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For nano, religion in US dictates a wary view
Date:12/7/2008

MADISON When it comes to the world of the very, very small nanotechnology Americans have a big problem: Nano and its capacity to alter the fundamentals of nature, it seems, are failing the moral litmus test of religion.

In a report published today (Dec. 7) in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, survey results from the United States and Europe reveal a sharp contrast in the perception that nanotechnology is morally acceptable. Those views, according to the report, correlate directly with aggregate levels of religious views in each country surveyed.

In the United States and a few European countries where religion plays a larger role in everyday life, notably Italy, Austria and Ireland, nanotechnology and its potential to alter living organisms or even inspire synthetic life is perceived as less morally acceptable. In more secular European societies, such as those in France and Germany, individuals are much less likely to view nanotechnology through the prism of religion and find it ethically suspect.

"The level of 'religiosity' in a particular country is one of the strongest predictors of whether or not people see nanotechnology as morally acceptable," says Dietram Scheufele, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of life sciences communication and the lead author of the new study. "Religion was the strongest influence over everything."

The study compared answers to identical questions posed by the 2006 Eurobarometer public opinion survey and a 2007 poll by the University of Wisconsin Survey Center conducted under the auspices of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Nanotechnology and Society at Arizona State University. The survey was led by Scheufele and Elizabeth Corley, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University.

The survey findings, says Scheufele, are important not only because they reveal the paradox of citizens of one of the world's elite tec
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Contact: Dietram Scheufele
scheufele@wisc.edu
608-262-1614
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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