A recent survey have turned up a result that i found shocking... and bizarre.
According to the survey, only 29.5% of American adults (±3%) believe that nanotechnology is "morally acceptable". i do not have the raw results, so i do not know how many did not answer or said "don't know", but still, that result is... mind-blowing. Only a third of Americans are OK with research into nanotechnology.
America is not alone. Results for other nations were included as well:
To put things in perspective, nanotechnology does indeed have the potential to cause great damage and suffering... but it is also the first technology in human history that is also capable of repairing its own damage. Electricity gave us many benefits, but at the cost of lots of power transmission lines in our environment, radiating EM fields all around us and often messy power generation centres - and electricity cannot fix any of those things, we just have to accept them as part of the package. The internal combustion engine gave us cars, trucks, planes and far more reliable boats, but it also gave us pollution, noise, dangerous roads and plane crashes - and the internal combustion engine cannot prevent or fix any of those things itself. But nanotechnology can. Nanotech can fix all of those problems, and the problems it creates itself (very likely mostly industrial waste chemicals from the manufacturing processes) can be fixed with nanotech. Nanoparticles messed up your lungs? No problem, other nanoparticles could fix the damage. Even if you somehow manage to turn Texas into grey goo - no big loss, really, in the case of Texas it's probably an improvement - but you could halt the spread and begin some kind or reconstruction... with nanotech.
Does nanotechnology have hazards? Yes, of course. But is there anything about those hazards that makes developing the technology so dangerous as to be immoral? i'm not seeing it. And the benefits are so enormous that opposing the technology seems downright idiotic.
It is my hypothesis that the people that call nanotech immoral fall into two camps. One group is just... idiots. There is no better word for them. They don't understand the technology, and neither do they care to. It's science, it's new, it's immoral. End of story. The other groups is slightly more intelligent in that they recognize the danger of nanotech, but may not recognize the benefits. And even if they do recognize the benefits, they can't differentiate between "dangerous" and "immoral". Open heart surgery is very "dangerous", but it is hardly "immoral".
However, the professor who did the survey has another hypothesis:
What do you think? Here are some issues i see being raised here:
Well I have a problem with any scientific advance being categorised as 'immoral'. It seems to me to be a fundamentally flawed argument.
We could look at this question in general terms or in specific terms.
In general terms then I believe that all knowledge is a good thing. The use to which that knowledge is put can be judged on moral grounds, but the quest for such knowledge is surely not a moral issue (providing, of course, that the methods involved are themselves not morally questionable).
On specific terms then I see no moral problem with this technology. It is non-biological to the best of my knowledge (ie it doesn't present the same issues that, for example, stem-cell research does).
I tend to agree that the opponents fall into two camps - the idiot and the uninformed. The idiot is probably beyond any rational argument, but we may hope that the uninformed may change their opinion.
While i agree that in its purest form, all knowledge is good, i can see that technology - practically applicable knowledge - is not always purely about the knowledge, and is certainly not always moral to pursue. the applicable part introduces moral problems. Is it moral to research a way to kill every black man on the planet, but leave everyone else untouched? The knowledge itself is neither moral or immoral, but is pursuing the knowledge similarly guiltless?
More practical is the question of a technology that might produce a benefit - say, whiter teeth - but at the same time might equally well result in a deadly virus that kills a quarter of human kind. The knowledge itself may be amoral, but the pursuit involves potential good and potential harm - both of which must be weighed in context. Is it moral to pursue that line of research?
In my mind, nanotech's potential benefits are so ridiculously enormous, compared to it's potential hazards, that it would be immoral to oppose the research. At the same time, the goal of the research is not harm, it is benefit, so the research itself is also moral. But... i'm curious about other opinions on the matter.
Well, "biological" doesn't really apply much below, say, 1000 nanometres. But some aspects of nanotechnology could be viewed as being "bio-ish"... if you squint.
For example, one of the researchers i met is working on a cure for cancer using nanotech that involves custom made particles where one end is a special biological receptor, designed to attach to cancerous cells and cancerous cells only. It's not "biological" per se... but you could look at it that way if you really wanted to.
There may be potential results of nanotech that might be of interest to religious camps - functional immortality, for example. But i would hope that modern religions are not the death cults that writers like Dennett make them out to be - i would hope that they would not have any religious motivation to deny functional immortality to someone who is not part of their religion (even while they may reject it themselves).
i try hard to give religious folk the benefit of the doubt in these matters - some have suggested too hard. That's why i hesitate to buy Scheufele's conclusion - but then i'm stuck with having to explain why 70% of French have no problem compared with 30% of Americans. Granted, the average French person is better educated than the average American, but not by that much. Religion seems to be the only major factor that accounts for that much difference between the two countries.
That's why i suggested an alternate hypothesis - and i ask for other alternatives. Explaining it in terms of the idiots and the uninformed makes rational sense... but does not stand up that well when you consider America vs. France. Does America have more idiots (heh), or more uninformed, or both? And does it have that much more?
i hesitate to accept that.
Yep - I accept the distinction between knowledge per se and technology. I also see the point you make about biology (or lack thereof) though I think this may be stretching it to the point beyond squinting and into the realms of faith goggles...
On the substantive issue - I, like you, tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the religious. I like to think that I am pretty fair in these matters and I have never adopted a 'militant atheist' stance. In this case, however, there is clearly an issue and, although I will refrain from drawing Scheufele's conclusion at the moment, I think there is some case to answer here....
I see nothing immoral about it (and I am both a Christian and a U.S. citizen). I honestly believe it to be one of the greatest technological endeavors in human history. The potential benefits are fantastic, and I firmly believe that as the technology develops, benefits we haven't even imagined will emerge. Like only a handful of societies and cultures before us, we stand on the edge of a transformational breakthrough that may alter all civilization.
I read the article but wish I could see the survey itself. Was the survey designed such that one could actually draw a correlation between religious beliefs and one's opinion on nanotech's morality? Or is the connection purely an assumption based upon his perceptions of Americans versus Europeans?
Personally (and without seeing the survey) I think it's due to a lack of information. I talk to people all the time about nanotech because I'm a geek and very excited about it, but find very few people (aside from my limited social network, who naturally share similar interests) with any knowledge of nanotechnology.
Whatever the reason behind it, 30% is very disconcerting.
How about popular culture, Science is often portrayed as good intentions gone amuck in sci-fi movies , books ect
That is a good question. i seriously doubt it was. i'd bet that they just took a random sampling of adults in each country, and asked, "is nanotechnology moral?", and some related questions, and not much else.
But even if that survey did not measure religious beliefs, something must be causing the massive difference between the US and the other countries. If it's not religious... what else can it be? That's what i ask.
Is there something about nanotech that American get, that Brits and Jerries don't - some aspect of the technology that makes it immoral? If the Brits and the Jerries could understand what the Americans do about nanotech, would they agree with them?
Are the Americans just... dumber? Do they not understand nanotech as well as the rest of the world?
Is there something about Americans or America or American culture that makes nanotechnology appear immoral?
Religion is one hypothesis, and yes, it should be tested. But what other hypotheses are there? What else could be tested?
And Brits, Germans and Frenchmen are that much more knowledgeable, on average? i'm not really comfortable with the assumption that Americans are at least twice as stupid as those other countries - not without further support.
i get that most people don't understand nanotech - i am in nanotech, and every time i say what i do, i get a glazed look. i have to explain it frequently. (You'll note that i'm so in the habit that i even did it in the first post here.)
But that doesn't answer the question. We don't know how the survey was worded - maybe it explained nanotech, maybe it didn't. Maybe it explained it well maybe it didn't. But it's pretty safe to assume that however it was done, it was done similarly in all four countries mentioned.
So let's say the survey said nothing about nanotech but the word. Pretend the entire survey was just the question: "Is nanotech immoral?" Still, for some unknown reason, only one in three Americans said yes, while one in two or better did everywhere else. Why? That's what i would like to know. (Along with why anyone would say yes.)
Disconcerting, you think? i don't know. i think it's shocking, but it doesn't worry me. Unless the 70% that objects can offer me a valid reason for why they object, i don't really care about them. i'll still continue my work, regardless. If public opinion halts funding in the US, i'd just move to France. Let them benefit from my work, and to hell with the Luddite Americans.
How is the popular culture between France and the US that different that it accounts for a more than two-to-one difference? i watch French movies all the time (just last week i watched Vidocq again), and it's pretty much the same crap Hollywood puts out, just with smaller production values (and possibly with a little less pandering to the "unintelligence" of audiences - meaning they can be slightly harder to follow, and they don't hammer their points home). The messages are pretty much the same, more or less. Certainly many French science fiction writers are as cautious about advancing technology and technological culture as English writers - just see Jean-Claude Dunyach, who has several bleak works translated in English.
The ratio of people who are ok with nanotechnology between France and the US is almost three to one. That's... ridiculous. Even between the UK and the US - two English-speaking countries - have a ratio of almost two-to-one (11 to 6). Are the cultures in those two countries so wildly different?
i don't see it.
Perhaps failing to distinguish between a technology / science and the potential misuse of the same is at least part of the answer. Fitting examples would perhaps be a number of green parties who not only condemn nuclear weapons generally but the use of nuclear energy in any shape or form.
Although I hope I am able to differentiate sufficiently to separate these from a moral perspective, I also can, up to a point, understand the distrust that these technologies generate. Off the cuff I cannot think of a technology or discovery which has not had detrimental side-effects and which we have learned to control and harness by trial and error (or have put to war-time use). Weighing advantages vs. disadvantages has usually convinced us that applying a technology has overall benefits even if some setbacks need to be accepted, but when we reach a point where an error in judgment in the application of a science might have such far-reaching consequences that it can no longer be undone, then it does get tricky. The use of nuclear power has been at least a step towards such a condition and nanotechnology and genetics seems to be the next. It would probably be sensible to consider worst-case scenarios (either through misjudgment or by design). I would suggest that those working in these areas sit down and take the time to consider how they could use their expertise to build the most destructive weapon they are able to fathom and then accept the fact that it will certainly be built and very probably used.
The question is, though, why do citizens of the US overwhelmingly see this technology as immoral whereas citizens of comparible countries (UK, France, Germany etc) do not?
The only explanation which has been offered is religious view. Both Indi and I are reluctant to accept that at face value, but there does seem to be no other logical explanation to date...
At least as a hypothesis, I would suggest that Americans are more apt to see these questions in a black & white moral context and not willing to accept gray areas (which is, generally speaking not necessarily wrong), therefore not differentiating between a technology and the (mis-)use thereof. I would suggest that concepts such as patriotism and religion, values taught and cultivated in America more so than in Europe*, tend to manifest themselves in a number of areas, foreign policy being perhaps the most obvious.
I admit though, that the quoted results in the original post do surprise me (and without knowing more about how they were reached, I tend to even question them) since, having lived on both continents, I would have assumed the exact opposite. My impression is that Americans are generally starry-eyed when speaking of potentially breakthrough-technology, with the Europeans* more likely seeing the glass half empty.
On the question of how religion may play a part in this surprising result, I have to pass since "my" America experience was more or less restricted to the east coast urban centers. Of course, seeing statistics on American acceptance of creationism does make one wonder.
*=Europe, meaning in this case western, continental Europe, although even these nations are unique in their own way and not easily lumped together
Is nanotechnology immoral? Of course not. I don't believe that for a second.
Yes, it may be dangerous. Yes, it may have negative effects that human beings have failed to see. Since it is relatively new and hasn't had an immense amount of research (compared to other sciences), there might be negative sides of it that are so far unknown. But that's a different discussion. For the purpose of this question; no, it's not immoral.
Never mind Indi. If things in the US get too bad you can always come and work in my studio. I'll set you up with a set of jeweller's screwdrivers and a really small pair of tweezers
Yes, but to be fair, this is very fresh data. The survey is less than six months old, and it was only published two or three weeks ago. A good explanation might be forthcoming, but i can't even begin to guess at what form it might take. As you say, only this religious explanation - as disturbing as it is - seems to work, but i'm an engineer not a social scientist, so maybe i'm missing something obvious.
i was surprised too! ^_^; Amazing, isn't it?
But actually, i'd disagree. i've travelled extensively around the US and even popped across the pond a few times in recent years. As strange as it sounds, the average American is pretty technologically backward. i live in Canada, and we're quite far ahead in several technological areas - and we're quite poor comparatively, and right next door. Europe is even further ahead - and even further are the more cosmopolitan parts of Asia. The average American does not have cause to see this disparity on a day to day basis, usually - but it's a widely held truism in every engineering field i have worked in that if you want something good, you have to go to Europe (and if you want it pretty good, but cheap, go to Asia). You want a roller bearing? Sure, you can get them made in America, but the ones made in Sweden will be way better, and sometimes cheaper. You want a really powerful, small, accurate and cheap servomotor? Don't even bother to check American companies. What about a full blown precision six-axis machine tool? Go to Italy, don't waste your time in the US.
It's not widely publicized, but the major technology development corporations are slowly pulling out of the US (not the focus of the story, but mentioned in passing). This article is more recent, but more of the same. And things don't look too hot for the next generation of American technology either, if the results of future American techies are a good measure. Even at the grassroots level, the average American just doesn't grok technology as well as the average European.
But while this disparity would make a big difference in things relating to fairly current and/or bleeding edge technology, i don't really see it being a big factor when talking about technologies that are so far down the road. Besides, it's not that Americans fear technology (on the surface, anyway), because the average American is blissfully unaware of how far behind the rest of the technological world they are. They believe that they are the leaders of technology in the whole world, even though they're not. So saying they are "afraid" of technology seems to be a difficult position to take. They may not have it, but they sure think they do, and they love the idea.
i wouldn't say either Americans or Europeans are generally pessimistic about technology, at least not on the surface - well, except for the UK. ^_^; For some reason - and this is personal perspective, i can't back it up with numbers - it seems to me that mainland Europeans are much more technologically optimistic than the islanders. They're all cautious about new technology, yes, but i wouldn't call that pessimism. The general attitude - both in North America and Europe - about technology seems to be "well, ok, give it a shot, but be careful". i've talked to a wide cross-section of Americans about nanotechnology, and maybe it's the way i present it, maybe it's that i don't mention the potential hazards at all (because they're so ridiculously small), but i have always had either enthusiastic support, or cautious optimism. The very worst i can recall getting is the hands-off "i want no part in it, but you go for it" attitude, generally from older persons who don't believe they will see the benefits in time anyway.
Excellent. i'll bring the micrometer-sized roll of duct tape, and we'll be set!
I think the reserve comes partly from a long, often bloody, history (seen it, been there, done it, blew it up, trashed-it and threw it away) and partly from our island geography. If you dig a bit deeper, however, you will find many a chap beavering away in his shed or garage on mechanical/electrical projects - sometimes of great ingenuity and complexity.
The engineering mentality is still very much alive and well. Lift the bonnet of a car, wherever there is a collection of blokes, and they will quickly gravitate to the car and begin offering their services, suggestions and comments
My areas of interest/expertise are too far removed from this topic so I find it difficult to supply and hard facts but if America's ranking is so low in so many areas, it is surprising that universities are still rated as highly as they are, Nobel and other prizes still seem to be awarded to either US scientists (or those employed / teaching in the US) in a meaningful number and areas such as space-travel and advanced military technology are still on the forefront. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to the economic power of the country and its general attraction as a meeting-point and melting-pot for foreign talent but I do find it difficult to believe that this is the main reason.
Sorry, can't contribute any useful tools, my only rule when it comes to building something is: "Measure with a micrometer, mark with chalk, cut with an ax." (not my quote but can't recall where I picked it up.)
I dont see it........... thats probably exactly what the detractors of nano tech are saying
As nanotechnology is ...well..... what is it ? its stronger lighter plastics to self replicating machines capable of turning the world to Goo, as its uses could be so varied I dont think its wrong to say this is simply a position of public trust in science or in this case unknown nanotechnology, rather than place this mistrust in science at the feet of religion or idiocy, popular culture or the scientific community itself are for me more likley to be the seed of this mistrust, which I would agree would be greatly substantiated by any religious connotations but not limited to them.
Popular culture of course has its excuses it can breed mistrust in the form of entertainment, films books ect , and the scientific community has an even more ( in my opinion ) valid excuse for creating mistrust which is keeping secrets, we would'nt want someone who had invented a Earth Gooing nano bot to blurt it out to the whole world in full fact ,so anyone could built it now would we, that would be immoral, so we seem to be left at a catch 22 , science cant blurt out its secrets for moral issues which helps to substantiate the mistrust popular culture breeds through entertainment , I see this question as to ambiguous to gain anything but an ambiguous answer, if the question had indeed been about research into nanotechnology maybe the answer would have been different but given nanotechnology is such a broad field what was the question really about ? .
I agree that there must be a reason for the difference. Religion is a viable hypothesis, but I am reluctant to embrace that reason. However I’ll concede that it may play a role. The reasons may be more complex though and involve more than simply one cultural marker.
I too find it hard to believe that Europeans receive more information from the general media on nanotechnology than Americans. That being said, I am only familiar with what I see here in the U.S., which I find to be paltry to say the least.
At the same time, I’m reluctant to blame it on religion, admittedly for a personal reason. As a Christian who loves science, I hate seeing Christianity portrayed as nothing more than a bunch of ignorant morons holding back society’s advancement. After all, the United States as a whole was a lot more religious in the 19th and 20th Centuries than it is now, and during those days the U.S. led the world in significant technological advancements.
But regarding what Professor Scheufele said, I find this anecdotal comment off target:
Christians only disagree with embryonic stem cell research, not adult stem cell research. They believe embryonic stem cell research is immoral for the exact same reason they believe abortion is immoral, it’s killing a human being. Christians as a whole are strong advocates of adult stem cell research. Therefore “Playing God” doesn’t come into play. I personally find the use of such a phrase insulting as it is very antiquated and serves only to portray Christians as, once again, backward thinking morons. But my personal feelings aside, one still cannot completely rule out Scheufele’s hypothesis.
I did find more detailed information on the survey though, but not the survey itself.
The survey posed the question, “For each of the following issues regarding nanotechnology, please tell me if you agree or disagree with it.”
1. Nanotechnology is morally acceptable.
2. Nanotechnology is useful for society.
3. Nanotechnology is riskful for society.
4. Nanotechnology should be encouraged.
Notice that it did not ask, “Is nanotechnology morally unacceptable?” They asked people to agree with the statement, “Nanotechnology is morally acceptable,” a very broad and even ambiguous statement to agree to. Could one not imagine that "Nanotechnology" might include both "moral" and "immoral" applications? The U.S. is a litigious culture, maybe Americans are just hesitant to agree to something so non-specific.
Respondents were able to answer each question with something like “Strongly disagree, Somewhat disagree, Neutral, Somewhat agree, Strongly Agree.” Zero (0) was the midpoint. +2 represented “Strongly Agree” and -2 represented “Strongly Disagree.”
From what I read (and as I said, unfortunately I could not find the survey itself, just comments by others and even Dietram A. Scheufele’s blog) the 29.5% figure is only those who answered a +2. Overall the United States is positive on thinking nanotech is moral, but obviously not to the degree Europe is. However the article did not mention that the majority of Americans surveyed found nanotechnology morally acceptable. If less than 50% of Americans disagreed with the survey, the bar in the graph below would be below the line, not above. However the article implies that 70% of Americans believe it is immoral!
Furthermore, according to the survey Americans believe nanotechnology is useful for society and should be encouraged. They also believe nanotechnology is risky, but ironically to a lesser degree than the French and Germans. I think this implies either a lesser understanding of nanotech and its risks, or more optimism for our ability to control those risks.
So the survey shows that Americans strongly believe that nanotech is useful and should be encouraged. However the article implies that public support for nanotech in the United States is in jeopardy. Why?
As mentioned earlier, the UK scored a 54.1% while France scored a 72.1%. However according to Scheufele’s blog, France and Britain both scored below a 5 on a religiosity scale (U.S. respondents average between 8 and 9). If France and Britain are so close on a religiosity index, why the 18% difference in their opinion on nanotech's morality if that is, according to Scheufele’s hypothesis, the primary reason for the low score in the U.S.?
That seems to indicate there is more to it than just religion.
As was oft said in the film “The Right Stuff” about jets and rockets, “You know what makes this bird go up? Funding makes this bird go up.” That is the reason I find it disconcerting. Research depends upon funding. And if public opinion is that negative regarding nanotechnology, then one may assume that such an attitude could also negatively impact funding. That’s a situation which I do not wish to see in the United States.
That being said, the Bush administration made nanotechnology research and development a significant, national priority. So even if an unseen religious movement or mere current against nanotech research exists, it isn’t affecting national policy decisions made by a conservative and professed Christian president.
OK - I'll dive in with my own view on this.
I think the most revealing part of the blog entry is the following;
That seems reasonable - he is acknowledging that the link is not strongly correlated but there certainly does seem to be such a link. I also think the conclusion is probably valid from my own experiences (although obviously I cannot support that with objective data).
Those with fundamental religious views (particularly 'creationists') have been taught by their preachers and community that science contains much which is untrue. This message is inevitable if you are to maintain a literal belief in Genesis, since Genesis is contradicted, not just by evolutionary biology, but by many other sciences and disciplines (geology, cosmology, particle physics etc). The creationist defence of their beliefs involves a wide-ranging attack on science (by necessity) - this can be easily seen by referencing their material on the web.
I can say from direct personal experience* that creationists do encourage scepticism - sometimes abusive dismissal - of science that contradicts or challenges their beliefs. It seems evident to me that this will lead to a scepticism about science in general, since it is often difficult to separate out which elements of science they are against and which not. This would be reflected in the nanotech survey as the blog suggests.
Belief in creationism does seem to be much more prevalent in the US than in Europe. Perhaps, therefore, it is not religiousity per se that is the issue, but more fundamentalist religiousity. This would show through in the statistics as a general correlation but not such a strong one - since there appears to be no explicit filter or representation in the survey for the 'fundamenalism' of religiousity.
All this being said, I agree with Moonspider that this is likely to be more complex than a simple correlation of religion against science (even 'fundamentalist' religion) but I do believe that if we correlate belief in creationism with acceptance of science (and particular developments in science) we would see a much stronger negative correlation.
*I make a point of attending Creationist meetings in my area, in order to see what is being said and, hopefully, correct or refute incorrect statements about science. I will be attending my third such meeting on 31st of this month at Liverpool University where the creationist speaker Ken Ham is giving a presentation.
You have always people who are against new methods in science. As long as this new technology will not be abused for bad reasons. I don't see why i should be against it. If we can use this technology to cure difficult sicknesses or when normal surgery can't help, i vote that this technology should be used as soon as possible.
Let me give an example: euh... damn i can't find one!!
I think that many of you agree with me that this technology has great potential especially in the medical science.
So 46% or so of British people are "fundamentalist creationists"................ are you being serious ?
You're going to go and see that guy? That guy is even criticized within the Christian community.
As somebody who thinks he is a dishonest charlatan I have two choices - ignore or engage. I choose to engage. That means taking time out to attend meetings and, hopefully, put the arguments against the nonsense being peddled. Creationists often rely on the silence of the scientific community. Many scientists refuse to engage with them at all, largely because their contributions are often twisted and used out of context. Richard Dawkins, for example, ceased debating creationists some while ago. I understand his reasons and I sympathise with his decision but I choose to engage them and attempt to put the scientific case (not that I am comparing myself to RD).
PS - esimates of the number of creationists in the UK vary. There is strong evidence that the rise in the Muslim population has increased the total markedly - many Muslims do not accept evolution. Prof Michael Reiss puts the numbers at around 10%
I saw you as saying that a correlation with "creationist religion" was more likely than just "religion" to give a better answer to why people thought of this as immoral, obviously not quite clear enough for me.......but It does give you the oppertunity for more sarcasm.
Sarcasm - saying the opposite of what was intended, particularly to mock.
Where did I use sarcasm?
Yes - I do think there will be a stronger correlation with creationism than with religion per se. That does not mean that it will be 1 to 1 - there are clearly people who are suspicious of science on grounds other than religion. I predict, however, that most creationists are suspicious of science, and that many would show up in this survey as thinking nanotech was immoral.
Sorry ,I ment pedantic....
What were you saying then ? , If I have the wrong end of the stick and my above reply is still wrong do you think you could come down to laymens terms so I can understand you, please Sir
Omg.... stop editing your posts Bikerman
Most people are suspicious of science, especially new and unknown ,but I think its more a matter of what science has done in the past rather than anything any religion says, but as I said in my first post any religious convictions would strenghten any negative attitude toward science.
Sorry - an afterthough. I trust it explains my position on this though..
Yes , that if any creationists were asked if an unknown potentially planet destroying science is immoral, there answer would show up in this survey as part of the "its immoral" side, but whos answer wouldnt ?, of course they were not asked that but anyone could read such an ambiguous question as such when the general public perception of nanotechnology is its a technology with such great potential...But really is'nt this is an issuse with public perception of nanotechnology before its a religious issue ?.......I sort of fail to see why religion would play a major role in the results and would probably be responsible for a figure more akin with that in your link 1 in 10 (4.6% of the British 46%)
so would I be wrong in saying 41 or so percent answered for none religious reasons ?
If you are saying that religion does not play a major role, then I'm perfectly willing to hear how you explain the differences in poll numbers between the US and Europe.
My thoughts on that are here...if you could be bothered to read my words
But I agree , I have far to little information on the sample selection, but prof who ever said they were informed about the benefits of nano tech, but were the potential harms left to the imagination ?
who informed them ? about what aspects of nano tech ? does the addition of that information change the question ?
I read your words the first time around- I just cannot see how they address the question at all. Let me repeat it;
How do you account for the difference between the US and Europe? Are you saying that US popular culture is so different from European culture that this accounts for the difference?
Yes more so than religion, in fact I Have said it more than once in more than one post, please tell me how you fail to see it addressing the issue If You would be so kind
In fact tell me what the issue is, and how scheifer (ok thats probably not his name) came to the conclusion religion played any part in the answers other than conjecture against the old enemy
firstly you say
Then you say
Assuming the large difference in the results of the survey is simply a result of differences in popular culture seems to me to be extremely unlikely, and to raise as many questions as it answers.
firstly you say
Then you say
Assuming the large difference in the results of the survey is simply a result of differences in popular culture seems to me to be extremely unlikely, and to raise as many questions as it answers.[/quote]
As nanotechnology is ...well..... what is it ? its stronger lighter plastics to self replicating machines capable of turning the world to Goo, as its uses could be so varied I dont think its wrong to say this is simply a position of public trust in science or in this case unknown nanotechnology, rather than place this mistrust in science at the feet of religion or idiocy, popular culture or the scientific community itself are for me more likley to be the seed of this mistrust, which I would agree would be greatly substantiated by any religious connotations but not limited to them
I also wrote................
Popular culture of course has its excuses it can breed mistrust in the form of entertainment, films books ect , and the scientific community has an even more ( in my opinion ) valid excuse for creating mistrust which is keeping secrets, we would'nt want someone who had invented a Earth Gooing nano bot to blurt it out to the whole world in full fact ,so anyone could built it now would we, that would be immoral, so we seem to be left at a catch 22 , science cant blurt out its secrets for moral issues which helps to substantiate the mistrust popular culture breeds through entertainment.
I see this question as to ambiguous to gain anything but an ambiguous answer, if the question had indeed been about research into nanotechnology maybe the answer would have been different but given nanotechnology is such a broad field what was the question really about ? .
If I am not making my point how I feel on the issue or you do disagree please make a point that deserves an answer or even answer my direct questions if you feel you need to take a stance against what I am saying.
Scheufele gave you the answer. From his own lips. He explains - explicitly and with supporting documentation - what the real "cultural marker" is. Do you just not agree with it? i can't even guess, because you seem to have missed it completely - or at least, you don't mention it at all.
Comparing the cultural behaviours of a hundred years ago, or two hundred years ago, with today is a fallacy. For starters, yes the US was "more religious" back in the 19th century (and early 20th) than it was today, but it was religious in a different way. It is not enough information to simply say (random numbers for example) 95% of Americans were religious in 1808 where as 70% of Americans are religious in 2008, and then conclude Americans were "more religious" two hundred years ago. The key metric - the one that Dr. Scheufele specifically mentions, by the way - is the quality of that religious belief. If, of those 95%, only 10% are strongly religious, but of the 70%, 50% or more are strongly religious... which population is "more religious" then?
As you see, the answer depends on precisely what metric you use to measure religiosity. i (mistakenly) assumed that Scheufele was using a simply head count of who said they were religious. i was wrong, and Scheufele's blog entry explains why. (In fact, Scheufele's blog entry seems to be answering to a general misunderstanding that i was only a single case of.) Scheufele correlated strong religiosity to distrust of nanotech - not simply religiosity, strong religiosity.
And using that metric and a little bit of checking up on my own, i can see where his position comes from, and how nicely the data supports it.
i'm not sure where you get your numbers from when you make claims like "Christians as a whole are strong advocates of adult stem cell research". It certainly doesn't jive with the Vatican's latest press release, detailing "genetic engineering" as one of the "new seven deadly sins". Oh i know most Christian groups have made statements that they condemn embryonic stem cell research, but adult stem cell research is ok... but it's a long road from "we don't condemn that" to "we strongly advocate that".
But anyway, you're chasing straw men and red herrings. Scheufele's hypothesis has nothing to do with "Christians as a whole", and he explicitly says so.
For me, the only interesting revelation from the blog and the linked material was how nanotech was defined:*
This definition is from the European survey, not the one that Scheufele did, but Scheufele states that he tried to "parallel" the wording, so i'll assume he did just that.
i... don't really see what any of your point is? However you try to spin it, Europeans are way more enthusiastic about nanotech than Americans. What caused that? Specificity? Why would the Americans find it so much more vague than Europeans? It just doesn't add up. (Even more damning, it's no big secret - having been shown in dozens of other surveys - that the opposite of what you claim is true... Americans are far more likely to see in black or white than Europeans. Which would mean that the Europeans would have been the ones hung up on this ambiguity you claim exists... not the Americans. But that's obviously not what happened.)
But again, Scheufele gives the answer in his blog... and it's not perceived ambiguity or tendency to sue.
Er, no. Neither the article nor anything discussed here makes that implications. The article is incomplete, but clear about what it does state - it says only how many of each nationality said yes to "morally acceptable". It doesn't "imply" that everyone else said no. Why would you even think that? (The evil part of me wants to point out the black-or-white thing i mentioned above, but....) My own intro post dispels that possibly implication in the second sentence.
Yes, the article does imply that the 30% was "yes" and not just "strongly yes", but does that change anything? No, not really.
You are hung up on comparing Americans to Americans. You are concerned that the 30% means that most Americans are backwards... implicitly comparing them to other Americans (because that's where the 30% came from)... and you are determinedly trying to point out things that undermine that possibility (for example that the 30% means "strongly yes", not "yes", and in general, "yes" was above 50%). i am not making an argument to that effect, and as near as i can tell, no one else here is - in fact, Bikerman has repeatedly tried to hammer the point home that that is not what we are talking about. The question being asked here is not why so few Americans think nanotech is morally acceptable. The question being asked here is why so few Americans think nanotech is morally acceptable compared to the Europeans.
i don't care if it turns out in the end the same percentage of Americans and Europeans voted "yes" (for example, if 30% of Americans and 60% of Europeans voted "strongly yes" and 40% of Americans and 10% of Europeans voted "sorta yes", giving both 70% for "yes" total). What i care about is why there is such a difference in the results between the US and Europe. Even if it is only "strongly yes" and not just "yes", the fact remains that - except for the UK - more than 2:1 felt "strongly yes" in each case between the US and Europe (and the UK was pretty close to 2:1). The question being asked here - the same question Scheufele brings up (and discusses in his blog) is why does that happen.
i understand that you are trying to use this evidence to make your argument of defending Americans of being ignorant and backward - which (as i explain above) is misguided because we don't have the information necessary to condemn them as ignorant and backward. For all we know 30% answered "yes, it's morally acceptable", 0% answered "no, it's unacceptable" and 70% answered "who cares?/don't know". Without the raw data, any debate on that topic is a waste of time.
You're making arguments that no one can comment on because we simply don't have any relevant data. We can't talk about the relationship between the "acceptable" and "risky" answers for any given country because we don't have that data. How many said yes/no/maybe, what is the relationship between yes on one metric and yes on the other... we don't know! The only things we can talk about are those things we have data for. i suppose we could talk about the fact that France finds nanotech riskier than the US... but we can't relate that to how they each stand on the morality of it until we know the relationship between a vote on riskiness to morality. And no, it's not obvious. Performing first aid on a badly injured and bleeding man at an accident is very risky (what if he has AIDS? what if some other part of the building comes down while you're helping/another car crashes into the existing wreck?), but it's clearly moral - meanwhile there is very little risk of killing a child in a situation were there are no witnesses, no chance of leaving evidence and you have an alibi elsewhere, but it's clearly immoral.
The only information we have is that Europeans are way more morally tolerant of nanotech (and even the new information about the "yes"/"strongly yes" thing does not change that). And that is the only question that we have been discussing, so far. (Although, there are certainly other relevant topics - some of which are listed in the first post.) i don't care if Americans are mostly in favour of it or not... i care only that they are far less in favour of it than Europeans, and i want to know why.
Again, the article makes no such implication. You are putting that there yourself. All the article says is that religion influences the acceptance of nanotech. Nothing more, nothing less. The only concern about the public that is raised is how to nanotech should be explained to clear the misunderstanding up. The issue of support is never even obliquely mentioned. Read it again and see for yourself.
As for my first post here, i don't mention support either! My concern is what the cause of negative perceptions might be. In fact, i don't even ask why Americans are more concerned than Europeans - i ask why anyone might be call it immoral. The only reason i care about the obvious disparity between America and Europe is that i thought it might highlight where the objection comes from. (And it did, but i was looking in the wrong place. Scheufele's blog set me right.)
Er... no. ^_^;
Ok, first... let's deal with the really bad math and wishful thinking. In your words: "... according to Scheufele’s blog, France and Britain both scored below a 5 on a religiosity scale (U.S. respondents average between 8 and 9). If France and Britain are so close on a religiosity index...". i'll stop you there and ask... say what? All Scheufele said was France and Britian scored "below a 5". France could have got 0.1 and Britain could have got 4.4. On a ten point scale. So... where did this "so close" thing come from?
Second, you are misstating Scheufele's hypothesis. Granted i made the same mistake from the original article, but i think i can be forgiven that because the article is vague about the details. But you read his blog entry, where it explicitly states what his hypothesis is. In fact, it starts in the paragraph right below the one you got that data from. ^_^; He says (i will compact it, but you can follow, starting from "And these differences are at least consistent..."): "Ok, sure, America is obviously more religious than Europe, but just comparing the general overall numbers gives you hints but proves nothing. But we can use the hints to look for more info. And I (Scheufele) am working on that right now. What we've got so far is that we know that religion influences people's views of science. But it's not just a simple matter of 'if you're religious, you don't trust science'. It's a case of 'if you're slightly religious, it does not affect your trust of science, but if you're highly religious, it does'."
Look, let me give you Scheufele's own words: "And again, this is not just about a simple correlation between religiosity and attitudes toward science, which is important in its own right. But in this case, we're talking about a link between benefit perceptions and attitudes that varies depending on respondents' levels of religiosity." (Emphasis mine.)
Do you see it now?
Now, working on the assumption that that's clear, let's turn to what raw data we have. As you mentioned, both the UK and France scored "below a 5" on the religiosity scale. The actual numbers are 4.40 (France), 4.92 (UK) 8.47 (US) (scale of 10 on how religious the "average person" is). But remember, according to Scheufele, what we should be comparing is the number of people who are very religious, not just averages of all religious people. The numbers of very religious people are: 8.3% (France) 13.9% (UK) 58.2% (US). Those are just the extremes, the "10s" on the scale of 10. The rough relationship is the same for the 9s, and things stabilize in the 8's and 7s.
There it is. There, finally, is a hypothesis that makes sense. It's not religion that makes people reluctant to consider nanotech immoral, but being very religious. The more religious you are, the more likely you are to be opposed to nanotech. That is Scheufele's argument, and it makes sense to me.
What it tells me is that there really is nothing in nanotech that people find immoral. The religion causes the perception, but only when it is strong enough to overcome perception of the obvious benefits of nanotech.
As i've already mentioned, i'm not the least bit concerned about the public perception of nanotech. It won't really affect funding. Why? Because the people that really control the funding aren't so stupid as to be blinded by spurious religious beliefs. If the opposition gets to be so loud and the pressure so intense that the will of the uneducated masses becomes policy by means of political pressure... well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the short term at least, even if people do say "immoral", they do so from a position of such extreme ignorance that it won't survive public debate. The first group that steps up to try and prevent funding to nanotech will be taken to task for why, and i seriously doubt they will stand up to the challenge.
Scheufele is looking ahead in that respect, looking to undermine the crazies before they bother to mobilize a coherent opposition. He is trying to discover not only what the attitudes are, but why they are, and how we can present the technology in a way that prevents the crazies from objecting. i can't say for sure that such an effort is necessary, but it might be, and even if not, i certainly don't object to it.
Scheufele said clearly that strong religious conviction is the key, not just religious conviction. If any group moves to prevent nanotechnological research, they will have to stand against both the non-religious and the so-so-religious. It will be a hell of a fight.
The Bush administration is not completely stupid. They can surely see that doing anything to prevent nanotechnology research would polarize the hell out of the country, and very likely hand the opposition the government on a platter. They're already being taken to task for opposing embryonic stem cell research and genetic engineering. What's the logical thing to do? Well, dur, throw your support behind a technology that - even though it's controversial - is not strongly opposed (yet) by your core constituency: thus throwing a bone to the other guys, "hey, we're not 'anti-science', we're just 'anti-embryonic research'... see? this nanotechnology is also controversial, but we support it! so a vote for us is not a vote against science!".
Honestly, political groups in general are pretty plainly obvious, but the Bush administration is downright transparent.
Please explain why the "what " the technology is has no bearing on the answer, if that is what you mean by irelevant.
I dont think you have, hence me asking, maybe I dont understand your version of English or even the validity of the question, if that is reason enough for you to throw insults around then so be it, if you want to represent the scientific community ( as you kind of do on FriH ) with deliberate insults and bigotry thats your prerogative, maybe I am thick , so what ?
Secularisation could play a part , enviroment good , science bad said napoleon the pig
If you are thick (as you suppose) then there is little point me trying to explain the point, is there?
If you are not thick (and I never said you were - I said you might be being deliberately obtuse) then you would understand that the question is not whether the technology is properly understood by the person answering the survey, nor is it even what the technology actually is.*
The question can be examined, simply as:
Why do twice as many Americans as Europeans think technology X is immoral?
So the US is half as secular as Europe? Now we are getting somewhere (I don't see, however, what environment has to do with it, nor Animal Farm, come to that. Animal Farm was an allegory about Stalinist USSR, not secularism/religion. Also, if you recall, the USSR was very much in favour of science).
If you are saying that more secular societies tend to produce a 'science good', and less secular (more religious) societies tend to produce a 'science bad', then, yes, that is one possible explanation. The explanation which best fits, however, seems to be more about the level of religion (or 'fundamentalism') and would be better put as ;
secular ; science good
very religious ; science bad
(using the word 'science' instead of 'technology' may be misleading, but I'm not sure it actually is).
*although it could be - if the technology in question was clearly one which would be expected to produce a different response in the US and in Europe. I don't see, however, that nanotechnology has any different connotation in the US to that which it has in Europe.
http://www.frihost.com/forums/vt-76771.html, From a personal view I would beg to differ, you advocate science in a well referenced , and correct manor in many posts ,to the betterment of the forums may I add, But I apologise for assuming your frequent, correct and scientifically based answers make you any form of person who ( kind of ) speaks for science.
The pedantic did come with a , I certainly would not trust a scientist ( which you are not ) who was not pedantic in the sense that I ment and that you are forced to answer in, of course there is no room for any delliberate insults in any (good or bad) debate, please accept my second and more serious apology.
I think thats simply dependent on your level of bordom , isnt it ?
That is what I have been saying isnt it... it seems senseless to use nanotechnology as a subject for immorality because of the broad field it covers as it is not the science thats immoral but its uses, so is the question about science in gereral *
Thats about what they asked in my view , Is technology X immoral, given a certain percent of people would judge past technology X to predict the uses or misuses of future technology X , I dont see how religion would take presedent over past technology X.
I think more people are worried (even if only a little) about the enviroment than the wrath of God, could it reflect the amount of ardent enviromentalists who are more worried about some global corp or other exploiting mother earth rather than religious fundamentalists worried about mankind playing god.
I think I must give up. You still haven't addressed the single, clear, unambiguous question that I put. I can't put it any clearer
Why is the US so different to Europe when considering whether this technology is immoral?
Cause they are scared of it???
Well the whole (at least a lot of) of american society is based on FEAR, bad sensation (like car shases murder this and that).
Look at the news while here in holland they talk about small problems like speedbumbs, police strikes etc.
In America it is murder this, really big catastrophy that. Alot of things are bad news and worse. A lot of things either political campaigns or commercials also use FEAR. In my eyes the american language is the one of fear.
(Ever seen "Bowling for Colombine".)
So lets say one person says nanotech is bad and will destroy the world. And a million say it's a great way for curing diseases and solving problems.
The news always looks a lot at how to get good ratings. You get good ratings with sensational things like say....... (deep epic(like) voice) THE END OF THE WORLD!!!!!!!
So while the good things are forgotten by the people the bad things aren´t and so they fear it.
On the european news it´s not all bad news and also the people remember the good sides better and because of that they fear it less.
OK - you present a reasonable argument for why Americans might fear nanotech more than Europeans. I'm not sure I buy it, but it's a possibility.
The problem with this argument is highlighted, however, when we look at the questions asked.
1. Nanotechnology is morally acceptable.
2. Nanotechnology is useful for society.
3. Nanotechnology is riskful for society.
4. Nanotechnology should be encouraged.
The respondants were asked to grade each from -2 to +2 with -2 being strongly disagree and +2 being strongly agree.
Now, if the difference is, as you posit, one of fear inspired largely by the media, then we would expect to see a much higher score for question 3 in the US than in Europe. Agreed?
In fact we see a mixed picture. The US respondants were less worried about the risks than the UK respondants but more worried than the Europeans.
What we actually see is a much lower score on question 1 in the US than in both the UK and Europe. This is the interesting part. Why would the Americans find nanotech more morally unacceptible than UK respondants but also less risky?
I have said over and over my feeling is that nanotech is to broad a field to make sense in itself,I have said over and over again that people may fear the impact of technology X for many more reasons than religion, and I personally feel religion plays second fiddle to culture in the mentioned countrys , if you feel all three countrys cultures are so simular that the difference in results must be a religious issue then thats fine, I feel sciences image in culture is more due to entertainment and science itself than religion, can I answer your straight question ?
I have asked
As those that were asked, Were said to be informed who informed them ? about what aspects of nano tech ? does the addition of that information change the question ?
I dont think its unreasonable to ask for additional information before comming to a conclusion, and in the mean time I can reasonably speculate alternatives to religion on the strength that I am part of one of those so simular cultures , I have not tried to prove anything , and why would I answer a question you post when I have asked if the main question is really sound, I am in no way trying to defend religion just attempting to take it out of the equasion and see if there could be an alternate reason for the results, in the interim of waiting for more information (if possible) on the questioned.
Well then if thats true I'm baffled.
The fact that nanotechnology is a broad field has no bearing on this argument and your reluctance to accept that is probably the reason that there was a suggestion that you were being deliberatly obtuse.
But WHY do you 'feel' this? What is it about the culture in the US that is so massively different to that in the UK? And then why is the disparity most obvious only in the morality question and not in the useful or riskful questions? You have not answered these questions or even mentioned them.
I believe that Indi has supplied the answer to this. They were all given a small blurb about nanotechnology.
No it doesn't - because everyone was supplied with the SAME information. The question is not about why people in general feel this way - it is about why Americans feel so different to Europeans.
So speculate. Don't keep saying that nanotechnology is too broad (which is not the issue and has no relevance) or that popular culture is to blame (try and come up with examples or differences or some other supporting argument - have you visited the States and can come up with some personal examples maybe?)
So having taken religion out of the equation what alternate reasons can you come up with? That was kinda what EVERYONE else was trying to do and is still doing. In fact that was kinda the whole point of this entire thread.
And what exactly have you added to the discussion ?
it (obviously) depends on who you ask.
whether it's imoral or not doesn't really
matter - this world's inhabitants have
participated in activities commonly
considered "imoral" from the very
begining ---- the RREEAAALLLL question is:
can Nano-Technology make me imune to
if so - I say BAN that chit.
I'm sorry I know you guys hate me
but I so amuse myself I just can't help it....
oh and on a side not 7 of 9 is freakin' hot
so if Nano technology can make people
look like that it's more than moral, it's
and now you will all be assimilated. resistance is futile.
I was merely trying to clarify things for you. I don't really have anything that I want to add to the discussion at the moment because it seems to have already reached its conclusion. The difference would indeed seem to have been caused by the differing religious attitudes between the US and Europe. Popular culture does not do it for me for a variety of reasons - mostly due to the fact that every major US film/book/TV programme will be shown in the UK very quickly and vice-versa. The distributors aren't stupid you know - if its popular in one country then they're going to export it to cash in aren't they?
You repeatedly failed to miss the point that everyone was making which was that fine, US audiences may interpret the films differently but WHY??? It all comes back to the same question. If a film featuring nanotechnology makes a US audience feel its immoral and a UK audience feel its mostly ok - WHY??? Its not that the film is different is it? It's the same bleeding film so how can that cause the difference in attitudes?
But WHY would the SAME THING make the US population feel so differently to the European population? Popular culture DOES NOT explain this because it is SO SIMILAR escpecially between the US and UK (where there are no language issues).
I'll grant you that in general US cinema audiences are usually regarded as slightly less likely to want to follow complicated plots or deal with complicated issues - there are instances of film plots being changed from one country to another to make them easier to follow etc. But that for me isn't going to cause such a large difference.
If you think otherwise then great but you aren't convincing me yet.
Just to clarify before someone else jumps in to object:
It is not just a matter of which country is "more religious". You have to break each country up into non-religious, religious, and very religious people. The non-religious is obvious, so what is the difference between the religious and the very religious?
Well, the religious folk believe in their religions, and maybe think that their religions provide a fair amount of guidance. But wherever they get the idea that their religion and sense diverge, they will go with reason. The very religious folk will go with religion, even if that means believing in nonsense like a young Earth. If science, reason, whatever does not agree with their religion, they will accept their religion.
There is no noticeable difference between the non-religious and the religious, as far as the answer to this question goes. But the very religious are different - they are far more likely to say that nanotechnology is immoral.
And the US has far more very religious people than any of those other countries. Far, far more.
That is what caused the big difference. Not just religion per se, but strong religion.
to be fair, I think it's safe to say that
it's not the Us so much as just that Region
between Texas and Florida.
We should just let that area be it's own country,
then we could declare war on them, drop the bomb,
and say "where's your blessing from god now texas?! HUH?HUH!?!"
(my gawd™ doesn't like texas)
or we could just test out nano technology on them
to figure out all the glitches.....- nods -
anyway I don't think the US is the most religious country.....
I think the Boot country gots us beat with their Pope......
but see the US is smart, just like with cloning....
We let other countries start that chit first and
just take off where they leave off after the waves settle...
or if the gov. does it... it does it quietly until they can
convince us it will make us enough money to buy
out any 'standard' morals we might have as a country....
no worries....if nano tech. becomes possible,
imoral or not, it'll happen. so why does it matter
if it's moral or not -
You’re absolutely right, and the forthcoming paper he mentioned in the blog details that very well. Like he said, their “data showed a weak link between religiosity and attitudes toward nanotech and nano funding.” But the research he and his colleagues from Wisconsin conducted clearly demonstrates a correlation between strong religiosity and attitudes toward nanotechnology.
True, he does.
My assumption is not based on any data other than the reading of articles and watching news reports regarding Christians and stem cell research and personal conversations. My comment is therefore pure supposition. However the Genetics and Public Policy Center conducted a study in 2005 regarding embryonic stem cell research in which Catholics, much to my surprise, supported ESC by 75%. So apparently my assumption, if true, would apply only to fundamentalists/evangelicals. (Ref: http://www.dnapolicy.org/images/reportpdfs/2005ValuesInConflict.pdf)
I would be curious to see how people responded to the statement, "Nanotechnology is immoral." I'm not sure that the response would necessarily correlate to the "Nanotechnology is morally acceptable" numbers. Perhaps they would.
I personally see the vast majority of technologies as amoral, with morality only coming into play in their application. Exceptions for me would be technologies designed specifically for immoral purposes (e.g. torture devices). But off-hand I cannot think of any technology designed for a moral purpose that could not be used immorally.
That being said, though, I would have responded to the statement, "Nanotechnology is morally acceptable" with a +2. However, if the statement had been phrased, "Nanotechnology is moral" I would have said "0." But the flip side, "Nanotechnology is immoral," would receive a -2 from me. Because although I may not think nanotechnology in and of itself is moral, as I find no technology inherently so, I certainly by no means believe it to be immoral.
I’ll agree that that is the question being asked here, and I must apologize for therefore straying by attempting to defend against something not necessarily being discussed. But although the article did not imply that the majority of Americans think nanotech is immoral, that is precisely how this is being interpreted in the public. Just look at your forum question, “Is nanotechnology immoral?” a question not even posed in the survey.
Here are some examples of how it is being perceived:
”Nanotechnology Immoral, Says American Majority”
“So a study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that over 70% of 1,015 Americans surveyed deem nanotechnology "morally repulsive.”
“Nanotechnology is Morally Unacceptable” – “If you don’t have a super-fast, super-small computer in a few years, blame the moral majority.”
”We need a direct, long-term, unremitting campaign to weaken the cognitive and moral authority of religion. We need to attack the root of the problem by doing whatever we can to create a more rational and sceptical (sic) ethos in Western societies, the US above all.”
”Religion Casts Nanotechnology as Immoral in U.S. (Life in a Sanctuary City)”
I respectfully disagree for a couple of reasons. First, why does the public need to understand a technology? As you said, “The only concern about the public that is raised is how nanotech should be explained to clear the misunderstanding up.” I believe that the only reason to explain a technology to the public is in order to gain the public’s support, which translates directly into money through research funding and/or product sales. Thus, in my opinion, the studies conducted are designed to assess risk and to determine how best to mitigate that risk.
Secondly, in his blog Scheufele said:
You even mentioned the risk earlier in the thread:
I confess that I went to the World Values Survey website (which is very useful, by the way!) and ran an analysis using the 1999 survey to compare the United States, France, and Great Britain. I assume that you did the same since your numbers matched mine.
I apologize for omitting that in my previous post.
Yes, the forthcoming article to which he refers exhibits the correlation very well.
I disagree. I don’t think the Bush administration is throwing so much support behind nanotechnology research as part of a political stunt designed to accomplish what you cynically outlined. I honestly believe that a lot of people understand the economic and national security issues at stake. IMHO, this makes the “space race” during the height of the Cold War look like a soap box derby among grade-schoolers.
Wiki says that
Human science (also, moral science and human sciences as typical in the UK) is a term applied to the investigation of human life and activities by a rational, systematic and verifiable methodology that acknowledges the validity of both data derived by impartial observation of sensory experience (objective phenomena) and data derived by means of impartial observation of psychological experience (subjective phenomena).
In the context of the question in the start of the thread
I would like to know if nano tech falls within the purview of the above explanation?
What do you mean by that?
Everything which is a product of, or interacts with, humans comes, theoretically, within the 'purview' of the social and human sciences. That is different, of course, from saying that nanotech is a product of human sciences.
Just goes to show that like in the famous Astrix comics (Romans) Americans are crazy!!
And once again, all i had to go on was the press release, which says: "Is nanotechnology morally acceptable? For a significant percentage of Americans, the answer is no...." If something is "not morally acceptable", what would you call it, other than "immoral"? i think you're trying to obfuscate the results by playing word games.
As i said - as i made very clear - we don't have the raw data so we don't know how many said "no" and how many said "i don't know". All we know is that only such and such said "yes" (and even then, it is possible, as you claim, that we only have the numbers for "strongly yes", not even just "yes" - which, by the way, doesn't follow from the logic you gave). Everything else we have to try and glean from the press release (and later from the blog). And as it says in the press release: "They still oppose it.... They are rejecting it based on religious beliefs." Given that, seems a fair assumption to me to figure that a not insignificant portion of the 70.5% said "no", and not "i don't know". You have tried to argue that since the little graph (that you can't even read) shows positive, that means that the majority said "yes" and the 29.5% is only "strongly yes". Your logic (if i understand it), is that if only 29.5% said "yes", the bar would be negative, and since it's positive that means more than 50% said yes (and hence, the 29.5% must be "strongly yes"). No, not quite. Imagine 100 people were polled. 30 said "strongly yes" (+2), 55 said "no" (-1) and 15 said "don't know" (0). What's the average of that? Isn't it positive? Which means a positive bar, while more than 50% oppose. So it could happen - but we don't know that it did (or didn't).
Anyway, as i've been saying over and over - we can't talk about results we don't have. We can't compare Americans to Americans because we don't have that data. We can't say more than half of Americans say nanotech is (im)moral. Anyone who does is just guessing. All we can say is that the Europeans seem to be much more ok with it than the Americans... and that's pretty much it (there are few other related observations we can make, but nothing close to what you're trying to do). We can ask why Americans are so much more resistive than Europeans (which is what everyone here seems interested in), or we can ask why anyone would have an issue with nanotech (which is what i tried to do). But we can't ask why "most" Americans resist nanotech, because we simply don't know that they do.
"Why does the public need to understand a technology?" Are you serious? ^_^; And you think the only answer to this is: "So they can be coaxed into paying for researching it"? ^_^;
Here is just a sample of other - slightly less mercenary - reasons to educate the public about a technology:
Secondly... i'm totally baffled. ^_^; You keep providing quotes that show the opposite of your claims. You say that we should be concerned about public perception of nanotech because of funding, and then you quote Scheufele saying that it won't make any difference... and you quote me (out of context) joking about how silly the idea is (the previous sentences in that context that i wrote say how little concern i have about the problem).
Because there's really a strong concern about Libya or Iran or North Korea getting ahead of us in nanotech, right? ^_^;
Unlike space technology, nanotech isn't nearly as clearly weaponizable. Oh, sure you could use nanotech to improve weapons (we used it for inertial guidance on smart missles). But seriously, if North Korea was twenty years ahead of us in nanotech... do you really think the US should be concerned? Do you really think it gives them any significant tactical advantage, of any sort?
So forget about national security. ^_^; It's really not an issue with nanotech. (As i noted earlier, i have to stretch my imagination to think of what dangers nanotech might present that might make it appear morally unacceptable to anyone. It's just not that kind of technology.)
What about economic benefits? If North Korea was twenty years ahead of the US in nanotech, would that turn into a strong economic benefit for them? No, not really. How? The only benefits the government will get from nanotech will be indirect - it's the companies that exploit the technology that will reap the rewards. But it's not like there's anything about nanotech that makes it attractive for a government to claim it as their own. It doesn't really matter whether the US or North Korea develop some new nanotech application... it's all gonna end up made in Taiwan. ^_^;
Frankly, the US has very little to gain for itself from nanotech. Any advance they make - even if they are the first to make it - will not benefit them significantly ahead of the rest of the world (unless they can somehow prevent it from being shared, and i can't imagine how or why they'd think they could get away with that).
Nanotech isn't like rocketry or nuclear technology. Both of those provided immediate tactical advantages to the developing country, and both can provide those benefits while being jealously protected. If a country develops rocketry before the rest of the world, they can build an arsenal of missles in-house, without releasing the technology to the rest of the world, and thus make themselves technologically superior. Same with nuclear power or weapons. But nanotech is more of a mass-market technology - it's more like textiles or farming technology. It doesn't really provide any obvious immediate tactical advantages, and there's not really much point in keeping it a secret from the rest of the world (if they have the knowledge, what are they gonna do that threatens your national security, make wrinkle-free outfits for their soldiers?). The benefits of nanotech - mostly medical in the short-term (like lab-on-a-chip) - don't make any sense to keep to yourself.
So if it's so obviously beneficial to everyone, why would any government make a noise about supporting it. Shouldn't it be obvious that any sane government would? Why state the obvious?
Why do politicians state the obvious? ^_^; Well, dur, for political reasons. There should be no need for a politician to say "i condemn child porn", but they do, and loudly. And they do that for easy points. It's the same with this nanotech thing. Why should the government have to say "we support nanotech"? i mean... who wouldn't (other than the Taliban, of course)? Isn't that kind of an obvious thing to support? Yes, it is. But you still get political points for announcing, loudly, how much you support it.
A great deal of unwanted statistics which has no meaning
Considering the primary stat q on this survey
How many of the respondents actually knew in more than layman terms what exactly nanotechnology is?
Oh! can a post in this site be naiver than this!
have you ever thought of the evolution of weapons? All that comes to lay mind is fire power, nuclear power etc., that can cause destruction of material. How long do you think wars are going to be fought inthe future ?with only these weapons?. Information is the future weapon which will provide the highest tactical advantage.
Do you think the US, China, Korea and the Indian govt researcher working on NT are publishing all their research in public domain journals for the benefit of human kind.
you must be joking!
Just a few examples:A US nano lab is working on a technology in which a self replicating bionano particle will react with atmospheric oxygen and by binding with it, it will bring down Hemoglobin's oxygen-binding capacity to 1.87% of its practical capacity. The release of match box full of this biononoparticle can react effectively with 1.85 Mill Cu Meters of O2
you think this research is going to see the light of the day because it don't make any sense to keep to yourself. Think again!
we don't need immediate tactical advantage we actually need long term sustainable tactile advantage. An umbrella advantage ( tactical advantage over other tactical advantage)
The Indian govt with private partnership is funding a 21.3 M USD project on..
developing a nucleonano particle with the properties of withstanding (without any chemical, physical or biological change) `1800Deg C. I bet somebody in the proposal presentation thought of a fabric made out of this particle and I definitely don't see India giving wrinkle-free outfits for their soldiers.
U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory is spending close to 100 M USD on developing the nano process by which sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide are converted into oxygen and carbohydrates. EU is not far behind .. The EU is now allocating €1.8 million to a new network to be led by Uppsala University for ultimately arriving at a self sustaining nano complex when sprayed in plants can increase dry matter production by 300 times
and also a bioindependent designer machine that can produce CHO from thin air. Definitely these countries are thinking of distributing the food to the whole world on the basis of affirmative action!
So much for the applications of nano tech on textile and farming!
At least I agree with that. yes Nanotech isn't like rocketry or nuclear technology. I would add Nanotech isn't as simple and uncomplicated like rocketry or nuclear technology, but only to say that it is far more complex than its overtly seen applicators would want us to believe and has implications positive and negative than what an average human being can imagine.
Now I really wonder how many in this forum are really exposed knowledge on the rapid progress of nanotech let alone the survey takers!
Time is not far when NPT will include nano non proliferation as well, not that nuclear tech is not nano tech
the analogy will sound an excellent one but only to a a person who does not know the difference between human behavior (child porn) and science (nanotech).
So you think there no need for the politician to say "i condemn child porn". No that you have said what he need not say what is it in your opinion the politician needs to say?
Indeed, it is a word game. Like I said, I wonder if 70.5% of Americans would agree with the statement “Nanotechnology is immoral.” Perhaps so, but I’m not sure that they would. Therefore, I don’t believe one can state, as many have, that 70% of Americans think nanotechnology is immoral since that question was not posed in the survey.
I know that its semantics. But in surveys, semantics play an important role. I used myself as an example. Yes, I would have answered the statement in the survey, “Nanotechnology is morally acceptable” with a +2 because to me “acceptable” implies use and application, not the science and technology itself. But I would have answered a statement phrased “Nanotechnology is moral” with a 0, because I believe it and most all technologies to be amoral. However, I would answer the statement “Nanotechnology is immoral” with a -2. I’d strongly disagree with someone claiming the technology to be immoral, but if someone wants to call it “moral” I could care less.
But you’re absolutely correct; we cannot compare Americans to Americans since that information simply isn’t available to us. However, I also do not believe that we can state that 70% of Americans believe nanotechnology to be immoral since that question was not even posed. We may infer it, and may very well be right. But we have no certainty.
I’ll concede also that it’s all academic, since the real issue is why such a difference exists between European and American responses.
Of course all of your reasons are valid, and I agree with them. I overstated my argument by claiming R&D funding and the market to be the only reasons. However I am quite “mercenary” in my own outlook on such things, and therefore I tend to focus only on the market aspects of any given technology or product. Forgive my short-sightedness.
But I don’t fathom how Scheufele’s quote contradicted my argument. Perhaps you’re seeing something that I am not. To me, he clearly said that among the very religious, the benefits of nanotech do not affect their support for nanotech and their support for future funding. Later in the blog, he surmises that the scientific community needs to communicate differently to certain segments, like the very religious in this instance, to garner their support.
As for your joke, in order to make the joke (and for it to make sense and be funny) did you not have to infer that the survey implied a potential funding risk? Obviously you did not believe so given your writing prior to the jest. Nonetheless would the joke be funny if it didn’t contain a modicum of truth?
I strongly disagree. I may not worry as much about small countries like Libya, Iran, or North Korea. But I am concerned with staying ahead of major nations like Russia and China. I even think it prudent to stay ahead of allies, such as Europe and Japan.
With such nations (Japan excepted), nanotechnology applications can provide tactical and strategic advantages since all parties possess a nuclear arsenal capable of deterring one another from their (nuclear weapons) employment. I want to stay ahead of Japan because I don’t trust them to control any sensitive nanotechnology applications.
Near-term applications (say 0-10 years) of nanomaterials in weapons, clothing, armor, equipment, resulting in a reduced logistical footprint for individuals, etc., will also find themselves in the civilian world (probably faster than in the military given history!) But there are potential litanies of military applications in the long-term which could, if they come to fruition, provide significant advantages.
I could write pages of possible military applications .
The potential impact upon biological and chemical warfare is of particular concern. A NATO study group stated:
A nation (or well-financed sub-national entity) could hypothetically develop a nanotech-based bio or chemical weapon and employ it before its enemy even had an opportunity to develop a countermeasure.
And I haven’t even touched upon the security issues of nano-manufacturing should it come to fruition. And I think proliferation to be much more problematic with these technologies than with anything we have ever seen in the past.
But as much as I enjoy discussing military issues, I’ve ventured way off topic for this thread.
Agreed! You got me there!
Your first observation is correct - he did say that the perception of the religious about nanotech would not effect funding levels.
Your second observation is the problem. i'll highlight exactly where: "Later in the blog, he surmises that the scientific community needs to communicate differently to certain segments, like the very religious in this instance, to garner their support." Where, exactly, does he say that?
This is what he says in his conclusion: "Putting information out there, of course, continues to be an important goal for all science communication. But we also need to realize that different publics have different informational deficits, react very differently to information, and -- most importantly -- are looking for answers to questions that often have very little to do with the scientific issues surrounding emerging technologies. As the data from our forthcoming articles show, fitting the moral implications of nano breakthroughs into their existing belief or value systems is much more important for some groups in society at the moment than understanding the science behind it." But where in there is any hint that he's interested in garnering support? Seems to me that his primary interest - clearly stated - is "putting the information out there". He's not even into nanotech, as far as i know, he's into communication. That's his field, from what i can recall reading. And if that's his field, why is it so strange to figure that he'd be interested in how to communicate scientific/technical ideas to the public solely for the sake of proper communication, and not for potential future funding?
In fact, i'd say that if he is a good academic (and if his field really is communication), he really shouldn't give a squat about whether or not people end up supporting funding (academically he shouldn't care... personally, of course, he is entitled to whatever beliefs he wants to have in the matter, more or less). He should be concerned with communicating the technology as clearly and accurately as possible. He shouldn't be interested in influencing their opinions, he should merely be concerned to see that they have all the facts they need to make an informed opinion.
And, frankly, everything i've read about his study confirms that to a 'T'. The only times he mentions funding and public support that i can see, he only mentions them in passing in a sort of disinterested, academic way. In the comment you quoted he basically says that even if one were to educate them better, it would probably make no difference to funding... and then he moves on as if that doesn't even matter. What he focusses on... is pretty much neatly summed up in his own words: "But we also need to realize that different publics have different informational deficits, react very differently to information, and -- most importantly -- are looking for answers to questions that often have very little to do with the scientific issues surrounding emerging technologies."
What i read in his article - what his ultimate goal seems to be - is not trying to figure out a way to pump these people for money, as you are painting it. Rather, he seems genuinely concerned with painting nanotech in a way that they can understand for their benefit. He makes no statement regarding what he thinks they should do with the knowledge once they have it - they could simply outright reject it, after all - he only wants to make sure that, whatever they choose to do about the knowledge, they have the knowledge down pat.
Of course it would. ^_^; There is no requirement for any level of truth in the punchline of a joke. If i joked about the absurdity of aliens building the pyramids of Egypt, do you mean to imply that the joke wouldn't be funny unless there was truth in that claim? If not, then why can't i joke about the absurdity about being concerned about funding levels without any real truth in the claim?
That seems rather short-sighted and imperialistic... but even accepting this "us vs. them" world view, how would having nanotech allow any one country to "stay ahead" of the others, unless they opted to withhold potentially life-saving technological advances? As i said, this isn't like nukes or chemical weapons - if we choose not to share our nuclear or chemical weapon technology with, say, Japan, we are not directly harming Japan. But if we withhold nanotech, we would be. All of the medical and environmental benefits from nanotech would have to be withheld... and for what? What gain? That's a good way to make enemies, not protect yourself from them.
With very few exceptions - and even those are a bit of a stretch - all of these military applications are really just military extensions of civilian applications. Respirocytes, bio-sensors (lab-on-a-chip, if that's what you mean, which also includes internal repair mechanisms and automated medication facilities), artificial body parts (musculature, etc.)... that's all medical technology corrupted to military ends. The guidance systems i worked on for smart weapons... that technology was originally developed for air bag deployment on automobiles. Smart camouflage is just re-adapted display technology - again, a civilian technology. And better armour and fabrics... again, that's a by-product of improved materials, which are really of far more interest to textile companies and construction (building and vehicle) than military technologists. This is not just a case of civilians exploiting a technology faster than the military, this is a technology that - when developed - does not work with the traditional model of first/third world economy and/or a military society. If and when we do master nanotech, armies and technologically superior defence forces (such as what has existed all throughout history in one form or another, where the "king" has an "army" that has superior weaponry to the common folk) just don't make sense. Nanotech works best as a defensive technology - not an offensive one (the only offensive scenarios are "grey goo" models - that fail mathematically) - and it would be so cheap that everyone would be able to mount their own defence. Just take a look at your list... aside from the improved explosives applications, and the guidance systems (which are agnostic about what they're guiding), aren't they all defensive technologies?
The only exceptions, sort of, are improved explosives and warheads, and improved resistance to chemical, radiological or biological weapons.
Let's look at the latter first: protection against chemical, biological or radiological weaponry. Suppose your country developed such a technology. Now what? What are you gonna do with it? Are you going to withhold it from the rest of the world? How does that benefit your country in any way? It makes you safe from attack... for a little while... while making enemies of all the other countries that are still vulnerable to that technology - now pissed off at you for leaving them in the line of fire while protecting yourself. Ain't enough technological advancement in the world to protect you from that kind of hate.
But what about the second, improved explosives and warheads. Alright, that's a good case - it's a technology that, while it does have civilian benefits (better fuel), is primarily military. So where does it leave us? Well it seems pretty obvious that while nanoenergetics might be a military technology... that doesn't make all of nanotech military. ^_^; Most of nanotech is completely unrelated to it. Completely. You might make a case for nanoenergetics being morally unacceptable, or for making it a military priority to develop and withhold... but what about the entire rest of the field?
Oh, i disagree! The question i originally asked - over and above why the Americans are so much more negative than the Europeans - is why anyone would be negative about nanotech. If nanotech really is a potential military super-technology, i'd say that qualifies as a freakin' good reason to be concerned about it.
Okay, I’ll concede that.
My concern is not with the technologies that are spin-offs of civilian applications (or vice versa), but those with (almost) purely military applications, such as nanoenergetics and any applications other nations might make to chemical and biological weapons. Naturally any chemical/biological defensive measures we develop with nanotech would be unclassified. (In my experience I don’t know of any classified techniques or materials in CBR-D.)
I do not disagree with the fact that most of the technologies I listed have civilian applications and/or derive from civilian applications. I think even DARPA admits that much of its annual R&D in nanotech will find its way into civilian applications (not to mention the rest of the U.S. government spending in the National Nanotech Initiative [NNI], which also helped fund the survey which sparked this thread.)
But as the mission statement of NNI states:
Like all new technologies, there are national security implications. Jet engines may have been developed before World War II and of obvious civilian benefit, but there’s a major difference between a ME-109 and a ME-262 and therefore a reason that high-performance piston engines no longer propel fighter planes But you’re right, its not technology that would be classified.
The nano stuff that will end up in everyone’s uniforms, equipment, and other gear (or their bodies) will obviously not be classified as it will be all over the place. (Especially after a battle.)
With the exception of the bio/chemical weapons improvements of which the NATO report spoke, and improved explosives, like you said, or even (the perhaps optimistic) notion of creating thermonuclear weapons with little to no fission material.
But sometimes even defensive technologies are classified (e.g. stealth coatings on aircraft, submarine silencing applications, submarine propeller designs).
True. But technology has always been a driving force in the military whether it be moving from horses to trucks or bi-planes to jets. Nanotech won't be any different.
In other words, you aren't concerned with whether nanotech is immoral at all, you are concerned about weapons development. Can nanotech be used to improve weapons? Well, sure. But then, weapons are such a broad category that just about any technology can be used to improve weapons in some way or another. If you were to try to stop development of any technology that could potentially be weaponized... well what would we be left with? i can't even think of anything.
Sure, it makes sense to be concerned with technologies that are either almost entirely weapons in and of themselves, or technologies that - if weaponized - would be enormously dangerous. But nanotech falls into neither of those categories. It's most certainly not a purely weapons technology, and even for those aspects of it that can be weaponized, they're hardly dangerous (or at least, if they are, their danger is well-balanced by their benefit). In fact, there are far more applications of nanotech that render weapons useless than there are those that make new weapons.
Anyway, i'm not even sure what your point is. Is nanotech immoral because one or two esoteric corners of the field have military applications along with their enormous civilian benefits? Should nanotech research be controlled because - even though a solid 99% of it is all good, one part of 1% of has a nasty bad side (again, along with its good side)? Where are you going with this?
I thought we were no longer discussing morality/immorality of nanotechnology but just national security and military implications. That's why I said earlier that I thought I was venturing off topic.
Does your statement imply that nantech does not fall into the categories of technology which if weaponised would be enormously dangerous? if that is what you are trying to convey I strongly disagree with the statement. My arguement here would hinge on the fact that " what is enormously dangerous and what is just simply dangerous (What here would be the difference in terms of nation state sovereignty and societal security)
Can you quote some references or literature to support your observation especially the one that says "they're hardly dangerous" and "applications of nanotech that render weapons useless than there are those that make new weapons"
A has a gun
B has a nano instrument that renders the gun useless
in the above scenario who has the more dangerous weapon A or B
Dont you think that applications that render weapons useless are much more potentially dangerous weapons than the weapon itself
this I ask because I read some literature quite contrary to your observation
like the ones below
I did give a few examples of projects underway not on public domain in my previous posts those seem very ominous indeed
I also happened to read a book quite some time back called "Nanotechnology and Homeland security: New Weapons for New Wars" which clearly spell a lot of new things, apart from that when I recently presented a seminar on nanotech and its applications in food production I did come across a lot of literature quite contrary to your statements
but this one "Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology By Mihail C. Roco, William" which oddly at times in the book seems to confirms to your line of thought although I dare say it is wishful thinking if one dismisses all the possibilities of an ultra weapon being generated from nanotech. On the other hand I would also say it would amount to being a dooms day freak if one thinks nanotech would destroy the world but sane thinking would say that it would definitely give a country or a groups of countries a tremendous tactical and military advantage over the ones lagging behind in the tech
This other book called Military Nanotechnology: New Technology and arms Control by Jurgen Altmann does talks a lot in fact it allows us to assess nanotechnology's perilous military implications
and believe me I did not come to conclusion that "...weaponized, they're hardly dangerous" after reading that.
To quote the review of the book published in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Volume 63, Number 6 / November-December 2007 the reviewer ( Mike Treder from Center for Responsible Nanotechnology) says "Altmann convincingly argues that the profound implications of MNT ( Molecular nanotechnology), while "necessarily general, speculative and incomplete," must be taken into account. Moreover, MNT's fundamentally new control of physical materials and manufacturing could lead to "qualitatively new means and methods of warfare and But beyond the weapons themselves, MNT's greatest impact on future warfare may come from low-cost, high-volume, exponential manufacturing of weapons systems and related infrastructure" for the full review please go to http://crnano.typepad.com/crnblog/2007/11/nanotechnology-.html
I would very much like some references for the statements "aspects of it that can be weaponized, they're hardly dangerous" and "In fact, there are far more applications of nanotech that render weapons useless than there are those that make new weapons"
Now you can always say that MNT is not what we are talking about in this thread
but MNT is very much a part of NT and probably the next step in the evolution of NT as a science.