele says. They’d just prefer a different way to get there.